Brewfest Mania


By Glenn DeLuca

For BeerNexus.com


Here a Brewfest, there a Brewfest, everywhere a Brewfest…recently attended the AC
Beer and Music Festival. It’s barely the beginning of probably the heaviest festival
season and I feel festivaled out already or maybe I just need to catch my breath from
this one. I’m not a festival aficionado, going all the time, but been to my share; TAP
NY a few times, Harborfest International in Mamaroneck, NY a couple of times, Sierra
Nevada Beer Camp in Philly and Sun BeerFest at the Mohegan Sun in CT would be
the biggies I can think of.

Although some positive points I’d have to rate AC near the bottom. Definitely large,
the list of breweries was about 170, which included quite a few ciders also. They
grouped all the NJ brewers in one section which I thought was a great idea, so you
could check out all the new ones you’ve never tasted or even heard of.  And the non-
craft crafts were there also; Blue Moon, Blue Point, Goose Island, etc.  More foreign
brewers than I expected although we know “some” of these are not brewed overseas
and shipped, they just brew them here. So absolutely more than enough to choose
from. Longer lines at some of the more popular brewers, but for those you wanted to
try they moved quickly or just go to a not as popular name with a smaller line.

Was not pleased with the small “plastic” tasting mug; have always gotten real glass
and prefer that; maybe they think some might break, must be cheaper. And this was
billed as a Beer and Music festival so when the bands were playing it was definitely
loud and hard to hear yourself much less any of the companions you came with and
were trying to enjoy the experience with. I am remembering other festivals that had
bands but when they’re outdoors you’re not forced to listen, you could speak to
brewers and companions and be heard.

Prior to the event they did have a YouTube with tips on how to enjoy the festival,
which was good.  Also other YouTubes where they visited NJ breweries, which gave
you some insight into ones you haven’t had. They also had an app so I downloaded
it. Got the list of breweries but the map was small and it didn’t appear I could  
correlate who was where; could be my lack of app skills or could be their lack of good
instruction or could be they didn’t include that making the map part fairly useless.
They did have three or four demos each session, but nothing that was going to pull
me away from my tasting goals. They had a list of >100 exhibitors, but if I had to
count I probably saw maybe 25, although again I wasn’t there to shop, I was there to
taste so unless it really peaked my interest I wasn’t stopping. Although there was the
nut specific beer or beer nut specific or…well the idea was you eat a different nut
with whatever beer you’re drinking, like an IPA or porter or…sorry I don’t have the
greatest taste buds but this wasn’t all that good. And a bunch had to be in the food
court, which I never walked through, based on a late breakfast and my pretzel
necklace.

If I had to pick a favorite festival I’d have to say it’s HarborFest up in Mamaroneck.
The first year we did the VIP tix which got us in an hour early and our own tent with
some special beers the common folk didn’t get plus food. The additions were
definitely worth the higher price. Last year they upped the ante; they added another
level above VIP called Brewmaster.  So the hour early, the VIP tent with special beers
and food the Brewmaster tent next to it, where they were pouring The Alchemist’s
Heady Topper and Hill Farmstead Double Citra and Brother Soigne…WOW. And to
top that every half hour, starting at 1:30 they’ll pour something else like Lawson’s
Finest Sip of Summertime IPA,  Mikkeller Citra Imperial, Cantillon Vigneronne,
Brassiere Du Brocq Blanche de Namur…does it get any better than this?  Yes it does
as we’re going back and forth between the BrewMaster and VIP tents. VIP has
Dogfish Head 120 Minute, Brooklyn Krieg, Goose Island Gillian, Lazy Magnolia and
more. Oh and yes there was tons of good food in the VIP tent that we noshed on for
a few hours.

But there were also two other very large tents so we made the effort to leave our
comfort zone and do some other scoping and we were not disappointed, finding new
breweries like Bull and Barrel, Radiant Pig and Broken Bow to name a few that had
some really nice beers. Also got my first try of Guinness Nitro IPA and was pleasantly
surprised. This festival will definitely be on my list this coming fall.

Tap NY would be #2 and although after a few times it gets repetitious there are new
breweries added every year. Part of the fun is the bus ride up with many of my
Draught Board 15 comrades; and a two hour ride back isn’t a bad thing either. I
remember their first which wasn’t called Tap NY until the third year, held at the CIA,
oh sorry the Culinary Institute in the Hudson Valley. Being 19 years ago it was much
smaller and intimate and with the food made the CIA, it clearly could have been
called a Beer and Food Festival. Unfortunately I’m busy that weekend this year and
won’t make it. Which also means I won’t make the Pizzeria Uno Cask event that
Saturday either; not really a festival, but a nice event with typically a good selection
of crafts casks available.

As I said this is probably the heaviest festival season and I’m seeing and hearing
about Tap NY, Brew @ The Zoo, Wildwood Beer, HarponFest (up in Beantown), Beer
BBQ & Bacon Showdown, Mondial de la Biere Festival in Montreal (now there’s a
great city if you want to combine some site seeing with your beer festival especially
since it is a jaunt; I do wonder if it’s more like a British or European festival where you
buy what you want or ours where one price gets you in) and I see a bunch in the
Philly area, which is just about as close as Tap. So there’s a lot to choose from and
when they’re in Montreal or Boston or Baltimore (upcoming Homebrewers
Conference) or NH or PA, there’s always the idea of making it part of a vacation trip.

I think a festival here and there works for me. With the availability of new brews I can
stop at my go to, the Cloverleaf, any day for a decent selection of their 24 taps or for
a tap takeover and get a seat, enjoy a flight or two, chat with friends and the
knowledgeable staff and it not be a big production. And there are other good
choices; Nicole’s Ten, Morris Tap & Grill, Gaslight, 381 Main, Hat Tavern and a
slightly longer drive the Shep and the Knucklehead or the Taproom, so I don’t have
to wait for a festival to taste something different and good.

Okay so when and where is the next great festival?????





Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

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