- Published on Saturday, 16 June 2012 11:38
- Written by Peter Malfatti
"I haven’t had a really great beer in a long time."
That’s all I could think as I walked down Gregory Street at 5:00 PM this past Saturday for the Second Annual Rochester Real Beer Expo. Although very new, this beer festival in the culture- (and character-) rich South Wedge (http://www.baswa.org/) neighborhood of Rochester, New York has already become the main attraction of this city’s yearly schedule that has also kicked off its first Real Beer week (http://rochesterrealbeer.com). My expectations were set a bit high as I entered the festival searching for that really spectacular beer that’s eluded me.
For eight years, I worked in virtually every aspect of the craft beer industry - from serving from behind a bar, to stocking shelves, pounding the pavement in search of new accounts, to public relations and marketing for many brands. The most fun I’ve ever had in this business, is being right in the mix with hundreds of craft beer lovers at a beer festival. This one was no different, and perhaps more impressive.
The first thing that struck me was the size. The South Wedge is a small neighborhood. This is not a citywide event, this is an effort by the local businesses to bring some fun and foot traffic to their small community inside this city. Located across over half a block outside the five-year old craft beer haven Tap & Mallet (http://www.tapandmallet.com) this festival could easily compete with many statewide and some of the region-wide beer festivals around the country in attendance and especially in the beer variety.
Over forty breweries and their representatives were in attendance to promote their brands and mingle with the craft beer lovers. The Central New York Belgian-style brewery treated the early-comers to their Limited Edition Strong Ale called Adoration. Roc Brewery, Rochester’s new brewery on the block, treated visitors to a cask edition of their beer/coffee hybrid brewed in collaboration with local coffee roasters. Ithaca Brewery’s Excelsior and cask-conditioned Cascazilla were in high demand - it’s possible they didn’t even close the tap all night.
The vendor list was not limited to New York Breweries. From California, Anderson Valley served up what I think is one of the best Grand Cru styles made this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Sly Fox served their occasional Belgian Golden Style Renard D’or.
This was just a tiny smattering of good craft brewers showing off their finest, surrounded by people who are passionate about what they drink. But they didn’t stop there. If you’re just a newcomer to craft beer or you simply like a cold one after a long day, they had you covered. Sam Adams was represented as was Staropramen, a perfect Czech Lager straight from Prague. Prefer Cider? Crispin Cider would have happily welcomed you at their booth for the entire four hour run of the show.
The Rochester Real Beer Expo hit the right notes this year, creating a balance that welcomed serious craft and import drinkers right along with beer novices, and even non-drinkers who just love a good time with good people. It was a refreshing experience after being absent for so long, coming back to this world that is so exciting, seeing old friends and making news ones, all while enjoying this magical elixir that has enriched lives, created great memories (and erased a few bad ones) for ten thousand years.
Here’s looking forward to that next great beer, and hoping it doesn't take as long to find.
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