Readers: You’ve already met Dan Oliver if you’ve been reading my blog — he writes from time to time about all things brew-ish. Now, he joins my merry bunch of rogues as a columnist who will appear twice monthly. Watch for his next column February 9.
Beer Man Dan: A look at this year’s Jupiter Brewfest
The Third Annual Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival (Jan. 23-24) delivered on its promise of being bigger, with the Friday night Field of Beers food and beer pairing party in Roger Dean Stadium, and 3,000 folks gathering in Abacoa’s Theater Green Saturday afternoon.
Did you get in?
Whether you thought it was better probably depends on where you were in line, or if you got in at all.
The crowd waiting at the one admission gate stretched from Theater Green all the way back to Rooney’s, resembling a miniaturized version of the scene at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Unlike the D.C. celebration, not everybody was feeling the love. In fact, hundreds, if not over a thousand people were turned away when the event reached capacity in the afternoon.
Here’s an example of some criticism from Vince Yeck, a member of the Palm Beach Draughtsmen Homebrewing club:
“The entire event was a series of lines that would rival a day at a theme park. For starters, we arrived at 2:30 p.m. (a half-hour after the gates had opened) with prepaid tickets in hand and were sent to the back of a line that had approximately 1500 people in it. Needless to say, I did not get into the festival until 3:30. Now, I do not mind a few minutes waiting, but if I have a ticket, I should not miss an hour of fest time because there are not enough ticket-takers or ID checkers.”
Fest’s growing pains
Vince is right, and the festival organizers were aware of the problem, but couldn’t do anything about it by then. Vince also said there were long lines at the portable bathrooms, which I noticed as well.
The organizers face the double-edged sword of keeping the event intimate in size while accommodating as many beer lovers as possible, and it’s clear the event is suffering from growing pains. But should it grow so large as to require a move to perhaps Roger Dean Stadium, across the street? Only the organizers can ultimately decide that, but why not let me know what you think? (Comment below.)
Food and beer pairing
There were plenty of positives, of course. Friday night’s Field of Beers was well executed, with some great beers accompanied by some excellent food. John Carlino of Abacoa’s Chef’s Inc. deserves kudos for organizing the food. Big Bear’s oak aged Bourbon Barrel Double IPA was one of the bigger hits, paired with a spicy jerk chicken skewer. I really liked Brewzzi’s European Pilsner as well, matched with Florida lobster tail, potatoes and Belle Glade corn. And Highland Brewery’s Gaelic Ale was very tasty as well, although I wasn’t a huge fan of the bruschetta that went with it. I was told the shrimp-stuffed Belgian endive was a perfect match with St. Somewhere Brewery’s Belgian Saison Athene ale, but alas, I was too full before getting a chance at tasting it. Some felt the price tag, at close to 80 bucks was a bit steep, but I can guarantee you this was not a profit-making venture for the organizers.
Clydesdales win me over – not quite
Saturday was special for The Beer Guy as well, as I got to take a ride on the wagon pulled by the eight famous Budweiser Clydesdales. They are a sight to behold, believe me, and I was almost tempted to drink a cold Bud after the loop around Theater Green. Almost.
But I do have to say the folks at Brown Distributing, who do distribute Budweiser, are very serious about bringing in quality new micros and imports. I salute them for that, and promise to give AB’s new micro-inspired line of beers a fare shake as well.
There were some outstanding beers at this year’s fest, and while I didn’t get to try them all, (a good thing) I sipped quite a few and was very impressed. Newcomers such as Highland and Narragansett were very good, along with Tequesta’s own Corner Café and Brewery, and Thomas Creek.
The little beers that could
One great story, I think, was Selinsgrove, a very small brewery from a small town in rural Pennsylvania whose two beers, a Baltic Porter and IPA stood up to any beer at the fest. Fellow brewers were very impressed.
The Monk in the Trunk contest fell a bit flat this year, as only two people showed up in costume, and last year’s winner, Joe Simon took home the $300 in cash again. Fest officials may have to go back to the drawing board on this one. The Silent Disco once again proved to be popular, but I noticed it took some time for people to loosen up their inhibitions and hit the dance floor. I got to do my Casey Kasem impersonation of a “long distance dedication” before one song, so I was happy.
All in all, I think the 3rd Annual Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival was extremely successful and a lot of fun. Its popularity is becoming an issue the organizers will have to deal with down the line.