Blog: International Great Beer Expo 2014
The roving tour known as the International Great Beer Expo returned just across the Hudson River on Saturday for two jam packed sessions of imbibing for enthusiastic crowds. Swarms of groups headed out to the Meadowlands Exposition Center in nearby Secaucus, New Jersey- a brief 18 minute bus ride from Manhattan- joining dozens of breweries and more than a hundred and fifty different varieties of beers. And with each three and a half hour session priced at just $42, there was no reason not to attend the festive afternoon at such a reasonable cost.
This wasn’t our first time tackling the International Great Beer Expo as the 2012 and 2013 events had established LocalBozo.com as seasoned veterans of the sudsy festival. With some advance planning this year, we picked up a bag of Snyders ‘Old Fashioned’ Pretzels and some yarn and put together a bulky pretzel necklace to take bites from while running around from beer station to beer station and unsurprisingly, we weren’t alone in this regard. With busloads of guests arriving from Manhattan and resident New Jersey-ians trekking in from all over the Garden State, there were several hundred guests anxiously anticipating the Expo’s 12:30pm start time.
Upon entering, attendees were handed a plastic commemorative tasting glass to fill with all of the day’s exciting beer offerings- most of which came from smaller relatively unknown microbreweries. As we waited for the proverbial curtain to be lifted on the afternoon, we spent a few minutes perusing the different silent auction lots which featured everything from trips to the Super Bowl to autographed photos of New Jersey legends Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen amid a sea of sports memorabilia. All of the proceeds raised would go to support the Beer for Brains Foundation, a nonprofit focused on brain cancer awareness, catered specifically toward the craft beer community. Aside from the dozens of items up for bid, the Expo also offered up some interactive beer related seminars including pairing beers with chocolate and cheese as well as a guide to homebrewing for the adventurous beer creator. And if that weren’t enough, vendors selling a variety of hot sauces, jerkys and beer related merchandise were placed throughout the massive room as well to provide plenty of distractions from the many taps of beer.
With the remaining hoopla now set aside, it was time to begin tasting some delicious beers and fortunately the International Great Beer Expo had some truly phenomenal newbies alongside some of our favorite brew staples. We’ve grown quite fond of the fruit beer movement and recently Sea Dog Brewing Company’s ‘Blueberry Wheat’ has been our ale of choice at craft beer tastings. The blueberries are noticeable without overwhelming the crisp drinkable beer in an undeniably refreshing way. Saturday we were introduced to Shofferhofer’s ‘Grapefruit,’ a similarly refreshing hefeweizen style beer that is smooth and summery- which would have been a nice change of pace from the wintry mix we encountered this weekend. The grapefruit flavor is more prominent here, but still, a very distinctive entrant into the fruit beer realm. We also seriously enjoyed Boaks’ from Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. The beermakers’ ‘Two Blind Monks Ale’ was a darker amber colored beer with a heavy malt-infused flavor. Both smooth and balanced, this became among our favorite new tastings of the Expo.
Alongside domestic pours, we also sipped on some international flavor as well, pausing for several minutes at Moretti, Asahi and the Peroni tables to sample some of the more familiar brews. Stopping at Hofbrau Munchen, their ‘Hefe Weizen’ has for years been one of our favorites with its golden color that signifies how a freshly poured beer should look. Subtly sweet, the beer has a tremendous banana aroma with a clean crisp finish. Alternatively less flavorful was the Cerveza Aguila- light with a touch of hoppiness that resembles your basic drinkable light beer albeit with a different label. Among some other larger brew purveyors that we really enjoyed- Blue Moon’s ‘Valencia Amber Ale’- a sweet, citrusy beer that has even more orange than you’d expect from a Blue Moon, Dos Equis’ ‘Amber Lager’- a light bodied malty copper colored beer that would pair excellently with Mexican fare, and McSorley’s Ale- poured at the Pabst Blue Ribbon table- because sometimes you just want a gold old fashioned English style beer without the bells and whistles.
As the daytime session began to tail off, it was easy to see that guests were all enjoying a noticeable buzz. But there’ s something about the annual New Jersey event that always seems to attract some of the most friendly and enthusiastic beer drinkers that you’ll encounter anywhere. There were no fights, no harsh words, no nonsense. The International Great Beer Expo, hosted by the folks at Starfish Junction, was once again an unparalleled success for its producers and its attendees alike. For more information on the Expo’s next stops, check out their site here and become a part of one of the northeast’s most well run and infinitely fun craft beer festivals.