Easton, MD: The 40th Annual Waterfowl Festival

Held from November 12-14, the annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md. had something for everyone. Photo: Bryan Kolesar/TheBrewLounge.com

EASTON,  MD, November 24, 2010 - If the sole measurement of a festival’s success could be calculated from the weather, then this month’s annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md. was perfectly successful.

Webster the Goose

Webster the Goose and Willa the Fox, not pictured, are frequently seen walking the streets of Easton, Md. during the Waterfowl Festival

As of its conclusion, the festival is entering the 41st year and the popularity continues to grow with each passing year as more attendees are finding this event to be a great family-friendly way to honor the culture of the Chesapeake.

Celebrating the outdoors

An estimated 18,000 attendees took advantage of the beautiful autumnal weather and flocked to Easton from around the mid-Atlantic region.

From the Thursday evening opening VIP reception at The Armory through to Sunday evening’s last call under the Tasting Pavilion, the schedule was chock full of everything that has come to be associated with the Chesapeake Bay region and its outdoors.

On the outskirts of town at the Easton Village Ponds, hunters and their Retrievers conducted demonstrations showing their skills in the water and the tall grass. Across downtown Easton, more dogs showed off their skills in competitions of jumping and retrieving near the Easton High School.

Nearby, the Sportsman’s Pavilion played host to fishing and hunting gear along with the newest in supplies, clothing, and guides. Fly Fishing, duck- and goose-calling demonstrations also took place.

Back downtown, Festival attendees strolled the ten blocks that were closed to traffic. Anything imaginable related to the Chesapeake’s outdoor spirit greeted attendees at every turn such as photography, literature, sculpting, carving, and painting.

Retailers’ open doors welcomed shoppers in for festival specials, musicians filled the streets with a wide variety of music, open tents provided cover for local artists’ paintings and sculptures, and area food, wine, and beer were available for purchase to satisfy appetites.

Downtown Easton played home to the annual Waterfowl Festival, November 12-14, 2010

Downtown Easton played home to the annual Waterfowl Festival, November 12-14, 2010

Celebrating the food

There was a variety of food from close to a dozen vendors to be found around every corner of the festival. Smokers were set up by local barbecue establishments to sell pit beef and turkey, along with crab soup, crab cakes, and oysters to name just a few of the local delicacies that could be enjoyed during the three-days.

The food focus, though, kicked in to high gear on Friday night at Bob Pascal’s St. Michaels Harbour Inn, Marina & Spa where the inn hosted a “Wild Game Feast and Beer Dinner.”

The Harbour Inn will soon be celebrating its 25th anniversary and is enjoying the fruits of a revamped kitchen, which is being helmed by a new Executive Chef David Hayes. Chef Hayes came to Harbour Inn earlier this year with experience that has taken him from Buckingham Palace to the acclaimed Inn at Perry Cabin nearby in St. Michaels.

At 25 years of age, Hayes brings an enthusiasm to the kitchen that shows both in his cooking and in his interpersonal skills with his dining guests.

Just days prior to the Friday evening ‘beer dinner,’ Hayes added accolades to his culinary resume with two first place awards in Baltimore, one at the Pork Association Competition and also tied for first place at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’ OysterFest in St. Michaels.

The Harbour Inn teamed up for dinner with the local brewery, Eastern Shore Brewing Company (ESBC). Located mere blocks from the hotel, the brewery is a relative newcomer to St. Michaels as it has just recently celebrated the second anniversary of crafting local brews for thirsty tourists, boaters, and residents.

Hayes met with brewery owners, Adrian (“Ace”) and Lori Moritz, to discuss brewhouse and kitchen flavor and pairing concepts. Over a few beers worth of sampling, they conceived a five-course menu that would showcase a wild game theme (tying in to the Waterfowl Festival) paired with each of the brewery’s five current beers.

St. Michaels Harbor Inn

St. Michaels Harbor Inn

Dinner was served on the enclosed outdoor patio just steps from the water and boat slips. With such moderate temperatures, the location provided for comfortable strolling both before and after the dinner.

During the dinner, Hayes and his kitchen staff, brewer Randy Marquis, and the owners of ESBC took the time to discuss each course’s preparation and pairing. Clay Swartz and his restaurant staff executed a smooth delivery of the dinner that started in just a few timely minutes of the scheduled 7 p.m. start.

The dinner was a perfect palate for both Hayes’ and Marquis’ talents. Nowhere, though, did the pairing concept work as seamlessly as in the last two courses. The fourth course showcased tender rabbit meat, dumplings, and diced vegetables in a stew that was accentuated with a pleasant spicy heat and complemented the Knot So Pale Ale, which can be best described as an India Pale Ale (IPA). An IPA can often use its hop bitterness along with its carbonation to help usher the effects of spicy heat away, readying the palate for another spoonful of food—in this case, stew.

The last course of the dinner was a match made in cacao heaven. Individually, the decadently rich chocolate flourless torte and the Duck Duck Goose Porter could have each stood on their own. Together, they exemplified everything a solid beer and food pairing should be.

In this case, it was smooth, rich textures and chocolaty flavors that complimented each other.

Some times, the idea is to get flavors and textures to be different, without contrasting too harshly, and other times the idea is to get it all to blend together into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. This time, it was the latter.

To see the full beer dinner menu along with more detailed notes, please visit After Hours at The Brew Lounge.

Celebrating the beer and wine

The beer was not confined to only the Friday night dinner this year. Presented in past years as the Wine Tasting Pavilion, its name was changed last year to the Tasting Pavilion to reflect the participation of Eastern Shore Brewery.

Close to a dozen local wineries were pouring their grape delights from petit syrahs to pinot grigios, but only one brewery—the most local of them—was in attendance. It bode well for ESBC as they had to make multiple trips to the brewery during the weekend to deliver more kegs as festivel-goers fell in love with the St. Michaels Ale, Duck Duck Goose Porter, and Lighthause (sic) Ale.

The Chesapeake continues to change

Time brings change everywhere, however, in the Chesapeake Bay region with its ecological system so rich and precious, it is more vital to hold on to the natural beauty and to curb the encroachment of modern-day civilization.

An overarching mission of the Waterfowl Festival has long been to keep alive the romance with the outdoors and the Chesapeake region. Raising awareness and funds for restoration, conservation, and continued protection against a deteriorated infrastructure continue to be leading tactical objectives.

The festival provides a family-friendly event to help bring about an understanding of the region’s delicate balance that must be obtained if future generations are to participate in the vibrant outdoor life that residents and visitors enjoy today.

Bryan Kolesar writes The Brew Lounge


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Bryan Kolesar

Bryan Kolesar has been tracking down great beer for over twenty years. From the most hard-to-find delicately balanced low alcohol beer to the big monsters weighing in at over 10% ABV, he has yet to find a style that does not have a story to tell and a taste to share. Though, when pushed, Kolesar has historically staked a claim to the Saison style as one of the most versatile and his favorite.

In 2005, Bryan co-founded The Brew Lounge blog/website as a canvas to illustrate the best of the craft brewing industry and to document his own travels within it. Though he has lived in Philadelphia and is currently headquartered in the city's western suburbs, Kolesar shares a wealth of information and images that he collects from his travels around the world and some of the best beers that he has tasted along the way.

In 2010, Kolesar came aboard the Communities section of The Washington Times to contribute stories from across the craft brewing industry as it continues more than ever its explosive growth amongst increasingly more of the mainstream alcohol-consuming public. 

While the beer - its tastes, aromas, and incredible pairing opportunities with food - is often the beginning of a story, he often finds it more interesting to dive into the stories behind the people, places, and events associated with the final product. 

Locally around Philadelphia, he has been named a Beer Writer of the Year finalist multiple times, hosted beer/running events during each annual Philly Beer Week, served as a Philly Beer Geek judge, paneled local beers for submission into the Great American Beer Festival competition, judged beer and food competitions, been featured in local publications chronicling the beer scene, and been named the "Best Beer Guy" of 2008. 

In addition to his beer-y pursuits, Kolesar works a professional career in the business world by day and dabbles in distance running, cooking, homebrewing, gardening, photography, and is a staunch advocate for animal rescue/adoption. He lives with his wife, Patty, of fifteen years and has been a long time, mostly suffering, supporter of local Philadelphia sports.

Contact Bryan Kolesar

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