North Fork Craft Beer BBQ & Wine Festival 2011

I got the chance to attend the 2011 North Fork Craft Beer BBQ & Wine Festival (NoFo Beer Fest) on a beautiful summer’s day at the Martha Clara Vineyards in Jamesport, New York. There were some old favorites and plucky newcomers sharing their craft brews, and despite hundreds of thirsty attendees, I managed to try a bit of everything .

Greenport Harbor Brewing

At the entrance to the NoFo Beer Fest, a booth was set up by Applebee’s, the restaurant chain, where they were holding a contest. With nine different brewers to choose from, attendees could select their favorite craft beer which would go on to be a featured craft brew at Applebee’s restaurants for the month of October. Knowing just a bit about the trials that craft brewers have to go through to get their beers distributed, I can easily assume this is a huge deal. The attendees had to wait until after the event to find out who one, but I’ll spare the suspense for my readers. Greenport Harbor‘s Leaf Pile Ale will be featured in October at all Applebee’s. A big DnU congratulations go out to John and his crew, who deserve the recognition for making an outstanding pumpkin ale.

Long before the winner was determined, my first stop during the event was to say hi to Greenport Harbor and try something new, their Citrus IPA. This year, Greenport Harbor has been trying new ways to make IPAs, and the Citrus IPA continues their experimentation. Often the hops in an IPA provide a citrus overtone, but the brewers at Greenport Harbor took it to the next level by using citrus fruits to provide the sharp bitterness classically provided by the hops in an IPA. The hops added to the Citrus IPA are there to balance out the mash—all bitterness was provided by the citrus. Having a 2 oz. sample wasn’t enough to declare it the best IPA I’ve had, but I think it is in the running, and I’m trying to find somewhere where it is available. I may need to make a pilgrimage to the Greenport Harbor brewery in the near future.

Long Ireland

Speaking of pilgrimages, September 17th will find me in Riverhead, New York, to help celebrate the grand opening of the Long Ireland Brewery. Long Ireland is my favorite brewery that I haven’t yet mentioned on DnU. I’ve long planned a review of their outstanding Celtic Ale, and at the NoFo Beer Fest I tasted their wonderful Raspberry Wheat and Breakfast Stout. All their beers are testaments to their dedication to making simple, flavorful beers with high-quality ingredients. The friendly folks at Long Ireland are growing fast, and I’m glad for it.

Samuel Adams

Sam Adams holds an annual Beer Lover’s Choice contest where we can vote between two beers to determine which one will be added to the Samuel Adams family of beer styles. Previous winners include last year’s Revolutionary Rye Ale and 2009’s Noble Pils. This year, we can choose between Oaked Ale and Maple Pecan Porter. Finding a place to try the beers and vote on them can be difficult. Of course, the Boston brewery is one place to vote, but finding something local has always been a bit of a challenge. So I was particularly eager to go to the NoFo Beer Fest because Sam Adams would have a booth where we were invited to vote on our favorite. Honestly, I went into it thinking that there was no way something like Oaked Ale could win over Maple Pecan Porter, which combines three of my favorite things, but sometimes preconceived notions aren’t worth much, and I was bemused to find that I liked the Oaked Ale better than the porter. I think both beers were quite good, and I won’t mind if the Maple Pecan Porter wins, but from what I tasted, the Oaked Ale was superior.

Great South Bay Brewing

Boy howdy, these guys were a hit at the NoFo Beer Fest. I got to try two of their beers, Robert Moses Pale Ale, an American, as opposed to imperial, pale ale, and Starfish Junction Blood Orange American Wheat Ale. The latter was a timed-release tapping, meaning that if I wasn’t somewhere around the Great South Bay booth around 4:30, I wasn’t going to get to try this. The name comes from Starfish Junction, the company that puts together these events. I imagine this is a one-of-a-kind brew, so I was pretty determined to try it. The crowd around the booth made it an arduous journey, but I was rewarded with a pleasant, fruity taste of a unique beer, which capped off an event started by drinking a citrus IPA earlier in the day.

But I’m not done.

Blind Bat

Our friends from Blind Bat were at the event, and I got to try a Honey and Basil Ale. This was simply outstanding.

Spider Bite

Our very own Melba is a graphic designer and made the labels that appeared on Spider Bite Brewing‘s keg taps. At the NoFo Beer Fest, I got to try their rye ale and was very impressed. I hope to try more of their offerings.

Girls Pint Out

Over on our Facebook page, Melba introduced us to Girls Pint Out, “an all-female organization that promotes solidarity between beer drinkers of the fairer sex.” I got to meet a couple of the, um, girls? No, let’s say I got to meet a couple of the women from Girls Pint Out. As charming as I am, I am afraid to say that my attention was strongly focused on one of their home-brewed offerings, a Black and White ale. Having both chocolate and vanilla overtones, the Black and White was indeed what it said it was. I believe Melba and the women from Girls Pint Out are in the hush-hush stages of planning an event. More details, as they say, to come.

The Beer Amigos

DnU is far from the only advocate for Long Island craft brewing. A couple of young upstarts have a podcast dedicated to highlighting the growing LI craft brew scene. I got to meet the Amigos and their large sombreros at the NoFo Beer Fest, and was a bit flattered when they said they had heard of me. Of course, they may have been just teasing the olds. But they were very friendly and their podcast is a delight.

Jonathan, Clarity, and Michele

Clarity proudly displays his love for Greenport Harbor Brewing, surrounded by his friends Jonathan and Michelle

Clarity

Finally, I cannot leave out good friend of DnU and supporter of Long Island craft beer, as well as local stores and artists, Clarity. A scene-setter himself, Clarity introduced us to The Cortland, and it’s owner Bobby, and has never hesitated to spread the word about DnU and all the local business that we strive to support. Seeing him at the NoFo Beer Fest was a perfect compliment to a wonderful day.