There is a stretch of weekends in September and into October where weekends are no longer one’s own when one is a beer writer. I practically live at festivals during this time of year. There’s so much going on that I tend to miss out on a number of events. In a way, I suppose I should be grateful that DuClaw didn’t hold their Real Ale Festival this year, but I’m not. It’s a personal favorite of mine.

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That said, I had the privilege of hanging out with the good folks at the Old Dominion/Fordham Brewery over in Dover, DE for the first ever Cheesetoberfest. Picture, if you will, Oktoberfest meets gourmet grilled cheese competition. Beer, cheese, bacon, lobster, candied chipotle peppers…there was nothing not to like (except maybe the drive to Dover….but it was worth it).

I’m sure many of you remember Anheuser-Busch purchasing Old Dominion a few years back, and the subsequent slide into the realm of poorly made beer.  Some three years ago I had a Hop Mountain IPA and was less than impressed. The AB years were not kind to Old Dominion (beyond providing the brewery with an impressive distribution network).

For those of you who don’t know, some 20-plus months ago Jim Lutz, formerly of Flying Dog and Wild Goose fame, bought the brewery back from AB. Over the course of roughly the last year the brewery has been relaunching it’s whole line with new packaging and much improved beer – not to mention new beers that they didn’t previously offer. The Hop Mountain is significantly better than it used to be, the Espresso Stout is quite good, the Belgian Candi, released last week, is definitely worth a sample. I could go on, but you get the picture. What I will say is that if the last time you had an OD Beer was over two years ago, it’s time to give them another try.

And if you find yourself looking for a fun day trip early next October, check for the second annual Cheesetoberfest. It was cheesy awesomeness.

The Daytrip for this Saturday

So, if you don’t already have plans for this Saturday and you have a thing for pumpkin beer, I have the event for you…

The folks at Old Line Wine and Spirits down in Beltsville are going Pumpkin heavy this Saturday from Noon to 6:00…and possibly longer. According to Rob Goss down at Old Line, “The event will feature music,a pig,vendors and BEER!! We are also having several contests including best pumpkin pie made with a pumpkin beer and best beer themed  carved pumpkin! The judging is around 4:30 – depending on music. Kids can come [but we’re still working on things for them]. There will be vendors,food,music.”

And the details that Rob gave;

$10 admission gets you 1 16 oz pour and a world famous Old Line Koozie! Samples will be 2 for $5 or 1 for $3photo (7)
Food and beer are ticketed
Breweries include Elysian (4 styles)
                       Flying Dog 2012 The Fear
                       Flying Dog 2013 The Fear
                       Flying Dog 2013 firkin
                       Flying Dog 2013 secret stash firkin
                       Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin
                       Pub Dog Harvest IPA
                       Pub Dog Monster Mash
                       Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin
                       Wolavers Pumpkin
                       Devils Backbone Icabod Crandell
                       Starr Hill Pumpkin Porter
                       Smuttynose Pumpkin
                       Harpoon Pumpkin UFO
                       Saranac Pumpkin
                       New Belgium Pumpkick
There will also be vendors including:
                       Picky Vickys BBQ sauces
                       Roll up and Dye
                       South Hill Jewerly
                       The Jewels Nest
                       Roaming Republic
                       Divine Cupcakes
                       Speakeasy gear
And the contests:
                      Pumpkin Beer Pumpkin Pie
                      Pumpkin Carving ( beer theme) Please do this at home and bring finished product
                      Best decorated solo cup
Music provided by several local musicians including Hall Williams of Annapolis based Willies Light

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This week’s recommendation comes from our own backyard. This year’s edition of Secret Stash from Flying Dog comes chock full of local hops and wheat, and Belgian yeast. The beer has a wonderful, subtle complexion that comes from the mixture of Belgian funk, the malts and hops. The beer mellows out nicely after first sips and would pair well with rich and buttery foods. Although, personally, I would like to pair it with a rotisserie chicken.

Flying Dog’s harvest ale is definitely worth picking up. Not too hoppy if you prefer malt, and not too malty if you like hops, and it doesn’t overdo it with the Belgian funkiness. Truly a well balanced beer.

And if I don’t see you down in Beltsville this Saturday, be well and drink good beer.

Slainte, mother hoppers.