New Year’s Eve in Berlin, MD is typically celebrated with all the traditions one might expect from a small town New Year’s Eve party: community members coming together for food vendors, music, champagne and the ball drop at midnight.

But this New Year’s Eve in Berlin is going to be just a little bit different.

“Because we celebrate craft beer here and we have our own brewery in Berlin, we’re collaborating on a unique toasting beverage,” said Ivy Wells, the Town of Berlin’s Economic Development Director.

That beverage is a champagne beer from Berlin brewery Burley Oak, who will sell the drink out of their beer truck on NYE to raise money for the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council (LESCH).

The beer is being made specifically for Berlin and its famous end-of-year celebration, but it will also be on tap at Burley Oak’s brewery at the start of the New Year. The special champagne beer is not only giving back to the community by raising funds for LESHC, but also significantly forwarding the effort to make the Shore a top 10 craft beer destination.

“This is a big step in making the Shore a major craft beer stop,” Wells said. “Berlin is changing the paradigm that we no longer have to have champagne as a toast.”

The champagne beer will be available when the party starts at 10 p.m., though regular champagne will also be available, as it always has, at Berlin’s Atlantic Hotel.

About the beer

Ian Spice is the brewer at Burley Oak heading the champagne beer-making process.

Many of Burley’s sour beers are aged in wine barrels, Spice said, which allows the oak and wine flavors in the barrel to flavor the beer.

“That’s really where all of our canned beers start, our sours that we put in 16 oz. cans for limited release,” he said. “They usually start as a Sour Fest beer. This one did as well.”

In September, Spice was working with a Salisbury University professor who was harvesting wild yeast off the skin of grapes. The Burley brewers took that yeast and pitched it into a wine barrel, poured beer into the barrel and added chardonnay grape juice, essentially pre-fermented wine, to the mix.

“We were pouring the chardonnay juice and [realized] it tasted awesome,” Spice said. “So for this champagne-type sour that we’ll be doing for New Year’s Eve, it’ll be that chardonnay grape juice. Some of it will be fermented out but most of it will just be conditioned on it.”

The champagne beer might just be the perfect combination for those who prefer beer over sparkling wines, but still want to feel festive on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s definitely more of a beer than a champagne, but it will have a little more of a higher carbonation so it’ll be kind of effervescent,” Spice said. “It’ll still be a nice juicy type of sour, because all of the chardonnay grapes won’t be fermented out.”

Burley Oak champagne beer
It’s not quite ready for toasting yet, but the champagne beer will be available from the Burley Oak beer truck starting at 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

The Town of Berlin is known for its small, locally-owned businesses lining Main Street. Branching out to work with the local brewery on such a big event seems to be the next logical step in growing the community, growing small businesses and maintaining Berlin’s 2014 title as America’s Coolest Small Town.

“I’m happy that they asked us, I think it’s fitting for the local brewery to do it,” Spice said. “We’re definitely happy about it.”

And to us at ShoreCraftBeer, a craft beer-centric company based in Berlin, this is a notable moment in making the Shore a craft beer destination. ShoreCraftBeer CEO Ann Hillyer is especially proud.

“We hope that other towns and communities on the shore will follow our lead,” she said.

Kristin Helf
Author: Kristin Helf

Kristin is a writer and picture-taker in Ocean City, Maryland. She likes puppies, pumpkin ales and watching movies for the Ocean City Film Festival in her spare time.

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