Every winter there comes a point when you have just become sick of winter. It usually happens at the beginning of February. Right around the time we put faith in the weather prognostication abilities of an oversized rodent most frequently seen lifeless on the side of the road. Whether or not the Groundhog says we have six more weeks of winter, you can look forward to Max’s Taphouse Annual Belgian Beer Fest just a few short weeks later.
Occurring the week of Valentine’s Day this is the most fun way to get in trouble with your loved one. But if your loved one is as awesome as mine, you should be fine.
Max’s Belgian Beer Fest is considered to be one of the largest Belgian Festivals outside of Belgium. And while this may or may not be true, it really doesn’t matter. Casey Hard, Max’s General Manager, assembles one of the most impressive lists of Belgian and Belgian Style beer you can imagine. I always feel that I have a pretty good knowledge of beer, and every year I feel amazed at what I don’t know.
This year I was able to get to Max’s for the opening day on Friday, February 14th, and their 2nd Annual Sour Day on Monday, February 17th. This year opening day was marked by the climax of a winter we’d all like to forget.
Some members of my homebrew club organize a pre-Belgian Fest Breakfast at nearby Jimmy’s Restaurant. Unfortunately for me, my commute didn’t allow me to get to Jimmy’s in time for breakfast, but that’s okay, my day was going to be great anyway.
While waiting in line many of us noticed that it was the smallest line that we had seen in years. This was most likely due to the storm the day prior, and may have been because of the rash of storms in the past few weeks. But for us the Belgian flags were flying and the sun was shining.
While in line we were lucky enough to be given the beer menu to prepare our day while in line. The list is an impressive gathering of wonderful beers, many of which I have no idea how to pronounce. Luckily, Max’s realizes this too. So combat slow service from listening to a drunken pronunciation of T Gaverhopke Koerseklakske, Van Honsebrouck Kasteel Donker, or De Glazen Toren Ondinke they kindly give out cards for everyone to write down their order. Genius. However, this year the cards were glossy and almost impossible to write on with a ball point pen. And if you are going as far as to have use write down everything, why not just do it like Chinese Carry Out, and give everything a number?
The menu presented is also given the Belgian treatment. While it might not be actual Belgian food, it is given a bit of Belgian flair to provide a veil of authenticity. I found the Grilled Cheese undeniably seductive with bacon and 3 very funky Belgian cheeses, it really paired great with the beers I was having.
Throughout the weekend there were many special events occurring each day. Friday featured the release of the a 10th Anniversary Collaboration between Burley Oak, Max’s, and Dawson’s Liquors. There were also a few more Burley Oak drafts flowing. Saturday featured the release of Stillwater Artisanal and Max’s Decade also to celebrate Max’s 10th Annual Belgian Fest. Saturday also featured a full lineup of Stillwater Selections. Sunday featured a number of beers from new to Maryland artisanal brewers Oxbow and Perennial. Then finishing up on Monday with the Brewer’s Art teaming up with Max’s to create the 72 Hour Sour and a full line up of Sour Ales from around the globe.
From beginning to end of this event it was a complete success as always. My only regret is that I couldn’t spend more time there giving myself an education on Belgian Beer. As always I can’t wait until next year’s Belgian Beer Festival. Cheers.
John Thompson is a beer enthusiast who began evangelizing craft beer a few years ago on his blog thehoplocal.com. John has been homebrewing sporadically for almost 20 years, and also is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. When not enjoying a cold malty beverage you will find John spending time with his spouse and two young children or working his day job in Financial Services Technology. Make sure to find John on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @TheHopLocal and Untapped. at : http://untappd.com/user/thehoplocal