Last night I had my first Natty Boh draft. Along with a packed crowd at Nacho Mama's, I thoroughly enjoyed the first "Tapping of the Keg" event to celebrate National Bohemain Beer being back on tap in Baltimore for the first time in 15 years. In the crowd (at a reserved booth) were members of the famed Hoffberger family, known for Jerold Hoffberger, former presdient of the National Brewing Company and part-owner of the Orioles in their glory days. Other than that, the crowd was made up of mostly men, who were all admittedly beer-obsessed.
Everything kicked off at 6 p.m., when "Ride of the Valkyries" came on the stereo and Pat "Scunny" McCusker (owner of Nacho Mama's and Mama's on the Half Shell) came in wearing a giant Natty Boh astronaut helmet. He carried with him a Natty Boh keg, much to the delight of the cheering crowd. In no time, McCusker was pulling the handle of the Natty Boh tap and pouring drafts into pint glasses, as tons of flash bulbs went off in the background. Nacho Mama's was incredibly well-staffed and, despite the crowd, made sure that everyone had full pint glasses in their hands.
Now, Natty Boh isn't the most complex beer in the world, but I did notice some differences when I had my first draft. It tasted like a much smoother, lighter beer than in the bottle (and, most certainly, the can). Whatever flavor it does have was much more mild when in draft form. It was also nice to enjoy a Boh with a foamy head. Most people that I talked to said they didn't notice much taste difference between the bottle and the draft, but said that it was light years away from the can.
Somebody presented McCusker with a gift at some point (wrapped in The Baltimore Sun). McCusker opened it and found a retro tin sign that read "National Bohemian Beer: On Tap Here." He held it up and exclaimed, "Now I can officially hang this sign up in the bar," which was met with raucous applause.
Many patrons in the bar were enjoying a Natty Boh draft for the very first time (I'd say most people were in their 20's and 30's). But, the most interesting conversation I had was with a man named Stephen Fedarcyk. He told me he, quite literally, grew up on Natty Boh. When I asked him about it, he explained that his father worked at National Brewery starting in 1948 when he immigrated here from Ukraine. His father worked as a machine oiler and, every Saturday like clockwork, he would take his family down to the brewery to buy three Natty Boh cases for $3 a piece.
"I've grown up on the stuff," Fedarcyk said. "And I'll always support it because of my father."
Now, a beer event might seem like a trivial thing for most, but to people like the Hoffbergers, McCusker, and Fedarcyk, I'm betting it meant a whole lot more.
The event at Nacho Mama's was just the first among many tapping parties. Click here for the full schedule!
[Image: my first Natty Boh draft!]