We’re Not Like Restaurant Week: Interview with @BaltBeerWeek’s Dominic Cantalupo
Steve Fogleman, Baltimore Beer Baron
Baltimore Beer Week officially launches tomorrow with a panoply of Prost!-ing events and with 32 different beer styles featured, including meads and ciders, you needn’t even pick up an IPA to enjoy the festivities.
We asked Baltimore Beer Week co-founder and proud pappy Dominic Cantalupo for his thoughts on the 8th annual event. What’s changed with all that experience and is there a seven year itch? What does he make of the whole damn thing and its evolution?
“The theme of 2016 is really about the evolution of beer weeks themselves, with Annapolis Beer Week, Howard County Beer Week, Bel Air Beer Week and Highlandtown Beer Week. I made that last one up” he said with a laugh. “As the Beer Weeks evolve, who’s gonna stay and who’s not?”
“It’s getting to that point where a lot of people are following the early pioneers,”
Cantalupo continued. We’ve analyzed what we’ve done well and what we haven’t, but in the end, this year’s Baltimore Beer Week is going to be as strong or stronger than it’s ever been.”
He acknowledges that the sponsors are ever-changing. “We lost some sponsors due to attrition. They went out of business. But we’ve also got new sponsors this year, like RAR and Waverly Brewing.” The actual tally of posted events is also slightly down this year, but some of that has to do with “cleaning it up” so that that breweries and bar owners don’t schedule duplicative events that show up twice on the Beer Week’s website.
How does he see Beer Week in the greater context after all of these years? “We don’t view ourselves as just a collection of sponsors and events like Restaurant Week,” he said. “We see Beer Week as the heart and soul and part of the culture of the City, and what we do transcends racial lines, economic lines and political lines.”
The cause for this movement is clear. Beer.
“We’re doing it for a noble cause–beer. People from all walks of life can sit over a beer and forget about their problems for a while. No matter who you are, you can stop what you’re doing and enjoy a beer. And if we can do that for 10 days and bring a little unity to the City in this political climate, we’d be very happy.”
I wanted to know if he ever sees himself getting out of this business. He admits that he doesn’t make any money off the event by the time he and co-founder Joe Gold continue promoting BBW through the off-season. After a pause, he replied “who knows what the future holds, but as far as our committee goes, we’re holding fast and true to the ideals we established in 2009 and we want to see this continue on and foster the growth of the newer breweries.”
Cantalupo will rev up Beer Week tomorrow, when he hosts the Inaugural Baltimore Beer Week Legends Hall of Fame Luncheon at Pratt Street Alehouse (206 W. Pratt Street, 11:30am-1:30pm, tickets $45), inducting Heavy Seas Hugh Sisson as well as honoring BBW co-founder Mick Kipp & Grand Cru Owner Nelson Carey posthumously.