Green Beer Races Bring Shenanigans to Annapolis

The signs of spring are in the air. Daffodils are budding, robins are chirping from branches, and in Annapolis, residents of the Eastport neighborhood are racing each other with serving trays of green beer. Mother Nature may be a bit confused about which season it is, but on March 9 at the Eastport Democratic Club, the Green Beer Races are a sure sign warm weather is on the way.

“Around here, it’s the bellwether that spring is coming,” says Cheryl Hickox, the co-event chair for the Club and one of the organizers of this year’s event. “It’s the first activity where people come out of the house and dust off either your snow boots or a sundress, depending on the weather.”

The Eastport Democratic Club was founded in 1929 as a social club for locals in a residential neighborhood that once housed Lafayette’s army. The Club’s history dates back to the days of Prohibition, when it operated as a speakeasy, pouring drinks for locals as well as Naval Academy Midshipmen and professors. Today, the Club is open for members only, and a recent renovation brought the speakeasy back to life.  

The original bar in the speakeasy area of the Eastport Democratic Club.

“The bar is original,” says Hickox. “We were using it as a storeroom for event furniture, but a few years ago we took on the renovation to update it and use it again.” The Club updated much of its bar area, maintaining the original aspects as often as possible. A nondescript side entrance, original wood paneling, hidden staircase, and a sliding bookcase create an ambience you can’t find just anywhere.

Only members are allowed in the Speak, but the Club opens itself annually on just one day for the Green Beer Races, an event of epically silly proportions. The Green Beer Races are an Annapolis tradition, celebrated for more than 20 years. “Before we had a strong St. Patrick’s Day Parade, before the sock burnings, before Shamrock the Dock, we had the Green Beer Races,” Hickox says.

The layout of the event is simple. Starting at 1pm on a Saturday, festive participants (often highly costumed) show up on the grounds of the Club and prepare to race, relay-style, along the Club’s front lawn. Children and dogs also attend, equally costumed. There’s face painting and Kool-Aid, and there is green beer. Lots of green beer.

“You have to take a tray of six cups of green beer around the course and return with as many still full as possible,” says Hickox. “You and your teammates have to race with vigor and stability to get from one end of the start line and back, passing the tray with as much agility as possible.”

This sounds straightforward, but of course, it’s not.

“The crowd really gets involved, and eggs you on,” says Hickox. “The competitive drinkers (ahem, racers) will win at any cost. People get silly, and you get some shenanigans.” Hickox says the party used to feature other events, such as keg tosses, but they’ve restrained themselves now to just running with beer.

There’s a pause in the racing to let the dogs parade their costumes. Children can take a break in judging their parents’ behavior and instead judge the best pooch. An SPCA adoption van is on-site and has a great record of spontaneous adoptions at the event. There’s live music, there is a grill going, kids can take the SPCA dogs for walks, and rain or shine, everyone is having a good time after a long winter.

More than anything, the Green Beer Races bring out the community to reconnect and have fun together. The Club works with nonprofit partners and typically raises between $1,500 and $5,000 in donations. “Covid reminded those of us who are community-focused just how much we lost in that year of fear,” Hickox says. “We’ve put a lot of effort into the Club, and it’s really unique. It’s a place where you remember to be good to each other, lend a hand when you can, and ask for a hand when you need it.”