After a year hiatus, we finally made our way back to the Catskills for the best beer festival in the the North East: TAP NY. If you remember our content, from 2011 you would know that TAP NY is a food and beer festival held at Hunter Mountain in Hunter, NY. Every year, breweries from throughout the Empire State gather here to pour up some of their best beer and take home bragging rights (there are a number of awards up for grabs). Since we last visited there has been an exponential growth at TAP NY. This year’s ticket sales neared 6,000 purchased passes for both the Saturday and Sunday sessions.
Everyone was waiting patiently for their taster glasses. With doors opening at 1:00, we thought we were early getting there at 11:30 am. As you can see people weren’t hesitating to secure their spot in line.
Soon the mass of people began to split left and right, drinkers bee-lining toward their favorite breweries. I already had my first stop in mind – Peekskill Brewing Company. I fell in love with their Simple Sour on a recent trip to NYC’s Blind Tiger; I was eager to try some of their other beers.
Peekskill has an amazing pale ale called Amaze Balls. Using Australian Galaxy hops, this single hop pale ale was already one of my favorites of the festival (and I didn’t have any other beers yet). At the end of the day, Peekskill took home the Governor’s Cup for their Higher Stander IPA: Best Craft Beer in New York State.
After a visit with Peekskill, I paid my respect to a brewery that makes one of the best IPA’s on the East coast: Ithaca Brewing Company. After I had my share of Flower Power I had to try their White Gold from the Excelsior Series, a rustic pale wheat ale that was both flavorful and refreshing. It is only available at the brewery and select markets, so Ithaca fans may want to look into this one.
The crowd really started to fill out after the first hour. I must say for all the people that were on hand throughout the day, there were no long lines for the food, beer, or bathrooms. For me, that is one of the most important things to manage properly when putting on a festival like TAP NY.
Getting back to beer for a minute, another brewery I felt eager to try was Empire Brewing out of Syracuse. They had an amazing beer with them called the Local Grind, a collaboration beer they did with their neighborhood coffee roasters, Cafe Kubal. This Scotch Ale was amazing and worked very well as a base beer for the Guatemalan beans. There are plenty of days this could easily replace my cup of joe in the morning.
A visit to Chatham Brewing Company was definitely in order. They were last years winner of the Matthew Vasser’s Brewing Cup and were gunning to hold the title of Best Craft Brewery in the Hudson Valley.
There was one brewery that I noticed throughout the day with a consistent line and that was Sloop Brewing. A nano operation out of Poughkeepsie, they were pouring up a nice spread of beers. My favorite was their Berlinner Weisse, Sauer Peach.
Meeting new people is my favorite thing about working in the craft beer industry. Saturday, we met the gang from 508 Gastro Brewery in Lower Manhattan. They seemed really happy to be there and also had some fantastic beers to share as well.
Good Nature is something that is practiced a lot in this industry, and Good Nature Brewing from Hamilton has made that their mission by supporting everything from local artists to farmers within their community.
Throughout the festival there is food being served: everything from passed snacks to full on stations serving sausages, pulled pork sandwiches, and everything in between. Our attention was grabbed by the Catskill Food Company table and their farm-raised hog sausages. Their recipes varied, but on hand they had two varieties, both made with beer from Cooperstown’s Ommegang.
Even though the main attraction is the beer, there are plenty of vendors around selling everything from spice rubs and beef jerky to furniture and art crafts. All keeping true to the local, artisanal spirit of the day.
Hurricane Sandy might have done some damage but it didn’t keep breweries like Great South Bay and Barrier from making the trip off the island and up into the mountains.
I am not a big cider fan, but I just had to highlight this one from Naked Flock. It is produced at Warwick’s Applewood Winery, utilizing the Hudson Valley’s fresh ingredients. It has such a cool looking label, I bet that alone was enough reason they were running through bottles.
Before I made my way to the outside of the festival I wanted to take a spin by Rushing Duck Brewing, hailing from Chester. I have heard a lot of buzz about them and was excited to finally have their Nay-Sayer Pale Ale. Cheers to Dan and the gang, looking forward to meeting again.
A few of the breweries set up outside brought out their finest serving vessels.
I saw the lines start to die down which only meant one thing – award time. Bill Woodring (Hudson Valley Beer & Food Festival Committee President and Co-Founder) said a few words before getting into the day’s raffle prizes and award announcements.
Winning a raffle at TAP NY is pretty awesome, especially when it is a few cases of beer to bring home.
Last year’s winners Chatham Brewing being honored one last time before passing on the crown.
This year, Lake Placid Brewing Company would be the ones to take home the Matthew Vassar’s Brewer’s Cup.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. As I exited the venue and stopped for a souvenir at the t-shirt stand, I was reminded of awesome this festival really is. It brings together some of the best beer in New York complimented with tasty food, live music, and a friendly crowd. If you missed out this year and like what you saw in this post I am sure you are already marking your calendar for next year.
We had a blast meeting new friends and seeing familiar faces at this year’s TAP-NY and hope that this festival continues to grow as it is the best beer gathering to happen in the North East. A big thanks to Hunter Mountain and the Hudson Valley Beer & Food Festival Committee for putting on another stellar event, this was one for the records and will bring out the best for next year.