(The following is a special series on Bluejeanfoodcritic.com written by guest contributing writer William Knowles. He highlights his passions of trying something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, or possibly something old, but new again since it has been awhile. I hope you enjoy his very special perspective that I am sure many of you can relate to. Follow him on his exciting journey “Around Town”)
On Saturday, April 5th, I had the privilege of attending the 2014 Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival. The event was headquartered at the beautiful Atlantic City Convention Center, a massive auditorium that was appropriately sized for what truly was a larger than life event. The annual gathering has become such an epic affair that it has three separate sessions (including one the prior evening, and one after the time I attended). All three of these staging’s were sold out, an incredible testimony to the efforts of main event promoter Jon Henderson and his team. The magnitude and reputation that this event carries was clearly present upon arrival at the venue…
Over 100 total breweries were in attendance, and the lines of beer lovers at each and every stand goes to show that you can never have too much good brew on hand. Amongst the samples I took enjoyment in trying included well know crafts like Anchor Brewery, the Cape May Brewing Company, Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales, Harpoon Brewery, Lancaster Brewing Co., Magic Hat, Troegs Craft Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Yards Brewing Co., Shiner Beers, Victory Brewing Company, and – an old favorite – the Flying Fish Brewing Co. (whom I previously visited and told you about in my travels “around town”).
In addition to some local favorites that are making a name for themselves in brewing circles, the festival also featured some nationally, and even internationally, recognized beers. Most notable, Samuel Adams, Franziskaner Weissbier, Harp, and the legendary Guinness all had set up shop. But as most brew aficionados like myself know, the most fun to be had at these events is the opportunity to try some new beers that we have not yet encountered (may they be local or otherwise). The ability for some of these “mom and pop shop” brewers getting the chance to market their product at an event such as these can prove invaluable in the ever growing craft beer field. Included in my samplings that I had not previously enjoyed were 3 Bears Beer Company, 21st Amendment Brewery, Big Muddy Brewing, Horny Goat Brewing Co., The House of Shandy Beer Co., New Jersey Beer Co., and the Prism Brewing Company, just to name several.
Many local, as well as nationally known, eateries took part in the festivities with some of their signature specialty offerings. Phillips’ Seafood House provided crab cake sandwiches; Philadelphia favorite Chickie’s and Pete’s were on hand with their “famous crab fries”. Local establishment Spanky’s BBQ Catering submitted a great pulled pork slider for mass consumption. Harry’s Oyster Bar and Seafood, Sammy D’s (located in Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City), Wild About Wings and Tony Boloney’s Pizza and Subs also served up to all of the hungry revelers.
As its official title states, music was as much a part of the days affairs as the food and beverage. Such notable acts as Saves the Day, Less Than Jake, Restorations, Jumpship, Dirty Heads, Still Moon, Onward Etc. and Backyard Superheroes all took the stage at various points in time. The live entertainment proved to add to the overall enjoyment of the affair. Additionally, the event organizers did a fine job in their attempts to place firm emphasis on fun no matter where you were throughout the day. After having attended numerous beer events in the past, one can become somewhat jaded as far as expectations are concerned prior to attending another one (aside from the beer itself). However, I had not previously come across a total experience such as this before with such a festival. Much of this can be attributed to the enormous amount of space that the Atlantic City Convention Center provides…a regulation size football goalpost was mounted in one wing of the hall, allowing amateur participants as well as NFL hopefuls to take a shot at a field goal. A mini go-kart race track was set up for those who aspire to a life in racing, and a section was even cornered off with yoga mats for those what wanted a quick workout after consuming grub and suds. To top everything off – a dunk tank featuring some lovely ladies from a local adult entertainment establishment proved to be one of the most popular recreational activities. Hey, what is a beer fest without some old fashioned debauchery mixed in!
Most events such as this tend to carry diverse crowds, and this was no exception. Men and women from 21 all the way up to folks in their 80’s were all taking in the excitement. Many groups of people create their own events in anticipation of the day, and it was not uncommon to see many show up in buses and vans, all emerging with similar themed garb (or very little garb at all, in some cases!). To some that have never attended such a festival before, everything at once may initially come off as being somewhat excessive. But in the case of the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival, excess is beyond good. I look forward to attending this event annually moving forward, and encourage any beer lover who has not made their way to AC in the past to join me as I will guarantee your enjoyment. I will see you at the next beer fest, and elsewhere “around town”…