by Kevin M. Smith

It’s a strange year. We all know that by now. This time of year I’m used to hitting festival after festival on the weekends – The Maryland Craft Beer Festival, The Maryland Microbreweries Festival, Lovettsville Oktoberfest, Frederick Oktoberfest, Hops and Harvest, Das Best Oktoberfest, Make it Funky, Beer Bourbon & BBQ, and so many others. From the beginning of September until almost Thanksgiving there is at least one, if not multiple beer, wine, and craft spirits festivals throughout the region.

Historically, the fall has been a celebration of our craft beverage producers, and I covered as many of these events as I could get to. Some have faded away – The DuClaw Real Ale Festival was a favorite that’s no more – others have grown or evolved like the Maryland Microbreweries Festival, and the Maryland Craft Beer Festival. The festivals had become a part of the regional fabric, and economic engines that contributed massively to local economies.

As we wend our way through these autumn weekends, and we seek out that beer, cocktail, or glass of wine with which we are looking to unwind with after a long week, these events were more than just a fun afternoon for attendees – they allowed small, new breweries an outlet to reach thousands of potential customers; they helped support a growing food truck industry; it brought new customers to neighborhoods and towns who otherwise would not have been there.

Now, without these events, and with limits on tasting room attendance, these producers find themselves shifting their business dynamics. They have to find new ways of pushing product out their doors, and getting it in front of new customers. Some have adjusted beautifully, and others…well, others are struggling. So, if there’s a brewery, cidery, meadery, winery, or distillery you love, and you have the money, make sure you’re showing your support – pick some of what you love for the weekend. Because, if you don’t, there’s a chance that you lose the opportunity to have more of that drink you love.

In the meantime, check out the latest – the Frederick Behind Bars piece on Tenth Ward assistant distiller Kay Bennett, the news wrap-up, and the latest drink recommendation. Also, I’m hoping to have other big news in the near future – something that might merit publishing before the end of month.

Until next time, stay well, and drink local.