One of the many reasons I enjoy living in the Northeast is the change of seasons and the corresponding influx of new seasonal beers as well as the beginning of Beer Festival season.

Beer Festivals

Beer Festivals are terrific events for everyone, from the craft beer newcomer to the beer geek and everyone in between. Why?

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• There are typically 100-plus breweries represented with at least two flavors from each;

• They provide an amazing opportunity to broaden your (beer) horizons and become more educated about what flavor profiles work for you—all in a few hours; and

• This education counts as credit towards fulfilling your degree in self-improvement.

Format

• Usually in a large open hall—like a basketball arena (you’re not there for the ambiance).

• Rows of tables lined up with posters for the breweries pouring at each station.

• A keepsake tasting glass that the brewery representatives will happily fill with 2-ounce samples.

• Often, the actual brewer of the beer you’re tasting is pouring samples for you! Who better to describe their beer?

• ALL the beer representatives are very informed on the styles, ingredients, and characteristics of the beers and are patient and happy to answer any questions you may have.

Vibe

• Fun and chill: Clearly, everyone is there to have a good time and hang out. It is definitely NOT like a college keg party; more like nice convention atmosphere.

• Convivial: You’ll meet a lot of friendly people of all ages while sampling and chat about favorites.

• Free stuff: Plenty of free beer mats, coasters, stickers and other fun swag.

• Music: Typically, there is music playing and sometimes live bands.

• Food: Sometimes, there are very good food choices and, as you would imagine, they get busier as the event progresses.

‘Survival’ Strategy

• As my good friend says and practices (sometimes): “It’s a marathon,” which means pace yourself.

• You don’t have to nor should you try EVERY beer! Though only 2-ounce samples, when multiplied by hundreds of beers, the consumption math becomes daunting.

• I have an unpatented strategy of trying every fifth or so brewery. I am looking for breweries or beers that I haven’t heard of or haven’t tried on tap.

• Your initial strategy could be to try styles of beer you haven’t had and then home in on different brewery’s interpretations of those beers to find your favorites.

• Also, put your ego (or guilt) aside and use the dumping buckets that are at most tables to pour out after you have had a sip, especially if you don’t particularly care for the flavor. No one will be offended.

• Eat and hydrate: Before the festival, (“base up”) and hit some H2O during the event.

• Plan for transportation: Uber, Lyft, train, or utilize inexpensive designated driver tickets for purchase (clearly, you should pay for ticket and food for the kind soul who drives).

And, it just so happens that the Westchester Beer Festival at the White Plains County Center is THIS Saturday, March 23 from 4 to 8 p.m.  (countycenter.biz/event/beer-fest-of-westchester).

There will be more than 200 craft breweries and a live band. I have attended and recommended this local beer fest in the past with friends who have varying degrees of craft brew knowledge. The common theme among the group: everyone is open-minded and interested and in experimenting with new beers and flavors.

For better or worse, I look a lot like the guy in the picture by my column. Join me and say hello.

Beer Styles (Sours)

Sours are a beer style you will definitely encounter at beer festivals and increasingly at your favorite beer shops. My data shows that folks either love the wide array of sour beers or would rather quaff some antifreeze. 

For me, I picture a flavor intensity continuum from left to right with the left side starting with Farmhouse style beers (mellow, lighter in color, fruity, lightly spiced, low bitterness, effervescent), moving right to Saisons (similar though perhaps some more fruity flavor and nose), then moving further right to—dramatic pause—sours!

This style tastes exactly as you would imagine—sour, though in several ranges of sour intensities and often with other additives like peach or apricot. Personally, I make an effort to taste some sours and my tolerance has moved further right on the continuum. But generally speaking, they’re not a “go to” for me.  However, there are many folks who love these bottles of Sour Patch Kids. Captain Lawrence even hosts a Sour Fest each year, inviting other sour beer brewers to showcase their brews. Give some a try and form your own opinion.

Brewed in New York

Regardless of your politics, Mr. Cuomo has done a FANTASTIC job incentivizing brewers and distillers in New York to create and keep their businesses in New York. Many subsidies for brewers who use New York-grown ingredients have led to 400 breweries across the state, which, as byproducts, supports New York agriculture as well as overall sustainability. 

A great way to virtually explore some of these breweries is a PBS show called “Brewed in New York.” Each episode brings the affable hosts to a New York brewery where they will meet with the owner, discuss the history and locale, and taste their products.

A bit of a tease for the viewer, but a great way to plan a potential trip. (Check out brewedinnewyorkshow.com to see episode listings). 

Cheers!

Contact me at TheKatonahBeerMan@gmail.com on your email machine.