ADVENTURES IN BEERLAND
Vince Capano
is a two time winner of
the Quill and Tankard
writing award  from the
North American Guild of
Beer Writers.  

Vince's column is now
a regular feature of
beernexus.com
new -  Goliath and David
There were two festivals in the land of beer only a week apart. One was at Hunter Mountain NY and the other was
just outside New Hope, PA. The one in NY was colossal.  Its name was TAP-NY and it boasted of over 500 different
beers being served.  The other was Washington’s Crossing Brewfest which poured a more modest but still quite
substantial, 125 beers.   Herein lies the tale of which would reign supreme, Goliath or David.

TAP-NY is a bit confusing from the get go.  The organizers capitalize each and every letter which is to my eye as
pollen is to my nose.   Those five letters are boldly capitalized on billboards, in print ads, on web pages, in social
media, on road signs, and even on the “official underwear of the largest single state beer festival in the country”.   
Consumer caveat: that entire phrase is only printed on selected items sized XXXXXL and larger since it won’t fit on
anything smaller.   

Obviously capitalizing the “NY” is understandable and correct but what about the TAP?  Could it be that the festival
honchos felt a perfectly fine and normal lower case  “tap” wouldn’t convey the enormity of what they had created?  In
a way maybe they’re right.  Five hundred beers in one place deserve something special.  Then again, holding a beer
festival at a ski resort on the top of an imposing snow capped mountain that can only be reached with the help of
experienced beer drinking Sherpa guides is special in and of itself.  

The Washington Crossing event's official name is appropriately The Washington Crossing Brewfest .  Despite not
succumbing to capital letter mania the organizers of this one have their own issue, namely a location crisis.  The fest
is actually held in the town of Washington Crossing, PA but their GPS address is 1638 River Road, New Hope, PA   
To make things more confusing Washington Crossing,  an unincorporated village, is in Upper Makefield Township in
Bucks County, PA 18977 but there is also a Washington Crossing in New Jersey on the other side of the Delaware
River.  That Washington Crossing  is located within the boundaries of Hopewell Township which is in Mercer County.  
And for those who (wisely) refrain from giving total credence to every alleged fact appearing in these columns I can
tell you that no less authority than the federal government has verified the existence of Washington Crossing, NJ by
declaring it a US National Historic Landmark in 1961.

The spacious Hunter Mountain ski lodge sits at 1600 ft. above sea level.   It has 240 skiable acres packed with more
trees to hit than you’d ever need (just one of many good reasons not to ski).  The TAP-NY festival takes full
advantage of that vast area by placing its more than 150 brewery tables not only in the lodge and the attached deck
areas but also in five large tents broadly spaced on several grassy knolls adjacent to the decks.  Note to conspiracy
theorists – no need tot worry, the only thing on these grassy knolls is beer.

The Washington Crossing Brewfest sits 75 inches above river level.  Its brewery tables are tightly packed next to
each other in a snake like line that stretches for about the length of a long NFL field goal attempt.  The area is
heavily wooded though no skiing is allowed. The only danger is tripping over low lying stumps from trees cut down to
make way for the festival.  Inclement weather is a concern here since only the pouring stations are covered by tents –
guests are on their own to battle the elements.  At least the organizers got their priorities right - saving the beer is
always job #1.  Rain water mixed in with your beer is not a good thing.  It’ll ruin the beer’s taste unless, of course,
you’re’ drinking Coors Light (or any of its ilk ) where any added water won’t be noticed at all.

In the early 1950s the owners of Hunter Mountain offered it for free to any developer who would follow two
stipulations: that the project be named the “Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl”, that it was equipped with snow making
machines, and that a really large beer festival be held there once a year.  Ah, right, that’s three.  Okay, you guessed
it; there was no demand about the festival.  That egregious omission is not surprising however; what else would you
expect from someone dumb enough give away a perfectly good mountain. In contrast, the Washington Crossing
Brewfest is located on public land – it’s a state park that offers more than 500 acres of American history in its natural
setting yielding only a few 100 square feet for its yearly festival.  

If you’ve forgotten that high school history course you loved, the area became famous on December 25, 1776 when
the icy waters of the Delaware River provided the setting for one of the pivotal events of the American Revolution-
the First American Beer Festival (FABF).  Needless to say, the FABF had fewer categories than the current Great
American Beer Festival (GABF).   The GABF also has more categories then the pounds of hops grown in Oregon,
the multitude of places where George Washington slept, and the number of angels dancing on a Cicerone pin.  Oh,
almost forgot, the other notable event that evening was George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River when
he took the sleeping British totally by surprise and won a pivotal victory for the Americans in the Revolution.  The
dozing Brits were under the command of a person who had to be an ancestor of the guy who gave away Hunter
Mountain.  Not so great minds think alike.

A regular ticket for TAP-NY costs $82 which averages out to about $.16 a beer if you can drink all 500.  Washington
Crossing’s price of $40 averages out to around $.32 per beer if you could drink all 125.   Factoring in the cost of a
Designated Driver (a guy who gets in for a cheap price and drinks anyway since no one ever looks at those stupid
wrist bands) ticket for each fest - $30 for TAP-NY and $10 for Washington Crossing - really isn’t necessary since it’s
unlikely that anyone could drink 500 beers though the 125 might be open for debate.  The only conclusion that can
logically be reached based on these numbers is clear and profound - they are entirely meaningless.  One number
however is not.   It’s a mathematical fact that $82 is more than $ 40.  

The tasting glasses at TAP-NY are really nice.  Instead of the too often seen short, squat shape (the Kevin James /
Oliver Hardy model), this one is in the traditional, attractive, slender Pilsner style.  It is beautifully adorned with a map
of the state of New York along with a spare no expense, we’ll pay extra the extra fee for capitals - “TAP-NY” boldly
written over it.  Most importantly, the glass is glass.  Real honest to goodness you’ll cut yourself if it breaks glass.  
When I asked one worker what would happen if I did accidentally break it, he replied “it’s only “$25 for a
replacement.”  I was very careful.

The Washington Crossing glass features the face of our first President. George is beautifully drawn with just a hint of
wood in his gleaming smile.  He looks so very happy.  It’s almost as if he knew that one day an entire beer fest would
be named after him, a big time honor to say the least.   The shape of the glass is identical to TAP’s – pilsner style.
Now for the bad news - or for those with the dropsies, the good news - it’s not a glass glass.  It’s 100% plastic.  One
saving grace is that at least it’s not a red solo cup, not that a red solo cups are entirely bad mind you.  They at least
holds 16 ounces.   

Each of the festivals ‘glasses, when filled to the brim, holds 5 liquid ounces; that’s 5 of any liquid be it transmission
fluid, flowing lava, hair gel, or in this case, beer.  I could be wrong about the gel since that might be weighed on a
scale instead of being poured in a measuring cup.  If it was a scale then we’d have to talk about room temperature
and the ambient air pressure so let’s just stick with the liquid version.  Each of the glasses has a line drawn about half
way up the side.   The line indicates the legal pouring amount, around 2 oz.  It was line that wasn’t a line however.  It
seems the management of both festivals hired  The Amazing Kreskin to hypnotize all pourers so that once their hand
touched a tap handle all they saw was either a state map or our founding father along with the command “fill to the
top”

Despite having been at both festivals I can’t comment on the bands.  I never really listened to any of them.  I did
notice them playing away to the delight of one or two of their friends who clearly preferred standing and listening to
standing and drinking.  Those folks shattered my belief that all the really crazy people at a beer festival were the
ones wearing 12 pounds of pretzels on a string around their necks.   Crazy or not, I do feel a bit sorry for tthose
music fans since they had to pay full price.  Not fair; I propose a  Designated Listener ticket for such dedicated band
followers.  For them, the music is beer for their ear.

Washington Crossing did have one form of entertainment that was impossible to miss – cannon firing.  Think
BOOM….. pause to reload….. BOOM……pause to reload... BOOM.   And just when you though you moved far
enough away from the artillery, there is was again taking up a new position in its never ending imaginary battle
against the Redcoats.  Appropriately attired Revolutionary War re-enactors pushed around an authentic looking field
piece that I was told was made of cast iron and bronze.  They loaded it with a prepared cartridge of paper containing
gunpowder, then pretended to add a projectile (at least I hope they were pretending).  It was fired when the group
leader – I knew he was the leader since the other people did all the pushing of the cannon - ignited a match to a
goose-quill tube containing gunpowder  inserted into a vent-hole and…. BOOM….. BOOM…… BOOM.

The only similar entertainment at TAP-NY occurred when two very “happy” drinkers tripped and fell into the cask at
Brown’s Brewery table.  It rolled off the table and hit the floor with a loud - though not the volume of the teeth rattling
cannon - BOOM.  It was at that point that seemingly everyone in the area rushed in without regard to personal safety,
to pick up the cask.  Such heroism makes one proud to be a beer drinker.

As for the beer quality both festivals had some really good ones, some mediocre ones, and some that called for the
nearest dump bucket.  When a bucket was not available the grass served the same function.  Note – proper festival
etiquette says all dumping should be just outside the view of the brewery’s representatives especially after you’ve
told them how good their beer was.   At TAP-NY there were at least two tents I never visited before closing time.  At
Washington’s Crossing I visited every pouring station and had time to return for a few favorites.  However, of the ten
best beers I had at both festivals seven were from TAP.  

All I can say both were great fun.  There’s a place in Beerland for both Goliath and David even if they were only six
days apart.  Initially I was concerned about that, after all, even for beer writers there can be too much of a good
thing.  When I told my BeerNexus colleague
Glenn DeLuca  it would be a tough call to go to both in less than a
week’s time he looked dismayed and said:  “Let me tell you what I’d call it – one heck of a good week!”  

And as usual, Glenn was right.


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June 2017
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