Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival: Get your tickets - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival: Get your tickets

I spent Saturday afternoon at the Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival at the Timonium Fairgrounds.  It was warm and gorgeous out, a brief respite from the hellish (and apparently never-ending) winter, but the lure of beer, bourbon, and meat was sufficient to entice me indoors for the day.

glassholder

Cup holder keeps my glass nice and safe

Immediately upon entry, one of my boozing companions (who has been to many of these sorts of festivals) suggested we get some lanyard cup holders so we could wear our glasses around our necks.  Between the fragility of the glass, the throngs of people, and the rapidly increasing inebriation of everyone involved, this was clearly the right thing to do.

Every ten minutes or so, a chorus of “Ohhhhhhhhh” sounded in a wave through the room.  This wave of sound occurred whenever someone broke their glass.  It happened a lot.  I was very happy to have my glass hanging safely around my neck, cushioned by my, um, cushions.

We immediately made our way to the High West table, and tasted their offerings.  They were pouring their Double Rye, Rendezvous Rye, Son of Bourye, American Prairie Reserve, and Campfire.  I hadn’t had any of the High West whiskeys, so they were at the top of my list of vendors to visit.

highwest
Once the Double Rye hit my lips, my first pour at their table, I was glad I came to them with a fresh and still-sober palate.  Their whiskeys are very, very good.  The Double Rye and Rendezvous both immediately joined my list of favorite ryes.  Both are made by blending a longer-aged rye with a younger one.  The results are a balanced and crafted mix of spice and sweetness, brash botanicals and long finish.  Run, don’t walk.  Get some in your mouth.

The Son of Bourye and American Prairie Reserve were also very good, but the Campfire was the standout.  Made from a blend of bourbon, rye, and peated Scotch, it has the smoky appeal of an Islay Scotch, but also the cling and sweetness of bourbon.  Stunningly crafted.  Another one from High West I will be buying for my collection for sure.

We moved several steps to the right and found ourselves at the Smooth Ambler table.  They were pouring their rye, “Yearling,” and 7 and 10 year bourbons.  I hadn’t had the Yearling, and was curious to try it.  It was quite good for such a young bourbon.

Smooth Ambler has switched the Yearling over to full sized barrels instead of the smaller barrels they used to age earlier versions, said John Foster, director of sales and distiller.

“No offense to those who use small barrels, but the smaller barrels just couldn’t give us the flavor we were looking for,” said Foster, who poured our tasting.

His passion and commitment to the craft of bourbon were immediately apparent, both in listening to him and in tasting the product of that commitment.

OK, I know I can’t describe every whiskey I tasted.  But just one more table.  OK?

‘Round the corner from Smooth Ambler was the Laphroaig table.  But that’s not bourbon, you might say.  Nope, it’s not.  But they had some goodies I hadn’t tried, including their 18 year, available for tasting.

Have you figured out yet that you should go to this when it comes back to town in June?  Yeah, you should.

At the Laphroaig table, their Quarter Cask was the surprise of the tasting.  The 18 year, as expected, was very smooth and lovely with all of the harshness knocked off and mellowed with age.  But the Quarter Cask, their standard ten year offering given a second aging in smaller barrels, had all of the in-your-face peat that Laphroaig is known for, but smoothed out just enough to add refinement without losing character.  Very nice.

Here are some things you should be sure to hit when you go to this event:

highendbourbonsignThe High End Bourbon table.  I didn’t find this until late in the day, and by the time I got there, there was a very long line.  And after standing in that line, you just got a pour of Buffalo Trace.  But look… LOOK at the line of empties behind that table.  George T Stagg, Pappy 15, Jefferson’s Presidential Select, Elijah Craig 21-year single barrel.  The lines were long, so chances are the bottle they were pouring when you got in line might not be the bottle you get.  It’s like booze gambling.  Get in line, and get something delicious, and maybe get something truly outstanding.

highendbourbonempties

Festival founder, Greg Nivens

Festival founder, Greg Nivens

The special events.  The highlight of the day was the special tasting with festival founder Greg Nivens.  It cost extra to get in, but it was more than worth the money.  If you have to choose between the VIP early entry and a tasting with Greg, choose the tasting.  Hands down.

Beer and bourbon aside, the BBQ at that tasting.  Oh my, the BBQ.  Greg flipped through slide after slide of photos of sausages and brisket, admitting, “I just love meat.  I don’t know what it is.”  And then he served us some of the best BBQ I have ever had.  In particular, the brisket from Kloby’s Smokehouse had me making inappropriate moaning noises and feeling bad for the people watching us from outside the tasting area.

Also from Kloby’s, the Jar-B-Que was stunningly good.  A decadent parfait of pulled pork, beans, and cole slaw, topped with a pickled green tomato and a smoked pork belly.  I mean, come on.  Come ON.  I left completely happy and in a bit of a meat coma.

Jar-B-Que from Kloby's Smokehouse

Jar-B-Que from Kloby’s Smokehouse

Oh wait, I almost forgot the bourbon.  Yeah, just Pappy 23.  Whatev.  OK, Obviously I didn’t really forget that, but understand that when I talk about meat before I talk about Pappy 23, that means you should really go to Kloby’s.

Also poured in this tasting was a Buffalo Trace single barrel offering, the barrel specifically chosen by Greg for this event, and only available at this event.  It was stunning.  They also poured the Parker’s Heritage Promise of Hope, which had been on my short list of bourbons to taste.  Oh, and Jefferson’s Presidential Select 21.

So yes, go to the special events.

Oh, and if you need any more enticement to attend this festival, a portion of the proceeds go to benefit Spirit of Hope Children’s Foundation.  So you can drink beer and bourbon and sink into a meat coma for a good cause.  Everybody wins.

The Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival will be in National Harbor, MD on June 6th-7th and in Tysons, VA on September 20th.  Get your tickets!


About the author

Pam Desmond

When Pam isn’t living some imaginary fabulous whiskey lifestyle, she can be found hanging at home in her PJs with her husband and school-aged twins, or driving her glamorous minivan shuttling the kids to dance and gymnastics. She also writes a blog focusing on self-love, body acceptance, and being a mom at Pam-a-rama ding dong. With the more lucrative half of her brain, she works as a statistician and scientific writer. Follow her on Facebook (facebook.com/whiskeypam) and Twitter (@pamdesmond)! Contact the author.
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