Events — 11 July 2011
Get Real NY’s Belgian Beer Festival

Blog: Get Real NY Belgian Festival

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Craft beer fanatics came out in droves on Friday and Saturday night, filling Chelsea’s for Get Real NY’s Belgian Beer Festival. Two full days of all-you-care-to-consume Belgian-style brews, live music, seminars and demonstrations, and plenty of good Belgian eats, took place in an afternoon and an evening session each day.  And it was both expertly orchestrated and a lot of fun.

With over 100 different styles on hand, the Belgian beer selection was intimidating to say the least. A massive hub was positioned in the center of the room, with some 30 taps connected to each side, and each beer’s moniker written above the tap with black marker. In front of the taphouse, swarms of volunteer workers were hustling to refill each empty glass with something new. Upon entering the space, each patron was given a program for the event that detailed the beers being served, giving drinkers some background on each option, and allowing them to track their likes and dislikes.  Patrons were also given commemorative glasses to be used for the tastings and to be taken home as a keepsake.

Since each of the beers were so unique, it was virtually impossible to have a favorite- each sample provided us with something new to fall in love with. But we did manage to find some standouts. Keeping a local flare, we were huge fans of Kelso of Brooklyn’s Belgian Pale Ale. It’s hoppy aroma, and fruity notes made it a brew to be sampled more than once.  Sixpoint’s Buzz seemed to be a polarizing flavor for many of the attendees that we chatted up, but rose on our list because of its drinkability, as we returned for refills a fourth and fifth time. 

At this point it’s safe to say that tasting events like these in Manhattan are usually very well attended, which tends to cause lengthy lines and frustrating headaches. However, we’re happy to report that none of that can be said about this year’s Get Real Festival. The aforementioned hub was thoroughly staffed and always stocked with beer, so waits truly seemed minimal.  Technology aside, it’s the people behind these events that make them function correctly. The staff was friendly, attentive, and most importantly knowledgeable about every beer on tap, which was refreshing. Pun intended.

While the collection of food purveyors on hand wouldn’t top 100, the participating vendors were perfectly selected for this event for a number of reasons.  First, at a tasting event it is imperative to pair unique craft beers with savory food, to bring out the true flavor of the beverage.  Secondly, failing to eat something will prevent you from lasting through the night- and with tickets in the $80 range, going home after an hour is simply not an option.

The first food stall we hit was Luke’s Lobster.  Luke’s came to the event with just-above-bite-sized shrimp rolls. They were light, with just the right amount of aioli to bring out the sweet taste of the shrimp, but so deliciously flavored- our mouths drenched over the buttery roll.  But Luke’s wasn’t the only seafood stand in the house, as we made it a point to hit up Eddie Oysters. Edwin Casiano is a master of all things oyster and an all around good guy. Casiano was joined by Chef Linda Lou, making this pair a shucking machine. Our crew hung around his table, sampling some great local oysters, as they brought an estimated 1000 of them to each tasting session. Each of these decadent beauties was expertly shucked and ultra fresh.

We then made our way over to Petite Abeille, New York City’s foremost destination for Belgian food and beer. Petite’s tasting menu featured delightful trays of meatballs, sausages, some penne, and a succulent beef. After taking down some cured meats and cheeses from one of our favorite bars, “Rattle and Hum,” we made one final stop at My Friend’s Mustard. The Brooklyn based company featured some of the greatest whole grain beer mustard that we had ever tried.  After a bevy of pretzel chips made their way in and out of the three different mustard offerings, we were completely satiated, completely drunk, and completely at ease.  As the Belgian band played live music behind us and as we looked out at the jam-packed crowd, we realized that they too were as content as we were, as Friday evening’s Belgian Beer Festival drew to an end.

- Alan Smithee & Jane Van Arsdale

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