Tap New York Craft Beer & Fine Food Festival 2014 – Recap With Pics
The road up the mountain twists and turns through the chilly evening air, with raindrops dotting the windshield as we cruise along the pavement careening toward Hunter, New York. An evening sky has blanketed the open, lush landscape in darkness, filled with trees, peaks and valleys, reminding us that the city lights are nearly 200 miles in our rearview. Nestled among the Catskills, the town is dotted with lodges, ski shops and diners, soon to be filled with thousands of visitors from the area for the largest craft beer and food event in the state.
TAP New York’s roots took hold 17 years ago, igniting as a small event with a couple hundred fans and a handful of brewers who were helping to pioneer the craft beer movement that would eventually grow into the behemoth it has become today. Fast forward to 2014 and the festival has ballooned to epic proportions, featuring over 70 brewers, dozens of regional foods and a host of the state’s top artisans and vendors.
Hunter Mountain thrusts itself into the sky like a beacon, still striped with snowy splashes, reminding us all of the bitter winter that has just barely left the area. Winding lines of people quickly begin to amass by the front gates into the grounds, eagerly awaiting the sensory experience awaiting us all behind the steel gates and ticket takers. With wristbands on, a 4 oz. tasting glass in hand and the sun slowly beginning to peek out from the previous evening’s cloudy rainstorms, we’re all ready for a taste of New York.
Having frequented beer festivals, breweries and tasting events everywhere from San Diego and Chicago to Portland and Philadelphia, organization and preparation can make or break an event like this within a matter of minutes. You might be thinking “a couple thousand people at a mountain in New York with all those breweries and vendors – could get crazy quick,” and you might be right had it not been for a brilliantly mapped layout.
When TAP NY says it’s the ‘largest craft beer and food event’ they mean this in a literal sense. Never have I seen an event so expansive, so packed with tables, so jammed to the gills (in a good way) with beer and food to the point of total sensory explosion. Rows of tents filled with tables winded around the grounds, complete with a live band and barbecue station. Indoor sections of the venue were put to use as well, creating a true ‘theme park’ atmosphere where it was nearly impossible to decide what to do next.
The logistics were also planned in a manner that included integrating beer, vendors and food altogether, spreading the love from one end of the grounds to the other while helping to dissipate lengthy lines and keep everyone’s glasses sudsy and stomachs full. Vendors from around the state included everything from high end olive oil and cheese to artisan crafts, specialty hot sauces, pickles, jewelry, drinkware and much more. With every turn I was sampling sundried tomato goat cheese, chipotle hot sauces, briny pickles, freshly crafted cheeses and beers from seemingly every corner of the state.
Oh yea, that’s right – I suppose this brings us to the beer (nearly forgot). With some events choosing to focus on flavors of the month, limited offerings and high gravity ales, it’s always refreshing to see a truly local production that highlights the best and brightest spots in their local brewing scene. With 78 breweries and hundreds of beers on tap, there was an insane amount to choose from, and as I scoured my beer list and festival map I continued to point out some of my most coveted picks to ensure they weren’t lost amongst the sunshine, suds and sustenance that populated our 4-hour stay.
My taste buds danced with delight from beers by Peekskill Brewery, Greenport Harbor Brewing, Rushing Duck, Empire Brewing, Captain Lawrence, Ithaca Beer Co., Three Heads Brewing and more. The revelation of the day however came from the tasting table manned by Great South Bay Brewery from Bay Shore, NY. Beginning with the wonderfully refreshing Blonde Ambition and Blood Orange Pale Ale, we quickly moved into a duet of pungently hopped IPAs before culminating with a sledgehammer of flavor delivered by the Dirty Deeds Russian Imperial Stout and Marauder Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale. If you’re ever in Long Island or have some friends who can hook you up – do it. You won’t be sorry, I promise.
As time wound down on the afternoon, hoards of weary, yet happy attendees began to drift toward the exit as the clouds began to loom overhead once again. With my souvenir tasting glass in my pocket, a Great South Bay hoodie over my shoulder and some friends with boxes of hot sauce and olive oil in tow I already knew I couldn’t wait to be back in 2015. That was TAP New York – a true taste of a state’s beer and food scene set in a beautifully liberating place which can leave you both breathless and a little bit tipsy.
Learn more about TAP New York here.
Nick Alfonse is a writer living in the Philadelphia area. Follow him on Twitter @BeerServedRare.
Tickets Still Left for Tap New York Craft Beer & Food Festival 4/23-24 • thefullpint.com
April 11, 2016 @ 10:13 am
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