The mountain air grips you before you even know it – and with the blink of an eye, you’ve arrived at TAP New York. Tucked away in a gorgeous corner of the Catskills is New York’s largest and longest running craft beer and food event in the state, held at the base of the popular skiing destination, Hunter Mountain. An antidote for the steamy, overcrowded events populating cities across the Northeastern seaboard, this fest continued to deliver heaping portions of quality beer, tasty bites and rejuvenating scenery in 2015.
While the temperature was a warm 65 degrees when we left Philadelphia, I watched the vehicle’s thermometer drop as we buzzed along the New York Thruway through peaks and valleys of rocky mountains dotted with trees. Up into the Catskills we went, as the air turned chilly and brisk, eventually settling at a crisp 32 degrees as flurries of snow began to dot the windshield. The air felt clean and cool as we landed at our destination site merely one mile from the festival grounds – the anticipation only grew as the sun settled behind the tree line, setting the stage for tomorrow’s events.
Sunshine bathed Hunter Mountain in the early afternoon on Saturday, as snake-like lines of attendees awaited entrance. Slowly people filtered toward the front of the gates, looking out upon the rows of tents, picnic tables and stages with the mountain still graced with remnants of last skiing season’s snow loomed in the background. The clock struck 1pm and they’re off!
The sprawling festival grounds allow for as much exploration as you can handle during the 4-hour session, with various tents set up on the grounds and surrounding the resort. Inside the event continued to infiltrate the entire building, packed with brewers, local vendors, food stands and more. From Double IPAs and Barrel-Aged Imperial Stouts to handcrafted cutting boards, olive oils and hot sauces, it was all here.
The Great American Sandwich played host as this year’s food theme – staff packed grills, catering trays and stands with dozens of creative takes on subs, wraps, sandwiches – you name it. A fresh beer in one hand and a sandwich in the other? Works for me, every time.
While local bands filled the air with music as the event roared along, famous Scottie’s Good Food was on hand again, grilling up more bratwurst, knockwurst and krainerwurst than I’ve ever seen in my life. The smoky smell of barbecued meat wafted from the tent throughout the afternoon, with a line stretching down the hill for nearly the entire event.
As the eating, tasting and vendor shopping continued, the formidable amount of brewers and beers begins to take its toll. With over 100 breweries and 300 beers, it’s impossible to get to even half of the selection, but with so many quality options spread throughout the grounds, it was tough to go wrong.
Right out of the gate, local favorites like Captain Lawrence, Peekskill and Rushing Duck stood out from the crowd. Broken Bow, Great South Bay, Greenport Harbor, SingleCut, North River, Sixpoint, Keegan and Blue Point were among others making noise for the New York beer scene. However perhaps taking the proverbial beery cake this year was Oceaside’s Barrier Brewing, who also took home the Governors’ Brewers’ Cup (Best Craft Beer in NYS) for their SmackDab IPL, which nearly blew my taste buds right off halfway through the event.
With the sun still beaming and the crowd wearily trudging their way through the doors and down the hilly slope, TAP NY slowly drew to a close for the day. The 4 hours slipped through my hands like grains of sand on the beach, leaving me wondering when it would be time to come back. Last weekend of April in 2016 – be there for a taste of New York.