is an award winning
member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His blog
Adventures in Beerland
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|Washington Crossing Historic Park preserves the site where George Washington turned the tide of the Revolutionary
War with a dramatic boat crossing of the Delaware River during the American Revolution. It is an official National
Historic Landmark. The Upper Section of the park has historic buildings, walking paths, picnic pavilions, fishing, and
historical education programs. The Lower Section of the park has historic buildings, walking paths, picnic pavilions,
fishing, and historical education programs plus one thing more – a beer fest. In fact they host two fest, one in the
spring and one in the fall.
We all know that George Washington never told a lie but this year’s festival organizers didn’t seem to follow the
example of their namesake. After all, how honest could they be calling an event held in howling winds, driving rain,
and temperatures so cold you could see your freezing breath almost become icicles a Fall Brewfest? The only fall I
saw were people slipping in the all encompassing mud.
To the Festival’s credit they did send out a warning e-mail to all those who bought a ticket online about the potential
for bad weather. The forecast specifically called for a Nor’Easter. If you’re not familiar with the term or have let your
meteorologist license lapse let me tell you the official definition from the National Weather Service – “a storm along
the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast.”
Thanks guys, I would have never guessed the direction. Now for the scary part – “Past Nor’easters have been
responsible for billions of dollars in damage, severe economic, transportation and human disruption, and in some
cases, disastrous coastal flooding. Damage from the worst storms can exceed a billion dollars.” Well one thing for
sure, I wasn’t going to let the $45 I paid for my ticket become part of that billion dollar loss. I was just as determined to
go as the festival organizers were to put it on, “rain or shine”.
The e-mail advised festival goers to “dress appropriately” and to “break out your rain jackets, boots and umbrellas.”
It ended with an ominous admonition “… note that tents not installed by an insured tenting company are not allowed
under our insurance policy.” Tents? I’ve brought sandwiches, water, gum, pretzels and a spare pair of socks (long
story) to festivals but never a tent. Have I been missing something? I didn’t even know there were such things as
“insured tenting companies”.
Normally I would have laughed it all off since when it comes to the weatherman you can usually count on not being
able to count on him. This time however I had a feeling he was right. Why? I looked out the window. I prepared for
battle with three layers of warm shirts and two more of rainproof gear including double hoods. I looked like the
doppelganger of the bundled up little brother Randy in the Christmas Story movie.
My three bold companions Leo, John, and Livingston were equally prepared with one of them more so than any of
us. Well, that’s not entirely true. Leo had a long, warm, fully waterproof, stylish raincoat. Leo had a long, warm, fully
waterproof, stylish scarf. Leo had warm, fully waterproof, stylish boots. Leo did not have a hat. However since he
has more hair than any of us we didn’t feel the least bit sorry for him.
The fest started at 12:30 PM. We arrived at 12:35 heartsick at missing 5 precious minutes. That meant we now only
had three hours and 55 minutes left. We pulled onto a long winding path as security directed us past a filled parking
spots which were closest to the event. Eventually we were waved onto a large grassy slope where we parked along
with hundreds of other cars. It seemed that like us, there were a lot of other people who had their priorities straight.
Enjoying beer is far more important than silly things like comfort, dryness, warmth and safety.
Pennsylvania has a state law that all patrons at a beer festival must show ID. That’s just a tad silly when even a
hobbling octogenarian has to prove he is old enough to drink. Then again he might have a young looking face. The
age checkers and ticket takers were under a tent which for their sake I’m hope was of the insured variety. They were
friendly and efficient and in my case patient as they politely waited while I undid the tie on my rain pants, unzipped my
rain jackets, and unbuttoned my back pocket to take out my wallet to find an ID. They didn’t even complain when the
tie was knotted and the zippers got stuck. It was then, motivated by the revolutionary spirit of George Washington,
not to mention the grumbling people in line behind me, that I decided to silently protest the absurdity of proofing
someone who is obviously over, make that well over, 21. So instead of showing my driver’s license I simply flipped
out my Draught Board 15 Beer Appreciation Club ID card. In return I got a nod, a smile, and a “thank you, enjoy the
festival.” Yes, they took a homemade beer club card instead of real ID. Then again, I probably shouldn’t have been
surprised since it clearly states on the card, “Valid anywhere in the world that will accept it.”
One reason the Washington Crossing Fests are so much fun is that they’re manageable in size. It doesn’t have the
overwhelming number of breweries that the Great American Beer Festival has or the imposing amount at TAP-NY,
the largest single state beer fest in the country. There are only 33 breweries pouring. You can casually visit each
station, sample every beer and have still have ample time to come back and revisit all your favorites, if you’re still
standing of course.
Hoping a few quick drinks would warm us up we went to the first section of tents. For the record every tent at the
festival was large enough to protect the pourers and their precious commodities but little else except perhaps, for the
tasting glass of those with really long arms. Our first glass fill was from “Prospect” but for some reason it tasted a bit
off. We slid over to “Tim’s Lair”. It had a similar taste. My first thought was they had been contaminated by acid rain
and infected by the ever present mud but then I noticed a large sign on the side of the tent. It had only one word -
“Ciders”. Yes, all six stations in that area were pouring ciders. We continued on trying ones from Sir Charles,
Shacksbury, and Austin East. All were good; each eschewing the candy sweetness of most American ciders. The
bottom line however is that a cider is a cider and as such it hadn’t made us feel any drier, warmer, or happier. Only
beer could do that.
As we reluctantly trudged to yet another cider station Leo called out – “Look a sign that says IPA.” His voice must
have carried as nearly fifty people began a crazed dash towards it. In their haste more than a few tumbled into the
mud. Being gentlemen we were careful not to step on them or laugh to loudly on our way to the first beer station,
Singlecut. After enjoying two excellent beers there we moved on to Levante, Free Will, Platform and another half
dozen or so breweries. This entire area was dedicated to IPAs with most offering ones of the New England variety.
We passed on the one named Nor’easter.
The IPAs were made even more enjoyable by the change from torrential rain and wind to simply rain and a strong
breeze. On the downside the temperature had seemingly dropped at least ten degrees in 30
seconds. At that point Leo put hand warmers inside his gloves and coyly smiled. In response we pulled down
our hats but it somehow wasn’t the same.
The sign above the next section said “Local”. Each of the beers from the twelve breweries there were outstanding.
In fact they were so good I was tempted to ask about the renting one of the preserved soldiers’ huts on the next hill.
Of particular note were the Locust Lane, Moss Mill, and, Great Barn breweries. Not only did they have fine beer but
every person working behind their taps was wise enough to have gloves. It was easy to notice since it contrasted so
sharply with my now blue gloveless hands when they handed me a beer. It was the first time I could remember my
hand actually chilling a glass instead of the other way around.
Across what seemed like enough mud to supply adobe bricks to build homes for the entire population of Montana
and half of North Dakota s (why they would mud brick is another story) was the last tent at the fest. It featured eight
breweries with some impressive names like Evil Genius, Pizza Boy, and McKenzie Down East. We gleefully arrived at
the first station, Cape May only to discover they were pouring three versions of pumpkin beer. Why three when one
was too much remains a mystery to me and I’m sure to anyone else who likes beer.
We quickly moved to the next brewery and they too were pouring only pumpkin beers. The same was true of the next
and the next and the next. Inexplicably it was a pumpkin tsunami. Didn’t anyone tell these guys that no one
likes pumpkin beer anymore? Then again, maybe this was simply a clever way to get rid of unwanted inventory. We
dutifully sipped a few and prepared to re-cross the ever expanding Muditerranean Sea to enjoy a final few glasses at
the IPA tent.
There were no people’s choice award at the festival but it was easy to pick out the most popular beers. Lenin
allegedly said “people vote with their feet” and in this case it seemed true. Some breweries had only a wet turf in
front of their pouring station while others had mud at least 6 inches deep from the feet of so many people wanting
their beer. By that criteria the most popular brewery of the day was Tattered Flag. The mud there was so incredibly
deep it acted like quicksand. I saw four pairs of abandoned shoes, three pairs of boots and one hat held tightly in its
clutches. In fact the mud was so deep I was afraid to look under the hat.
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