The 20-something white dude wearing a baseball cap toed forward in the line entering the Hudson River Craft Beer Fest while pontificating about the various brews he would drink and how each brew would get him further schwasted.
Although it was ten minutes until the general admissions ticket-holders could enter, the line we stood in stretched for hundreds of people, and I could see hundreds more streaming from the event parking area and through the tunnel under the Beacon train station.
The average beer enthusiast at the event was white, in their mid-20s, and very willing to drink an infinite number of four-ounce beers through the sweltering day at the Pete and Toshi Seeger Waterfront Park in Beacon. They had come prepared. I saw a multitude of booze-centric shirts on the way in — “`Save Milk, Drink Beer” — “I’m Not Old, I’m Aged (with corresponding picture of whiskey barrel) — and my personal favorite, “That’s What I Do – I Smoke Cigars and I Know Things.”
The Hudson River Craft Beer Fest featured dozens of breweries, both local and national, pouring samples of their creations, as well as a plethora of food vendors, many who were doing BBQ. I, unfortunately, could not drink that much, because I had a second event to cover that day, and I’d also just gotten a TOHV promotional magnet for my car. This second point matters because I didn’t want to be pulled over and forced to walk the line back and forth in front of said promotional magnet as luckier event-goers drove past gawking. Would not look reputable.
A lot of people at the beer fest also had pretzel necklaces. I first spotted this while standing in line behind a group of a half-dozen college students who all donned the edible jewelry. I assumed it was some group in-joke, some frat tradition, but I saw many people well past college age wearing them at the event.
I asked a couple people about the necklaces. One guy, a dude with graying long hair, said he brought the necklace himself, and said I could break one off if I was electrolyte-deficient. Another necklace-wearer, a florid guy in his early 20s, said he had also constructed the carb-rope himself.
“I guess it’s the thing to do,” he said.
The first table I stepped up to had pours from Lord Hobo Brewing and Prairie Artisanal Ales. The event volunteer described the Prairie brew, named Pink Guava Funk, as a sour, and I sipped the fruity tartness while asking him about volunteering.
The volunteers, as their name denotes, are not paid for their work, but do get into the event free and may sample at will.
“I’m already swearing my ass off,” the volunteer said. “Of course we can drink.”
There were the larger breweries at the beer fest — Brooklyn, Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Sam Adams — but many of the breweries were regional. There was Chatham Brewery from (as the name suggests) Chatham, Columbia County, Rushing Duck Brewery from Chester, Orange County, Keegan Ales from Kingston, Brewery Ommegang from Cooperstown, Shrewd Fox Brewery from Sullivan County, Bronx Brewery, Hudson Brewing Company, Newburgh Brewing Company, Yonkers Brewing Company…more than 80 in all.
The majority of the brews were being poured under two large tents, where the timber of conversation became louder and more exuberant with each sip. I walked to the bank of the Hudson to smoke a stoag and noticed the park’s swing sets were filling up with inebriated adults as inhibitions waned.
I realized I need not be polite with my smoke as I re-entered the throngs. Many were puffing on fat dark cigars, wisps of blue smoke spreading into a light haze around the tents.
The cigars came from ND Cigars, which had a table in the corner of one of the tents. Two girls were flipping five- and ten-dollars cigars like hotcakes at the end of the production line, as an older, sun-browned man in a white linen button-down and a white trilby hat rapidly rolled cigars to their left. The Dominican man (I’m assuming, since his trilby said “Dominican Rep.” on it) had tobacco stains running up his fingers as he sliced the taupe leaf with a half-moon blade. He looked like he had been sitting there for decades.
“Looks like it’s not this guy’s first rodeo,” an equally impressed man to my right said. I bought a Torpedo for five dollars and puffed at it though the remainder of my samplings.
There were other tasty vendors at the beer fest. Jerky Hut had a variety of smoked and spiced beasts to choose from, and the enthusiastic vendor behind the table used a pair of brolic scissors to snip samples into the attendees willing palms. They had jerky from alligators, tuna and turkey, as well as hot jerkies with such names as “Chernobyl.”
I would say my favorite brew in the fest was the Prairie Artisanal Ales’ Pink Guava Funk, but a close second was the Broken-Hearted Stout from the Broken Bow Brewery, a small producer in Tuckahoe, Westchester County.
It was getting to mid-afternoon and I had to leave. I mentally checked my sobriety; fine to drive.
There happened to be an air show at Stewart Airport across the Hudson in Newburgh, and jets swooped and spun in crazy angles above the beer fest as I walked out. I hope no schwasted people looked up, because it seemed like a prime way to get the spins.