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Frederick Beer Week celebrates local brews

FREDERICK — When Frederick County was settled by a large population of German immigrants, every farm wife was a home brewer, Tom Barse said.

Frederick Beer Week will celebrate those local agricultural roots of brewing in Frederick from Tuesday to May 14 with events at local establishments featuring local beer and culminating in a Brew Fest with live music.

Barse — owner of the first hop farm in the state, which started in the 1870s — is on the founding board of Frederick Beer Week and said the agricultural aspect of brewing will be the focus by celebrating craft beer.

“It’s an agricultural product. People think it comes from a factory, and it’s just not the case,” he said.

Craft beer enthusiasts can thank Twitter for the upcoming Frederick Beer Week, which includes 14 events throughout the county. While enjoying a beverage at Baltimore Beer Week in October, Kevin Smith tweeted back and forth with local breweries asking why Frederick doesn’t have a beer week and how he could help with publicity if they hosted one.

Seven months later, Smith, the Maryland reporter for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, found himself as president of the organizing committee for Frederick Beer Week.

“I look at Frederick and I see an immense amount of potential for the city from the standpoint of the brewing industry,” he said.

Flying Dog Brewery, Barley and Hops Restaurant and Brewer’s Alley will come together to feature Frederick’s finest in craft beer.

“The folks here that are brewing are making some fantastic beers,” Smith said.

Beer Week starts with three events on Tuesday: Cask Night with Heavy Seas Beer at Bushwaller’s Irish American Pub; a kickoff event at Volt Restaurant featuring Flying Dog beers; and the final round of judging for the Battle of the Bubbles, a home-brew competition, at Barley and Hops Restaurant.

The crown jewel of beer week is Brew Fest, scheduled for May 14 at Stillpoint Farm in Mount Airy. Brew Fest will feature live bluegrass music, vendors, beer from all the local breweries plus Heavy Seas Beer and DuClaw Brewing Co., a home-brewing demonstration, food and a hay ride through the farm.

Barse, a home brewer for 37 years, has owned and operated the farm for the past three years. Started as a half-acre hop farm, Barse expects to expand the hop portion to 3 acres next year.

“We could sell easily a hundred times the hops we grow,” he said.

A collaborative brew between Flying Dog, Brewer’s Alley and Barley and Hops will be featured at Brew Fest. It’s described as a Belgian-style farmhouse ale with a copper color with complex notes of citrus, flowers and “barnyard” aromas. The flavor is softly sweet at first, then quickly gives way to a dry and tart finish.

It was brewed with spicy Czech Saaz hops, fermented with a unique blend of Belgian and French Saison yeasts, and infused during conditioning with elderflowers. This beer was then blended with a tart Brettanomyces-fermented beer that had been aged for more than a year in a French oak wine barrel from Elk Run Vineyards of Mount Airy.

The Brew Fest is the only time this brew will be available to anyone.

“We’re hoping to sell out the day of,” said Abby Casarella, sales manager at Flying Dog.

Although organizers agree Brew Fest is the highlight of Beer Week, the Tap Takeover at Bushwaller’s on May 13 is a close second, Casarella said.

At the event, only beers from the three sponsors plus Heavy Seas Beer will be available. The event is meant to showcase and support local brewers.

“It’s just a great collection of everything Frederick has to offer,” Casarella said.

Although this is the first Frederick Beer Week, organizers don’t expect it to be the last.

With the agricultural resources in the county, Smith estimates there will be five to six breweries within 20 minutes of downtown Frederick in the next few years.

All proceeds from Beer Week will benefit HandsOn Frederick County.