For those venturing to the week's third anniversary, we have two words for you: Choose wisely. With so many beer tastings and beer dinners and panels and homebrewing competitions, it's easy to get overwhelmed. This year, there are even a couple of festivals — theChesapeake Real Ale Festival (a holdover from last year) and the new Downtown Beer Festival, which will be held at the new Leinenkugel's at Power Plant Live. And then there are the attendees: More than 5,000 attended last year's event, according to organizers. So, to help you choose, we've picked five events that you absolutely should not miss.
Chesapeake Real Ale Festival at Pratt Street Ale House
The Real Ale Festival is "always a killer," says Stillwater Ales' Brian Strumke. Again hosted at Pratt Street Alehouse in the Harbor, it will feature some 22 breweries with some of their best casks. Among them: Evolution, Flying Dog, The Raven, Brewer's Art. In addition, seven of the city's beer wise men – Pratt Street's Steve Jones and Max's cellarmaster Casey Hard — will give a one-hour crash course on cask-conditioned ales. 206 W. Pratt St. 1 p.m-6 p.m. Oct. 15. $40 in advance, $50 at the door.
Opening Tap Ceremony at Rams Head Live
This event will kick off the 11-day festivities with the tapping of the ceremonial First Firkin from Heavy Seas Beer. Dominic Cantalupo, one of beer week's founders, says the ceremony will be "hard to replicate because so many of the beer royalties will be there under one roof." For Hugh Sisson, the event "sets the tone for the whole week." Fans will get a chance to meet most of the local brewers and compare notes on plans for the rest of the week. 6 p.m. Thursday. Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place. $30.
Stillwater Artisanal Ales bonanza
Stillwater Ales, by Baltimore's own gypsy brewer Brian Strumke, will be all over beer week. Strumke will have samples at the Real Ale Festival, but he'll also have three Stillwater-dedicated events. The first is Stillwater Ales Day at Max's Taphouse (737 S. Broadway), which will have 19 Stillwater beers by the bottle and 19 on draft, including some rare brews, such as Olde Bay Saison, a favorite of Philadelphia Beer Week's Don Russell. Strumke calls it "the most comprehensive collection of rare Stillwater Ales ever available." After that, Stillwater hosts a five-course beer dinner at Mount Airy Inn (1401 S. Main St., Mount Airy) at 6 p.m. Monday. Fixed price: $75. On Oct. 15, sample Stillwater newest beers for free at Dawson's Liquors (589 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd., Severna Park).
Maryland Brewer's Oktoberfest at Timonium Fairgrounds
This is the granddaddy of Baltimore area beer events. Presented by the Brewer's Association of Maryland, the event is now in its 10th year. "It's always been one of our anchor events," said beer week founder Dominic Cantalupo. Some 15 area breweries will have about 80 beers at the festival, which will feature beer gardens and oompah bands. There will also be a Miss Oktoberfest Contest, a beer belly contest and the Maryland Brewer's Homebrew Competition. Cantalupo has a warning though: it gets crowded. Noon-6 p.m. Saturday at Timonium Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road, Timonium. $20-$25 general admission.
There are at least eight homebrewing competitions this year. Brian Strumke of Stillwater recommends Little Havana's, which is now in its second year. Guests get a tasting glass for $5; proceeds go to Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter. 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Oct. 12. 1325 Key Highway, Federal Hill. The BaltiBrew homebrew club will again host its homebrew competition and chili cook-off. The event is not limited to members of the club. Anyone can compete, and anyone can judge. After the event is over, some local bands — not named on the event listing — will perform. This year, the contest will be at Load of Fun gallery, 120 W. North Ave., Station North. 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Oct. 14. $10-$20.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times