The Celebration of the Suds
Atlantic City Beer Fest 2008
March 8, 2008 12-4 PM Atlantic City Convention Center
Festival Coverage by Evan
Even though only a week had passed since I attended the Philly Beer Festival with my buddy John, I couldn’t help but look forward to another full day of slamming brews and found myself daydreaming about the AC Beer Fest all week at work.
Think about it – 75 different brands with more than 250 beers. Heaven? Some might say.
I somehow managed to talk my brother Mark and his wife Diana into traveling with my darling wife Tamika and I to AC early on this miserable, rainy Saturday morning. Actually, we went with them as Mark plowed through pounding rain, at times not even being able to see what was in front or behind us. It was well worth it because we stuck to our plan to arrive a bit early after braving the devastating long lines in Philly just a week earlier.
By the time we pulled into AC we had already realized that I had failed to print directions to the convention center and that some nifty navigating would be necessary. After driving up and down the main streets in AC for what seemed to be an eternity, we finally made some phone calls and asked a few officers of the law which direction to go. Within minutes we found ourselves in the first long line of the day – at the parking garage. After what seemed to be longer than the first eternity, we found out the garage lot was full and we were directed across the street to an alternate lot. However, what no one told us was that we would have to go around a few blocks of one-way streets to find the almost non-existent entrance. Once in the lot, the hoots and hollers were let fly.
We crossed the street and even helped a disabled gentleman since none of the thirsty beer drinkers wanted to slow down or stop for him. It was our good karma move of the day and we would actually meet up with this fellow later in the day. When we finally got to the convention center, all the doors were locked. I almost fainted. However, one last tug revealed that not all the doors were locked and we were in.
As we entered the building there was a huge line in front of us that looked to be moving slower than a snail’s lazy crawl. Luckily, this was not our line to wait in. We took the escalator to the top where all signs pointed to the fest entrance and found that the line was just as long. Well, it sure did seem long but in reality it was not that bad, as we had managed to get in it before it doubled back. So there we stood patiently for what seemed to be the third eternity in just a few short hours but we knew it would be worth it for beyond the guarded gates flowed liquid gold in quantities matched only by the finest of festivals. As we waited, the security staff came by to check tickets, IDs and to distribute wristbands.
When the clock struck 12 the line began to move rapidly. The pace picked up fast and soon we found ourselves almost running to get in. It was quite a magical scene as the Scottish pipe band roared and the flow of parched patrons entered the main festival floor. Once inside, I somehow managed to snap few pictures before making a direct route to the River Horse tasting tables. Ah, it was my lucky day. River Horse had their Triple on tap and I chugged one down so quickly that my natural reaction was to hand the young man my tasting glass again for a refill. By this time my brother had already received his first sample and my wife and his were both hesitantly sampling this strong Belgium brew. Did I mention that neither of the beautiful ladies actually drank beer? Mark and I had discussed the importance of finding some styles that they liked so we could see more festivals like this in our future.
From River Horse we moved down the outside of the wall, stopping and tasting most of the varieties that were available. Along the way we were all treated with freebies like Frisbees, shot glasses, Mardi Gras beads and much more. A few tables down and we stumbled upon something unusual. This table had no beer. Now before we started a riot it is important for you to know that although this was a beer festival, there were a couple of scattered tables that had complimentary food samples and or paraphernalia. This particular table had massive amounts of some of the best damn hot sauces these taste buds have ever been subject to. It was a perfect way to build up my thirst for the rest of the day.
When we finally found ourselves at the end of the first wall of breweries, we had already started to feel the wonderful buzz that can only be brought out by strong, flavorful ales and lagers that this country’s finest microbreweries can dream up. Of course, this led to engaging in conversations and photo-ops with our fellow brew goers. Although it was only about an hour into the festival, I could tell that Diana and Tamika were loosening up a little bit and possibly even enjoying some of the beautifully crafted beers that they were consuming. By this point in time, my favorite beer of the day was still the Triple but coming in at a close second was a delicious IPA from Magic Hat.
As we began moving across the back of the large room, we found ourselves playing games for prizes and answering trivia questions that we could barely hear over the live band. It was a great deal of fun and Mark’s backpack was quickly filling up with the little treasures of the day. At this time we decided to regroup and figure out where our next path would be and of course, if you know me, it was a B-line to the Dogfish Head and Stone tables to see what they had brought with them.
At Dogfish head, we were treated to their seasonal and very limited Aprihop, which is made with fresh apricots. Alongside this lucky encounter was none other than their renowned 90-minute IPA, which to many others and me is at the top of the hill of IPAs. As we shuffled over a few booths to Stone, we grabbed a few in-betweeners from Rogue and some other beer that fails to pop into my head at this time. When we did reach Stone I asked what was on the beer menu and was happy to find their Arrogant Bastard Ale and their Stone IPA. In a somewhat mischievous voice, I asked one of the Stone brewers, whom I recognized from the previous Saturday, where the Ruination was. To which he whispered back ever so slightly with a grin, “See that (untapped) keg over there?” That was all he needed to say as his face gave it all away.
By this time, we had been introducing hundreds of our fellow beer aficionados to The Full Pint and had been having boatloads of fun enjoying the different beers. However, as is usually the case with these festivals, the sample after sample routine had started taking its toll and we began feeling heavy and needed a rest. While part of our crew made their way with the drones to the restrooms, Tamika and I kept on keeping on and enjoyed each full glass we received.
When we finally met back up Mark and Diana later, we somehow ended up in a pimped out travel RV that was on display at the back of the festival. On our way to the RV we ran into a few of my buddies from 40 miles north in my hometown, whom we spotted way back in the long lines as we waited to enter a few hours earlier. So we chatted and caught up as we entered the glorious beer drinking RV to find a bunch of various crews relaxing to the loud club music. We sat for a good while taking pictures, laughing and pulling pranks before I realized that my glass was now empty. How could this be? Luckily, a terrific solution was only steps away so we headed back out to the main floor. I kept thinking that one day I’ll be able to own an RV like that and we can trek all over the country in search of the next brew fest.
More beers and even more beers comprised the rest of the afternoon with a soft pretzel thrown in here and there for good measure and absorption. Again, I was impressed with the Milk Stout offered up by Lancaster and Left Hand’s Sawtooth Ale, which I had never had before. As we made our way back towards the entrance in a slow and methodical fashion, we stopped and looked at all of the different novelty tables including a portable and inflatable beer pong table and a myriad of beer-oriented gadgets. The last stop included a t-shirt for my better half and an impromptu photo with the tattooed dancer gals that bid us farewell.
As we left the festival and headed back to our vehicle, we were all smiles and laughs. The day, despite the rainy and overcast skies, was glorious in all ways. Looking back on the day now I can still feel the warmness of the people and breweries that made it all possible. For that memory, I will always be thankful.
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