Summertime in New York — there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else (June 19th was technically Spring, but you catch my drift). Upon learning of wrist band duty at the front gate of the NY Brewfest, I was dejected. However, it was too nice of a day to be a sourpuss. So I went to my post, got the mini-training on the ins and outs of how to put a wrist band on — who knew there was an art to this? As the ferries arrived, I saw the influx of thirsty people approaching us. Armed and ready with yellow, green and pink wrist bands, it was time to work. We were a well-oiled machine, but nothing could have prepared us for the throngs who came at us like a stampede with their eyes fixated on the gates of beer heaven. We were the only thing standing between them and the nectar. Exactly where I didn’t want to be.
I tried as best I could to quickly put the bands on each wrist. One of the reasons I love beer festivals as much as I do (besides the obvious) is the interactions with interesting people. While touching every sweaty, hairy, delicate, fat, and scabby wrist is a very intimate experience between me and the festival goer, this was not the kind of interaction I was envisioning. This was a germophobe’s worst nightmare. Wrist upon sweaty wrist, band upon sticky band, I greeted each person and told them to have a beer for me. Boy was I thirsty. After three and a half hours of touching skin in the most unappealing way, I could take no more. There was no relief in sight. We asked for a break and ran like bats out of hell. I was amazed that the brewfest had drawn such a crowd — 12,000 sampling revelers. By the time I crossed the gate, the lines for beer and food looked like an impossible task. At least a 30 minute wait for a 2 oz. sample.
In a crowd of ticket-paying patrons, one couldn’t help but notice the bright orange volunteer shirts. There is most definitely a camaraderie among the volunteers, strangers who immediately hook each other up with food and drink on the sly. Such was the case here. Instead of waiting in line like the non-orange, volunteers went behind the booths and helped themselves to anything they wanted. I was no exception. While I certainly couldn’t have sampled as much as I wanted to, I was able to sit down on a patch of grass and enjoy some stuff I had never had before:
Dale’s Pale Ale (in a can) from Colorado: This was the very first beer I had and it was nothing exceptional. However, after wrist band duty, anything would have been great. In this instance this was the best sip (the only sip) of beer I had all day. That is, until…
Innis & Gunn oak aged beer from Scotland: Vlad the volunteer practically did cartwheels to tell me that this was the best.beer.ever. At $10 a bottle (or so it’s been rumored) I figured I’d try it. Vlad was right. I have no words other than best.beer.ever. Get your hands on this if you can find it.
Thomas Hooker Watermelon Ale from CT: Smells like a Jolly Rancher candy, tastes like a beer. Definitely has the watermelon taste but surprisingly, I wasn’t offended. Would I buy a six pack of this stuff? Probably not.
Was it worth it? To be on an island that was once reserved for the exclusive use of New York’s royal governors and birthplace of the Smothers Brothers, yes. Every step I took was a walk through history, and every sip of beer I drank was worth all the wrist bands in the world.