As baseball strike continues to vex us, beer season begins


It may be months before Major League-caliber baseball returns to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But top-flight local beer will be back in the ballpark this month.

Karl Schenk and Bernie Simasek, the two beer enthusiasts who last year set up booths to serve micro-brewed beers at the ballpark, are putting on a beer festival March 17-18 at the ballpark. The Camdenfest '95 event, the first of its kind in Baltimore, will serve samples of beers made by members of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Small Brewers. The event, held on the Club Level of the ballpark will include tours of the stadium. . There will be three sessions: one Friday night, one Saturday afternoon and one Saturday evening. (Tickets for the adults-only event are $25 per session and can be ordered either by calling (410) 787-2455 or writing Camdenfest '95, ARAMARK Services, 555 Russell St. Suite B, Baltimore, Md. 21230.)

I found out this cheery, beery news recently when I telephoned Schenk. We spoke about the beer seasons, last year's and this year's. He said that last August, when the labor dispute between baseball owners and players cut the baseball season short, he and his partner got stuck with extra beer.

The agreement that their Maryland Microbrew business and ballpark concessionaire ARA had worked out with suppliers allowed them to return any unopened kegs of beer. But Schenk and Simasek had to keep the kegs that had already been tapped. So Schenk, who also works as a computer analyst, took some of the leftover beer to his house. Simasek, a medical-equipment sales executive, took the rest of the beer to his house.

Eventually the two held a picnic for their Maryland Microbrew employees. The picnic put a serious dent in the leftover beer. But by then the damage was done. Schenk did not admit that having the leftover ballpark beer in his house proved to be an irresistible temptation. He simply said that in the off-season, his pants size moved up a notch.

Schenk said he hoped the coming festival would brighten the mood of fans of baseball and good beer. "In the middle of winter people are in the doldrums. They want to get out of the house. Maybe this will help," Schenk said.

But he stressed that the event was a tasting, not a guzzling.

"That is why we have a 4-ounce serving," he said. "We would rather have people sip a little bit of each each beer than drink a lot of one of two beers," he said.

Assembling the brewers for the event has been tricky, Schenk said. While initially he had hopes of inviting every microbrewer in Maryland and its adjoining states, liquor laws forced him to narrow to beers to those already being sold in the state .

Nonetheless, he said, a long list of microbrewers is set to participate. They include Baltimore Brewing, Brimstone, Frederick Brewing, Old Dominion, Olde Heurich, Olivers, Oxford Class, Potomac River, Red Bell ,Richbrau, Sisson's, Stoudts and Wild Goose.

In an effort to get my taste buds in shape for the ballpark beer tasting, I stopped by Cafe Tattoo on Belair Road in Northeast Baltimore for its second annual beer, bourbon and cigar bash.

Some people know Cafe Tattoo as a bar that serves interesting beers and bourbons. Other regard it as good place to get a bowl of chili or some tangy ribs. Some may even think of it as a good place to get a tattoo. For that, you have to make an appointment.

I think of Cafe Tattoo not so much as a saloon, which is what it looks like, but as a "salon" -- an assemblage of persons, usually of social or intellectual distinction.

In our recent meeting, for instance, the Cafe Tattoo salon set discussed who was the greatest boxer of all times, what was our favorite single-barrel bourbon, and what was our favorite oatmeal stout.

The competition for best boxer seemed to narrow down to Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Gus the bartender. Ali got the nod.

The competitors in best bourbon were 8-year-old Basil Hayden, 9-year old Knob Creek, Wild Turkey's Kentucky Spirit and Old Weller's Antique. Old Weller's Antique was voted the best.

Sam Smith was voted the best oatmeal stout, beating out Anderson Valley's Barney Flats, Breckenridge and Oasis Zoner.

Everyone did not agree with these conclusions. But you know how that goes. It's hard to get a saloon, or a salon, to agree on anything.

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