When I took my family to the first annual Frederick Beer Week Brew Fest on Saturday, May 14th, I found the delicious ales and festival atmosphere I expected, but also found an unexpected story of social media success, where tweets and emails helped launch this celebration of local beer and agriculture. Watch my video interview with chief organizer and beer journalist Kevin Smith (@FredBeerWk) to hear how a tweet started the process of getting the local breweries to support his idea of a beer festival.
The overcast central Maryland sky held back its rain for most of the day, where a sold out crowd of all ages gathered at Tom Barse’s Stillpoint Farm in Mt. Airy, MD, one of only five producers of brewing hops in the state. Americana music by local musicians The Jug Band, with bluegrass jams and Pogues covers, old timey fiddle and mandolin fun from The Polka Dots and bluegrassy originals and covers by The Fieldhands complimented the scene, but the real star of the day was undeniably the beer.
The drinks were provided by five of the regions best microbreweries and home brew enthusiasts from the Frederick Original Ale Makers (F.O.A.M.) Club. I could not record the complete variety of names and flavors, but some of the highlights for my wife and I were the Toffee Stout from DuClaw Brewing Co., the Chocolate Stout from Pub Dog, the Rye Porter from F.O.A.M. and the crisply hopped Raging Bitch ale from Flying Dog Ales. We also tried a sweet Belgian style Saison from Barley & Hops, an easy going Loose Cannon pale ale from Heavy Seas and the one of a kind Collaboration Ale – an arcane, herb tinged sour ale made by the efforts of the three Frederick brewers: Flying Dog, Brewer’s Alley and Barley & Hops.
“Beer is slow food in a glass” – Larry Pomerantz, Head Brewer of Barley & Hops, introducing the Collaboration Ale.
Not only did this festival idea hatch with a tweet, but with a limited budget as a first time festival much of the promotion was also done with social media, word of mouth/email and hyper-local news. With Kevin’s strategic tweeting and industrious organizing behind the wheel (including cabs on site for those who needed a safe ride home), you can bet this festival will be back next year. Local beer, local agriculture, Americana music and family fun all enabled and promoted by new media and old fashioned elbow grease – in its first year effort, the Frederick Brew Fest has become a great role model for any festival.