The devastation that was Hurricane Sandy affected New Yorkers of all walks of life. But we are strong-willed in our fight back toward normalcy. And after working hard to help out and give back, it was time to take a break and have some fun. The “NYC Craft Beer Festival – Winter Harvest” was one such event that was forced to be rescheduled due to the storm. Yet through resilience the production team was able to bring the people what they craved, nearly a month later and at a huge new venue perfect for large crowds wanting to taste hundreds of brews. In addition to moving forward with the festival, the team also created a highly effective Sandy relief effort. The LocalBozo.com crew made our way over to Basketball City – Pier 36 on the east side on Saturday night to finally delve into these wintery offerings.
At 6pm on the dot we made our way into the vast space that is Basketball City and knowing the rules of the road, we didn’t just make some mad dash for the beers. Marathon tastings such as this demand restraint on some level. Seriously, who wants to go home after an hour because you couldn’t control yourself? Therefore, we grabbed a couple of oversized soft pretzels and plenty of mustard in order to set the base for imbibing. After fueling up, it was time to hit the tables. Our team is no collection of spring chickens when it comes to beer festivals. These events can be tricky if crowds build up in one area, causing bottle-necked lines. And just like this past summer’s “Brooklyn Waterfront Beer Festival,” we were treated to an easy going flow all night long with barely any lines. This most certainly was due to the large space paired with a multitude of brew offerings. Our first couple stops were all local favorites. Brooklyn’s own “Sixpoint Brewery” had their popular new cans on hand, pouring the Brownstone and Righteous IPA varieties. You really can’t go wrong with either of these choices, but for the most winter type brew we would suggest the Brownstone. As a traditional brown ale the beer had notes of chocolate and nuts, perfect for a cold day inside. Next up was a mandatory stop at our friends table at “Bronx Brewery.” Most of the ownership was on hand to pour their ever popular American Pale Ale and show off the faces of the company to new drinkers.
Roughly an hour in, droves of thirsty brew lovers made their way inside only adding to the good time we were having. It also didn’t hurt that we were mere steps away from the excellent New Jersey based brewery “Carton,” who may have won the award for coolest staff t-shirts and of course a highly drinkable ale. National breweries such as Samuel Adams and Blue Moon easily found sufficient space here amongst a sea of independent brewers. The Blue Moon “Winter Abbey” is a fine addition to the sweet, nutmeg variety of seasonals that we have come to love so much. And after throwing back a little more sauce it was time to eat once again, beer festival style. As a rule, beef jerky rocks. Nothing beats a tender chunk of perfectly dried meat. The good folks at “The Jerky Hut” know this quite well. We took our time going through their seemingly never ending selection of choice cuts. From “Black Pepper” to “Habanero” spiced, we tried them all. The Habanero is a true winner for the fact that while there is a ton of intense heat present, there is also a killer sweetness that really won us over. Needless to say, bags were purchased.
After all that jerky we had to refill our cool souvenir glasses which was no problem for the good people at “Blue Point Brewery,” who were ready to help. The team brought their highly regarded “Hoptical Illusion” and the winter ready, “Oatmeal Stout.” Both brews were a lot of fun to sample, but it was the oatmeal variety that virtually transported us to a ski chalet in the great white north. As the evening rolled on seminars with brewers were held, giving ticket holders a ringside seat into the process. Tasting and learning is a seriously cool combination that fans of craft beer look for when choosing what festival to attend. The team behind the “NYC Craft Beer Festivals” is doing something right. They realize lines ruin the experience. Not once did we wait for a sample which is why smiles were seen ear to ear from across the room. I can’t speak for Sunday morning though. Cheers!
- Jay Rubin