Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival Recap- Maryland State Fairgrounds

Well folks, sorry for the delay! I am just waking up of my Beer, Bourbon and BBQ induced coma. HOLY FUCKING SHIT, that was one of the best festivals I have ever been to. If you love Beer, Bourbon and/or BBQ, then this is easily the festival for you. And with 13 different locations nationwide, this event is very accessible for people in those 13 surrounding regions. So I advise you to check this event out.

So I am going to break this down in 2 sections. I will have a Day 1 review, followed by a day 2. So let’s get started….

Day 1

Where to even begin. Seriously, as I walked into the MD State Fairgrounds the smell of smoked meats consumed me, and my head began to spin, as if I was like a kid in a candy store. “Where do I go first, what’s my first item to eat, what’s the first drink I get?” My emotions ran high, because as an avid beer and BBQ fan, this was like a pilgrimage to Mecca. No joke, this is the Mecca of booze and smoked meats.

So, Maryland BBB’s are the only events with 2 days, which is fucking rad, but I feel bad for the other places who don’t get to experience the intimacy of day 1. Day 1 consisted of what was called “Whole Hog Friday Night Pick Pickin” which included your all you can drink beer and bourbon, and a meal ticket that gave you the opportunity to consume one of the BBQ vendors best platters.

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Friday’s event was smaller than Saturday. Which wasn’t a bad thing when it came to trying to meet and greet with the BBQ pit masters. Fridays crowd was smaller so it made walking around and perusing vendors stands a little easier, and waiting in line was not an issue at all.

So with the back story out of the way now, my first order of business was to grab a beer. I walked into the one section of the event and saw all the beer vendors. Probably about 30-40 beer tents filled the venue. I took 1 lap to see who was there, and settled on a brewery I have never heard of before called Hysteria. Located in Columbia, MD Hysteria brought the fire with their American IPA, named Mad Sun. It was light and citrusy, low tones of hops, not a lot of that hoppy bite, so if you don’t like IPAs because of that, I would recommend that if you can get your hands on it. After hitting up the Hysteria tent, I shuffled on over to the New Holland Brewing tent, a brewery I had only had once or twice in my life. Their selection of beer for the day wasn’t really anything in my wheel house, but because the event and the size of the sample glass, I said fuck it and went outside my comfort zone and got their Dragon’s Milk Stout. A high ABV stout, I believe the lady said 11%, casked in an oak barrel to give it a woody smokey flavor, but with hints of vanilla and caramel. For it looking and drinking like motor oil, this beer was a hit. I sampled it 3 other times before the night was over. Following my first visit to New Holland, backed up to it was one of my favorite breweries, New Belgium Brewery. New Belgium brought the heat when they had 4 different beers to sample. They had their staple IPA, Voodoo Ranger, with its bastard step sibling, Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA. Also coming along for the ride was their new Belgian white Fat Tire. A spin off of their staple Belgian Style Ale. So, seeing as their line wasn’t that long I got the Juicy Haze IPA, and began asking the worker the difference of the 2 IPAs. The main difference is when brewing the Juicy Haze, it gets a heap of pineapple and guava juices. Which made total sense. This one was much fruitier in taste than the original, and with the added fruit juice it really cut the intensity of the hops of the original ranger IPA.

After walking around a little more and sampling a ton more beer, I moved on to the bourbon. My first stop on the bourbon trail, was Four Roses. Every one and their mother has heard of Four Roses. And if you haven’t got out from the fucking rock you live under. For crying out loud Four Roses has been named Whisky Distiller of the Year 4 out of 5 years starting back in 2011-2015. Anyway, on to the bourbon. They had 3 styles there. They came with the Single Barrel, Small Batch and the Original Straight Bourbon. I am not going to claim that I know a lot about bourbon whisky, but I know enough to know make the right choices when out drinking it for myself. Small Batch was my choice. When out at bars, small batches are hard to come by unless it is a true whisky bar, that specializes in having multiple whiskeys on the shelves. So I knew I had to take my chance and get down on some sweet succulent small batch bourbon. It was so good. That’s all I can say, I’m not gonna bore you or even try to say what I tasted in it. It was just really fucking good, and would love one night to whack half a bottle and see where the night takes me. Most likely to bed, but hey, who knows.

I walked around some more, scoping out the BBQ vendors. Each one smelling like a little slice of heaven. There is just something about the smell of smoked meats, that just makes me get all boned up. I wonder if vegans get boned up to the smell of fresh cut grass? Any way, as I walk around searching for the best looking spot, I stop and have about 10 more sample beers, this time from breweries such as Key (Baltimore), Brewers Art (Baltimore), Monument (Baltimore) (https://justgrubbin.com/2018/02/23/monument-city-brewing-company-baltimore-md/) Yards (Philadelphia) Flying Dog (Frederick, MD) Terrapin (Athens, GA) just to name a few.

So its been about 3 hours of drinking and walking around, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells this place has to offer, when I finally come back to this joint called CHAR’D. After around my second lap, CHAR’D had really caught my eyes and stomach when I had noticed their baked beans and mac and cheese were waaaayy different from every others at the event. Nothing against the other places, but those 2 sides were just super basic (bush’s baked beans and plain mac and cheese). CHAR’D went over the top with their Brisket Mac and their White Bean baked beans.

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The addition of their brisket to the mac made this dish stand out the most out of other items I tried over the weekend. The smoky juicy morsels of brisket combined with the creamy sweet and salty flavors of the mac and cheese, made every bite of this side dish a god damn party in my mouth. As for the white baked beans, let me just say if you’re ever looking for a different baked bean idea try to replicate my man Rich’s recipe. I was still trying to find my bearings from being Mike Tyson knock out punched by the flavor of the beans that when I sat down and talked with Rich, the only thing I heard him say was “there’s some pineapple in it” I couldn’t tell you what else was said after that. The main event of this platter was their pulled pork sandwich. Made from pork shoulder, the meat is smoked up to 10-12 hours (Double Smoked). I thought double smoking the meat would dry out but I’m wrong, and that’s why I coach college kids how to lift, and not some world class BBQ Pit Master.

Now, on to sauces. I am a huge advocate of BBQ Sauces. I can’t get enough. I love all styles. Texas, Memphis, Carolina, St. Louis, all of it. What made CHAR’D a little different was their apple bbq sauce. And me being the warm blooded American I am, nothing goes better with pork than apples (apple sauce). So this sauce spoke to me on 2 separate occasions, because 1) its different and tasted so good just by itself, and 2) Pork and Apples are an amazing combo of flavors. And this combo didn’t disappoint. The sauce was sweet and tangy, and there wasn’t that big of an apple taste to take away from the bbq sauce, but there was enough sweetness to cut the tangy bbq. It was a match made in a heaven.

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CHAR’D made a really lasting impression on me due its unique style of BBQ, but also their commitment to excellence, and community. Located in the heart of Upperco, MD, CHAR’D is made up of family members and friends teaming up together to deliver some of the best bbq in the state of Maryland. If you are interested in stopping by their home base, opening day of the season begins April 14th, and can they be found on social media @chardbarbque.

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Stay tuned for Day 2 of The Beer, Bourbon and BBQ, coming soon to JustGrubbin.com

Happy Grubbin’


If you enjoyed this, check out more posts from the Just Grubbin team here! Also make sure to listen to The Just Grubbin podcast to hear us go into further detail about this and to hear all of our random irreverent takes on food, drink and whatever else.

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