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Craft beer marketing group pressing forward

(Jan. 30, 2015) Assawoman Bay Brewing Co. in Ocean City on Monday held the second installment of the ongoing “Beer Talk & Tasting” series that aims to promote the area as a craft beer tourism destination.

Avi Sibony, left, son Zev Sibony and brewmaster Jason Weissberg from Assawoman Bay Brewing Co. hosted dozens of brewers and hotel and restaurant owners on Monday, Jan. 26 for the second in an ongoing series of beer talks put together by ShoreCraftBeer.com. [JOSH DAVIS/PHOTO]
Put together by ShoreCraftBeer.com, the event included representatives from eight local breweries, as well as a number of hotel and restaurant owners eager to learn more about the burgeoning craft beer industry.

Organizer Ann Hillyer from OceanCity.com said more than 90 people registered to attend the quarterly event.

“We have 17 [breweries] on the shore and eight within a half an hour of Ocean City,” Hillyer said. “There’s really, really world-class beer being produced.”

Along with the talk, guests had the chance to sample one beer from each participating brewer, including Assawoman’s Trans Porter, which recreantly won national and regional competitions.

“There are a lot of award-winning beers here,” Hillyer said. “There are many, many beers to be proud of, so we’re thrilled.”

During the last fiscal quarter, Hillyer said ShoreCraftBeer spoke with the Brewer’s Association of Maryland about opportunities in cross promotion.

“I think what we’re doing here is more organized and coordinated at this moment than what’s happening in the other areas of Maryland, so I think we’re going to help them and they’re going to help us,” she said. “There are going to be some really good opportunities surrounding these efforts.”

Hillyer said fellow OceanCity.com editor Anthony Towey is working with brewers to create a training program for area restaurant employees designed to help them educate their customers on the subtleties of craft beer.

“If we want to be a craft beer destination, we need to make sure that everybody is educated,” Hillyer said. “The Brewer’s Association of Maryland has told me that if this is successful here and we are able to do the education that we want to do so that anybody who walks into any bar or restaurant will understand the products that we have to offer, they are going to make that a certificate program across the state of Maryland.

“That’s really exciting, and it gets our name out even more,” Hillyer continued.

The group is also putting a brewery tour brochure together, offering advertising opportunities for brewers.

“We want 100 percent participation from brewers,” Hillyer said. “The more advertisers we get in here the farther we can distribute it. The more money we get for distribution, we’re going to target our efforts toward your clients and your demographic.”

Nate Todd, left, Adam Davis and Danny Robinson of Back Shore Brewing Co. sampled beers from their fellow brewmasters at Assawoman Bay Brewing Co. during the second in an ongoing series of beer talks on Monday, Jan. 26.

Liz Walk, from the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, touted a new beer festival currently in the planning stages in cooperation with the Maryland Brewer’s Association.

Walk said the group is targeting Oct. 24, with tie-ins to restaurant week and OCtoberfest.

Towey addressed “first experiences” with craft beer.

If that all-important first taste goes badly, Towey said, “that might turn them off from the whole craft beer world.”

“Craft beer is as diverse in flavors and styles as fine wine,” Towey said. “There’s literally something for every single person’s taste and every single situation. Understanding styles and characteristics will help you make a more informed choice when you’re purchasing for your customers.”

All beer, Towey said, is not created equally.

“Not every beer is fizzy and yellow and mass-produced,” he said. “The different styles come from different brewing techniques [and] they come from different ingredients.”

Certain beers work better with certain foods or in certain situations, Towey said.

“You may not want to drink a heavy dark beer … in July when you’re sitting on the beach, when a lighter, more refreshing beer might be more ideal for you,” he said. “Conversely, on a day like today, when it’s cold and rainy out, maybe you do want a heavy kind of beer like that.”

Jason Weissberg, brewmaster at Assawoman, briefed the crowd on the brewing process while volunteers passed out tasting samples.

“We are all here for the reason of promoting and supporting craft beer on the shore,” Weissberg said. “It’s truly a great environment to be brewing in.”

The next beer talk is planned for late April or early May.

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