PERRYVILLE — With several breweries, wineries and other vendors represented at Saturday’s Tap Into The Tavern event, community members had the chance to sample and learn more about the local businesses gathered at the historic Rodgers Tavern.
Donna Corcoran and her husband, Carl Compton, came to the event after only hearing about it the day before.
“We talked to the mayor and he said ‘Come on over’ … so we just came out to support the county and the town of Perryville,” Corcoran said.
Compton was the designated driver, leaving Corcoran in charge of trying some of the drinks offered that afternoon.
“I get to have all the fun and he drives,” she said.
But the event had plenty to do even for those who were not partaking in the adult beverages, including visiting food vendors, playing corn hole and dancing to music.
Baltimore-based band What’s Next ensured that people had a toe-tapping good time with covers of songs ranging from Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” to Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel.”
Matt Miller welcomed attendees to sample an assortment of cheeses from his family’s dairy farm, Chesapeake Gold Farms.
According to Miller, cheeses naturally pair well with various wines, beers and other drinks. For example, he advised pairing his farm’s garlic cheeses with white wines, peppery cheeses with Pilsners, smoky cheeses with ales, and creamy cheeses — like their Colby cheese — with IPAs.
“It’s super creamy and super soft, and it kind of takes on whatever flavor you’re eating,” Miller said of the Colby cheese. “So a super hoppy beer with that Colby cheese is going to kind of mellow out the hop and bring the flavor out.”
The family has even collaborated with local breweries and wineries to formally create some of those pairings.
“We’ve put our smoked cheddar with Bayheads Brewing Company’s strawberry blonde ale,” he said. “That hint of the fruit in it with that little smokiness, that’s a crowd favorite.”
But if people want to mix, match and experiment with different combinations, Miller said they can’t go wrong with any of them.
“It really just kind of depends on your mood,” he said. “There’s no bad choice.”
For Miller, his favorites are the buffalo wing cheese and the horseradish cheese, whereas the crabby cheddar has won a spot in the heart of Miller family friend Terry Burkhardt.
Burkhardt, who grew up milking cows and helping out on the Millers’ farm, said the Old Bay-filled crabby cheddar will please any Marylander’s tastebuds and is a good addition to macaroni and cheese or even just on some wheat thin crackers with a glass of beer on the side.
“Anything that you can bake cheese on top of or cook cheese in, the crabby cheddar is delicious,” he said.
For lovers of spice, Burkhardt recommended cooking with the horseradish cheese to bring out the heat.
“The smoked horseradish is a little more mild in flavor when you eat it. In terms of horseradish, it’s not super hot,” he said. “But when you cook that, the smoke in the horseradish brings a lot of that heat out and it’s got a really good solid flavor.”
Those looking to buy some cheese from Chesapeake Gold Farms can visit the farm, located at 41 Grove Miller Lane in North East, where they can see the whole cheese-making process from the udder beginning to the utterly delicious end.
“You can go over to the farm at any time, try the cheese, take a tour of the farm,” Burkhardt said. “You can see all the cows and the crops that have been growing … You’re going to meet the family and see what they do every day.”
Folks can also stop by various retail stories across Cecil County and the surrounding area that stock their cheeses, according to Miller.
But Miller said people won’t find his family’s cheeses in any large, chain stores — their farm only deals with fellow local, smaller businesses.
“We’re not trying to get in any big, giant stores,” he said. “We’re staying in local ‘mom and pops.’ We love giving back to the community and being a part of it.”
Miller added that Chesapeake Gold Farms’ cheeses are all-natural with no oils, emulsifiers or preservatives. For the Miller family, that means a less-than-two-day turnaround for making their cheeses.
“We like to say ‘Cow to cracker in about 36 hours,’” Miller said. “From the time we milk the cow, it’s in a block of cheese in 36 hours. It’s not getting any fresher than this.”
Meanwhile, Greg Newswanger spoke to attendees about Granite Run Brewers, a homebrew beer club based out of Port Deposit.
When he started brewing his own beer three years ago, Newswanger said he wanted to interact with fellow homebrewers but found a lack of homebrewing clubs the area. So, he decided to start his own.
The club meets the first and third Thursdays of every month, gathering at local breweries to socialize and to learn more about the homebrewing craft. Those interested in the club can visit their website at https://graniterunbrewers.com/ or follow their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GraniteRunBrewers/ to stay up to date on where the next meeting will take place and other information about the club.
Newswanger and members of his club gave homebrewing demonstrations at Tap Into The Tavern, brewing a pale ale and an IPA over the course of the event.
Newswanger said he prefers pale ales over other beers because their milder alcohol content allows him to savor the beer-drinking experience longer.
“I like beers that are a little lower in alcohol because I like to have a couple beers and I don’t want to get hammered or anything … Pale ales are a little bit lighter in alcohol. You get the flavors of the grains and you also get the flavors of the hops. It’s a good combination of everything,” he said.
Amanda Hickman, one of the event’s organizers, said after hot June temperatures last year, the “wonderful weather” on Saturday delivered a “fantastic turnout” for the second annual Tap Into The Tavern.
“It was very hot [last year]. We were melting,” she said. “September is, I think, what we’re going to stick with.”
Having almost maxed out this year’s ticket sales, Hickman said she’s already gearing up for the next event.
“It’s just been an enjoyable, very relaxed atmosphere, and I’m looking forward to next year,” she said.