Blog: WCS Brew at the Zoo
It would certainly take more than the threat of a little rain to prevent hundreds of New Yorkers from attending an affordably priced beer-centric festival. It would probably take a downright monsoon in fact from deterring them from attending said festival within the confines of the Central Park Zoo. With that sentiment in mind, the esteemed outdoor venue still managed to pull off what was a wonderfully run “Brew at the Zoo” event for the Wildlife Conservation Society during two sessions on Friday and Saturday evening. Local meteorologists were once again rendered useless amid an overcast but dry weekend and patrons were rewarded by a four-hour cavalcade of beer tastings by breweries big and small inside of one of New York City’s most iconic settings.
Fortunately the atmosphere was downright generous on Friday night where the breeze never even kicked up to a brisk temperature and folks donning their spring attire filed into the Zoo’s front gates quickly and comfortably. Our early arrival time afforded us the opportunity to wander around the grounds a bit and as a result we were able to take in some of the sights. We joined a lineup of different folks checking out a brief performance at the massive sea lion tank, gazing at some exotic members of the bird sanctuary and watching two lemurs use their agility to tussle with each other on a sole tree branch- all of which was alone, well worth the cost of admission.
With tickets priced at under $50, it’s no surprise that the evening was so well attended. Once inside, eventgoers were armed with empty tasting glasses and the number of outstretched arms quickly surpassed the amount of beers being offered at the event, where nearly forty different breweries would showcase their finest creations. While attendees surely know the likes of Samuel Adams, Guinness and Captain Lawrence Brewing, we were enamored with some of the lesser known purveyors as the evening progressed. We supremely enjoyed fruit focused offerings from Shiner (an excellent “Prickly Pear”), Schlafly (“Grapefruit IPA”) and Magic Hat (“Electric Peel,” another grapefruit IPA), before guzzling down some local pours from Alphabet City Brewing Company (“Easy Blonde Ale”) and Southampton Publick House (“Keller Pils”) to get us going.
Food for purchase from staples like Wafels & Dinges and Luke’s Lobster made an early arrival almost mandatory as some serious lines quickly spawned for some of each truck’s delicious offerings. Murray’s Cheese meanwhile was doling out some gratis samples of breads, cheeses and spreads that satiated the hungriest drinkers allowing the imbibing to continue without hesitation. The representatives on hand for each brewery were almost entirely friendly despite the fact that attendees were getting a little bit rowdy at the otherwise tasteful affair. Refreshing pours of Ballast Point’s “Sculpin IPA” with a 7% alcohol by volume surely played a part in some of that- deliciously decorated with hops, peach and lemon flavors.
Given the transition to more traditional spring time weather, sweeter styles from Traveler and ciders from Rekorderlig and Magners proved to be particularly popular with the crowd, many of whom took their turns in the interactive gaming area playing over-sized Jenga and Can-Jam with some friends nearby. For the rest of us though, parading around the space and listening to the live mix being worked by DJ John Spinosa would more than suffice. Following a couple of pours of Tsingtao beer from China and Harlem Brewing Company’s “Sugar Hill Golden Ale,” it was time to clean out our tasting glass and stumble our way home for the night. Though the participating breweries certainly were the evening’s drawing card, you’re never really too old to enjoy a trip to the zoo- evidenced by the hundreds upon hundreds of likeminded guests along for a similar journey.
- Jane Van Arsdale