EASTON — Everyone was smiling at the Easton Beer Fest Saturday, Oct. 5, as sippers chatted with friends, enjoyed beautiful weather and tapped their toes to the band Black Dog Alley rocking the firehouse at Station 60, the Easton Volunteer Fire Department on Leonard Rieck Drive.
“It’s going great. There’s a lot of happy people here,” said firefighter Chris Hash, who was in charge of the Beer Fest and also is treasurer of the fire company.
Hash said there were 43 breweries present and about 95 kinds of beer, cider, meads and seltzer that could be sampled.
“There’s something for every taste,” Hash said. “There’s a lot of excitement around craft beer. And as you can see, walk inside, it’s very much a social event. It’s a friendly crowd. It’s people who are looking to have a good time and relax.”
All the fire trucks were parked outside, lockers and gear were on display, and golf carts were standing by to escort those parked far away from and to their vehicles.
Guests could register as VIP, getting a full-sized pint glass, special beers and limited edition T-shirt; general patron, with a tasting glass and all the beer they could sample; or a designated driver, getting lunch and “all you can drink” soda.
Organizers said there were 625 preregistered tickets and more than 200 additional people showed up, swelling the crowd to over 850.
“This has been our best turnout,” Hash said. “Just watching people come through the door.”
The Easton Beer Fest is now in its fourth year.
“It’s one of the events that really bring out the whole gamut,” Ross Benincasa of Discover Easton said. “It’s really nice.”
The Beer Fest is considered to be a Discover Easton Signature Event. Benincasa said Hash had concentrated on bringing in mid-Atlantic breweries, and there were quite a few, but the unique thing about the Easton Beer Fest is the number of local breweries coming together in one location.
Patron Katie Knapp said she and her friends had come to every beer fest since the first one began.
“I used to be a 911 dispatcher for 10 years,” she said. “I always support the fire house, whatever they do.”
Chris Hash said due to Maryland law, vendors could not donate beer, but they could donate beer-related items, such as clothing and souvenirs to be raffled off to help the cause.
There also were beer brats, soft pretzels, pub chips and more to be eaten and entertainment provided by DJ Stay-C.
Fans could vote for best brewery and best beer awards during the festival.
Organizers said the results of that contest would probably not be tallied until Monday but would be posted on the Easton Beer Fest Facebook page. Those who voted had a chance to win free tickets to next year’s festival.
The major sponsor for the Easton Beer Fest was Town & Country Wine Liquor Etc on St. Michaels Road.
Hash said a partnership with Discover Easton helped make Beer Fest possible.
“We helped in terms of promotion,” Benincasa said. “This is an asset for the town of Easton. We have tried so many ways to get younger families into events. This is bringing about 1,000 people to this location.”
The Beer Fest was planned on a Saturday beginning at noon and ending at 4 p.m., just in time for hungry patrons to head into town for dinnertime at any of Easton’s restaurants.
The Washington Street Pub and Oyster Bar served as the site for the official beer fest “after party” and, from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, donated a portion of its proceeds to the firefighters.
And even though the firefighters were fundraising, about halfway through the beer fest, the station got a call that there was a large uncontrolled fire in a field near Hurlock. One tanker and an engine with firefighters left the festival to go take care of business.
The Beer Fest is one of the major fundraisers for the fire department.
Hash said other department fundraisers include its regular bingo game every Friday night at the fire house.
“Fifty out of 52 Fridays a year we have bingo,” Hash said. Other fundraisers include a golf tournament and a 5K running event every April.
He said the department is in the planning stages for a possible “Brews & Bites” event on Feb. 15, 2020, that will feature small plates and craft beer.
It is being planned to coincide with Easton’s upcoming inaugural Chesapeake Fire and Ice Festival planned by Discover Easton.