Finally getting around to posting a few words about Max’s Belgian Beer Fest (it was a month ago, man). Don’t know what Max’s Belgian Beer Fest is? Over 100 Belgian and Belgian style inspired beers on draft. Over 200 bottles. Five hand pumped casks. Three days. Open to close. No entrance fee. Do I need to say more? Good! See you there next year. Let’s continue.
As usual Tracey and I arrived Thursday night to enjoy our customary “calm before the storm” night on Fell’s Point. A nice tapas dinner at Adela’s (we’d recommend it although some of the serving sizes would work better for four people than two), and a little bar hopping.
The next morning it begins. Doors open at 11, but you have to get there a little early because the line to get in can get long. I woke up and found out via Twitter that the first guy got in line at 6:45. Yeah, that’s a little TO early. For most people, standing in line waiting for the doors to open would seem like hell. But to me after doing it for 5 years it’s actually become a nice time to catch up with fellow beer lovers (DOB Co-founder Chuck was on hand with his group) and make some new friends. After all it’s a group of beer lovers, it’s pretty easy.
Not long after securing our place in line we were greeted with a nice surprise. Some of the staff members came out before opening and handed out a packet to everyone in line. Each packet contained a draft and bottle list for the three bars, a postcard and a pen. I almost tossed the card, until the guy explained to me what it was. On the back was six lines, and next to each line were three boxes you could check; one for sampler, one for glass, one for bottle. Write the beers you want, check the box for the size you want and hand them to the bartender. For those of you who might be wondering why this is great, let me paint you a picture of beer ordering in the past. You’re in a crowded bar, very crowded, Pamplona running of the bulls crowded and you need to get a beer. So you wait patiently 5 people deep from the bar until you finally get a bartender’s attention. “What do you want?” he screams over the drone. You shout out the beer you want across the masses. He nods, turns and in a minute brings you your beer. Easy right? Yeah, maybe if you’re ordering a Bud but try it with a T’gaverhopke Koerseklakske! Ummmmm, can I have a few more of those cards, please?
Once the doors opened we were greeted with a second surprise. Stillwater Artisanal Brewing was there at the door handing out samples of their As Follows poured from a 9L bottle. With beer in hand we made our way back to our usual spot, the back bar. It’s actually to the side as you walk in, but whatever. Surprise three…it’s gone. Wait..not gone, moved. We hadn’t really noticed when we were in line, but Max’s got a hold of the small tobacco store next to it and pushed the bar one room back from where it was. So we got our place at the back bar and let the fun begin….almost….
The only problem with Max’s overall game plan was they didn’t label which bar list was for the upstairs bar and which one was for the back bar (the length of the one for the main bar makes that one obvious even for someone like me). Add on top of that the fact that there was some overlap between the beers on the two lists and it made for a few rounds of confusion on our bartender Norris’ part. But once he finally got us all on the same page (see what I did there?) it was indeed time to begin, and the cards worked great – especially at the main bar.
Now for those who have been playing along at home, you know that I do not take detailed notes at beer festivals. That goes double for a beer festival where I’m not familiar with the beers, don’t have a shot at pronouncing their names and probably won’t see many of them again until next year at Max’s. Running down my notes and checking out my Untappd feed I can tell you that I enjoyed beers with weird names like: Canaster Winter Scotch by Kleinbrouwerij de Glazen Toren, Zeezuiper by Scheldebrouwerij, Belle-Fleur india pale ale by Brouwerij De Dochter van de Korenaar, Tsjeeses Reserva by De Struise Brouwers, DeGlazen Toren Jan De Lichte, Oud Beersel Framboise, and Noel de Silenrieux. The only two that I had that I knew were Draak 9000 Quad and Delirium Tremens. As a side note, Delirium is the beer I always get first when I’m in Max’s while I figure out what my first beer is going to be. And no, I didn’t type that wrong.
After spending a good portion of the afternoon in Max’s it was time to get out of the crowd and enjoy Fell’s Point. Bars like Cat’s Eye, Leadbetters, and The Horse You Came In On awaited. Random fact: the header photograph for this blog was taken by Tracey that day outside the Cat’s Eye. I’m standing on a set of stairs just outside of a dutch door that you can’t enter the bar through. I’m enjoying the sights and sounds (and an Acid Marado Maduro cigar) of Fells Point while my beer is perched on a ledge on the inside of the door for easy convenience.
So if crowds and unpronounceable beer names don’t scare you, come down to Baltimore next year for President’s Day weekend and join us. We’ll be there Friday morning at the back bar. If you’d like to get a better idea of what to expect, you can check out pictures from this year’s event on Max’s facebook page where the two photos above came from.
Time for another beer…one I can pronounce…