If you are coming to The Big Brew Beer Fest in Morristown, NJ, come visit my table for your free pretzel necklace! It only costs a like, and likes are free!
There are not many things in this universe that get me more excited than Tommy Chong at 4:19 P.M. on April 20th in Amsterdam, but a Beer Festival happens to be one them. For those of you that have never heard of this amazing phenomenon, here is a brief description that should make you feel worse than Homer Simpson after he eats his soul donut, for not knowing about these events sooner. A beer festival is comparable to Comic Con, except instead of all the comics and fan boys dressed in tights, there is a shit ton of beer.
In other words these events attempt to showcase the best craft beer our wonderful planet has to offer, and for a reasonable fee, you get to taste all the hops and barley your belly and brain can handle. Furthermore, most of these events pair their adult sodas with other mantastic goodies, including but not limited to food, spirits, party paraphernalia, and many more products that make men swoon like fashionistas smack dab in the middle of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris.
On September 28, 2013 The Big Brew Beer Festival took over The Morristown Armory and dropped a proverbial beer bomb barrage on Morris County that will from this point on be known as the Belch that was heard around the world. After taking some lumps after last year’s event, to say The Big Brew Beer Festival improved slightly, is like saying that Breaking Bad was kind of a good show. It was apparent that the head honchos of the Big Brew Beer Festival not only took every complaint from last year seriously, they took this year as a challenge to make The Big Brew Beer Festival into what they envisioned it could become from the very beginning. Their hard work and dedication created a Craft Beer event that New Jersians could be proud of. Which is no simple accomplishment considering that Grumpy Cat ain’t got nothing on us Jersey folk. We can hate on literally anything!
There were three ticket options for the two sessions of hoppy shenanigans at The Big Brew Beer Festival. One could purchase a V.I.P. ticket for $75.00, a general admission ticket for $45.00, or a designated driver ticket for a measly $10.00, which happened to come with 1,000 Karma Points for making sure your inebriated friends got home safely. The V.I.P tickets granted you access to the event one hour earlier than the general public, entrance to the V.I.P. beer area, and free food from the Morris Tap & Grill V.I.P. spread.
Now it is the time that I stand on my soapbox that is obviously filled with beer bottles, and preach to my congregation. My fellow foodies and craft beer geeks, I ask you one very simple question? Was there really ever a choice of what ticket we had to purchase? I mean honestly, if you consider yourself even a half-ass Cicerone or Gourmand the list of beers and food that the V.I.P. ticket offered was worth well more than the $30.00 dollars extra you paid, not to mention the one-hour head start. If you screwed up and purchased the general admission ticket this time around, I will let it slide and not report you to your respective guilds, but remember for next time, and there will be a next time, you can scrimp and save on health care, car insurance, and your significant others but never, not ever, on food and drink!
What was that? Do we have some non-believers in the crowd? Let me drop some hop –knowledge on you in the form of the V.I.P. beer list:
Tuckahoe Brewing Co. – Holly Beach Pumpkin Ale
Ommegang – Game of Thrones “Take the Black”
Duvel – Tripel Hop
Captain Lawrence – Xtra Gold
Brooklyn – Silver Anniversary
Starr Hill Brewery – Smoke Out (Limited Release)
Ramstein – Barrel aged, dry hopped Oktoberfest
Victory Brewing – Ranch DIPA Double Simcoe, 4 Hop Bock
Boulder Beer Co. – Honey-of-a-Saison
Epic – Brainless On Cherries
Flying Dog – Gonzo
Great Divide – Wolfgang Doppelbock
Neshaminy Creek – Highwater Hefeweizen
Oskar Blues – G’night Imperial Red
Sly Fox – Black Raspberry Reserve
Smuttynose – Homunculus
Stone – 17th Anniversary
Weyerbacher – Blasphemy
Yards – Cicada Indigenous Ale
Slumbrew – Attic & Eave Toasted Brown Ale
LakeFront Brewery – 25th Anniversary Brandy Barrel Imperial Pumpkin
3 Beards Beer Company – Bearded Lady Rye & Raspberry Belgian Pale Ale
Big Muddy Brewing – 17th St. Smoked Amber Ale
Boom! As long as you did not just jump onto the Craft Beer bandwagon to impress your mates or shag a scrummy girly, that list should have made you randier than Austin Powers on ten Viagra pills at the Bunny Ranch!
Still not convinced eh? Alright maybe I have to appeal to the carnivore within you, to persuade you to purchase the right ticket on February 15, 2014, when the Big Brew Beer Festival comes back to town. The following is the jaw dropping, palate appeasing, foodie approved V.I.P. menu that was brought to you by the culinary mastermind Chef Eric LeVine and his prodigious crew from The Morris Tap & Grill:
Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Cole Slaw: These sliders may have been like Tyrion Lannister in stature, but their flavor reminded me of his on screen presence, large and in charge. The subtle smokiness of the brisket paired exquisitely with the tangy slaw to create an impeccable bite of awesomeness.
Beer Braised Pork Cheeks with Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Some people are turned off by pork cheeks, and to them I say, “good, more for me.” The cheek is a fantastically tender muscle that when served right, and it was prepared by Morris Tap & Grill so you already know it was, in my opinion can be the best part of the pig. That is except for, of course, the belly, which is where Bacon Town is located and is more sacred than the Pope, Jesus, and the Vatican combined.
Chicken Carnitas with Beer Pickles: The chicken that stuffed these carnitas was not only bursting with flavor but was so moist and juicy the taco shell almost could not contain all the spicy goodness that it was charged to protect. The addition of the beer pickles was a stroke of genius and created an expertly balanced dish.
White chocolate and Busted Barrel Caramel Mousse: After demolishing all the savory food that the Morris Tap & Grill was offering the V.I.P. guests, there was only one dish left to sample. This light and airy mousse was the perfect ending to the flawless lunch that was provided by the MTG staff. Not only did it taste like a spoonful of heaven with a drizzle of OMG, it was not overtly heavy which left enough space to tackle the tremendous amount of beers that The Big Brew Beer Festival still had to offer.
I know this is a blog so you can see that I just dropped the microphone on the ground and walked off the stage. If the beer list and the food pictures did not make you drool like a politician during lobbyist season, then I think you may be reading the wrong blog. Perhaps this blog is more your speed, Dr. Dull Mc. Boringstien.
After enjoying all the thirst quenching bucket list beers that the V.I.P. area had to offer and chowing down on the amazing concoctions that the Morris Tap & Grill provided, it was time to venture to the 100 plus tables that littered the gigantic convention center. The Following is a list of these wonderful purveyors of the sudtastic and intoxicating:
3 Beards Brewing – Lumberjack Black Lager, CowPuncher IPA
Ace Cider – Pumpkin, Perry, Apple
Abita – Turbo Dog, Purple Haze
Anchor Brewing – Big Leaf Maple Red, California Lager, Liberty IPA
Alchemy & Science – Curious Traveler, Just IPA
Big Muddy Brewing – Galaxy IPA, Vanilla Stout
Blue Point – White IPA, RastafaRye
B Nektar Meadery – Evil Genius, Black Fang, Necromangdon
Bolero Snort Brewery – Blackhorn American Black Lager, Ragin’ Bull Amber Lager, There’s No Rye-ing in Basebull Rye Beer
Boulder – Mojo IPA, Hazed and Infused, Sweaty Betty, Kinda Blue
Breckenridge – Regal Pils, Vanilla Porter
Brooklyn – Oktoberfest, Blast!
Butternuts Brewing – Porkslap Pale Ale
Captain Lawrence – Pumpkin Ale, Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA
Carton Brewing Company – Boat Beer, Pumpkin Cream Ale, Carton of Milk Stout
Climax Brewing – Oktoberfest, ESB
Crabbies – Ginger Ale
Cricket Hill -Fall Festivus, East Coast Lager, Hopnotic IPA
Doc’s Cider – Pumpkin Cider, Apple Cider
Duvel – Duvel Single, Maredsous Brune
East Coast Brewing Co. – BeachHaus Cruiser IPA, Winter Rental, BeachHaus Pils
Epic – Smoke and Oak, Barley Wine
Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Union Jack, Double Jack, Reserve
Flying Dog – Snake Dog, Dogtoberfest
Flying Fish Brewing Company – Oktoberfish, Exit 4, ESB – only on draft
Fort Collins Brewing – Major Toms American Wheat
Full Sail – Existential Ale, IPA
Goose Island Beer Company – Pere Jacques, 312, Oktoberfest
Great Divide – Rumble IPA, Claymore Wee Heavy
Great Lakes Brewing Co.– Oktoberfest, Dortmunder Gold Lager
Gritty’s – Maine IPA, Black Fly Stout, Pub Ale
Harpoon – Octoberfest, Saison Various
Horny Goat Brewing – Hopped Up N Horny IPA
Ithaca Beer Company – Flower Power, Apricot Wheat, White Gold, Cascazilla
Keegan Ales – KD’s Triple, Longest Day IPA, Mother’s Milk Stout
Kuka Andean Brewing Company – Pumpkin Porter, Imperial Rye IPA, Belgian Triple, Belgian Golden Ale
LakeFront Brewing – Fixed Gear, Pumpkin Lager
Lancaster Brewing Company – Milk Stout, Strawberry Wheat
Latis – Estaminet, Palm, Steenbrugge Tripel
Left Hand Brewing Company
Magic Hat – Seance, Elder Betty
Moa – Imperial Stout, Breakfast Ale
Moonlight – Kurt’s Apple Pie, Sensual
Neshaminy Creek – Dunkel Weizen, Trauger Pils
Newcastle – Newcastle Brown and Werewolf
Old Dominion – Double D IPA, Oak Barrel Stout
Ommegang – Abbey, Scythe & Sickle
Oskar Blues – Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub
Otter Creek Brewing Company – Hopsession Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Lager
Pyramid – Oktoberfest
Ramstein Beer – Oktoberfest, Double Platinum, Gold
River Horse – Hippo Lantern, Special Ale
Sam Adams – Boston Lager, Oktoberfest, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple
Sea Dog – Blueberry
Shed Brewery – IPA, Mountain Ale
Shiner – Oktoberfest, Black Lager
Shipyard Brewing Company – Smashed Pumpkin, Monkey Fist IPA
Sierra Nevada – Kellerweis, Flipside Red IPA
Sixpoint – Crisp Pils, Righteous Rye
Slumbrew – Flagraiser IPA, Happy Sol, Porter Square Porter, Trekker Trippel
Sly Fox – Rt 113 IPA, Pikeland Pils
Smuttynose – IPA, Pumpkin
Southampton Public House – Pumpkin Ale, Double White, IPA
Speakeasy – Tallulah Pale Ale, Prohibition Ale
St. Ambroise Brewery – Pumpkin Ale, Apricot Wheat Ale
Starr Hill Brewing Company – Boxcar Pumpkin Porter, Whiter Shade of Pale, Double Platinum, Smoke Out
Stone Brewing Co. – Ruination, Cali-belgique
Stoudts Brewery – Heifer in Wheat, Oktoberfest, Pilsner
Summit – Extra Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Porter, Pilsener
Tommyknocker Brewery – Small Batch Pumpkin Harvest Ale, Pick Axe IPA, Maple
Troegs – Perpetual IPA, Javahead Stout
Tuckahoe Brewing Co. – Dennis Creek Pale Ale, Steelmantown Porter
Unibroue – Chambly Noir, Blanche De Chambly, Trois Pistoles
Victory Brewing Company – Hop Wallop Double IPA, Headwaters Pale Ale, V12, Hop Devil
Weihenstephan – Kristal Weisse, Vitus, Oktoberfest
Weyerbacher – Double Simcoe IPA, Imperial Pumpkin
William’s Bros. – Fraoch Heather Ale, Kelpie Seaweed Ale, Midnight Sun
Wolaver’s Organic Brewery – IPA, Pumpkin, Oatmeal Stout
Wychwood Brewery – Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale, Ginger Beard English Beer, Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale, Ginger Beard English Beer
Yards – Pynk, Brawler
Tenth & Blake – Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin, Crispin Cider
After wandering around this beer maze for a few hours, if you were not smiling from ear to ear, something is wrong with you. You are broken, and there is no amount of cow bell that will fix you. Unless, perhaps it is not more cow bell that you need but some ridiculously good Cheese Curds from The Cow and The Curd truck that happened to be parked in the venue. Not a cheese fan, yet you still needed some sobering food to assist you in your journey, The Big Brew Beer Fest thought of that too, featuring food from The Office Beer Bar & Grill, 40 North, and Nicole’s Ten strategically located throughout the event.
So let’s discuss what we have learned today shall we? The Big Brew Beer Fest not only addressed but exceeded the concerns that were expressed after the first year of this event, which by the way I still loved. Secondly, the beers that were offered at this event would make our founding fathers, whom by the way loved themselves some hooch, cry like a disgraced English man after the revolutionary war. Furthermore, the food that was served at the Big Brew Beer Festival is the kind of food that is slightly more addictive than nicotine and three times tastier than anything your grandmother ever made, and that is a promise. Finally and seriously most importantly is the fact that this astounding, intriguing, brilliant, and insert obligatory adjective here, event is coming back to the Morristown Armory on February 15, 2014, and if you are not in the house, you have no excuse! See you there!
Before I write this review, I would like to preface it with the following:
From my perspective this event was a huge hit, due to the fact that I purchased V.I.P. tickets, and I had an amazing time, but I would be remiss if I did not include some of the complaints that caused the event’s website to become a billboard of apologies after the event ended. The event staff stated that they had a complete failure of the barcode scanning system which led to the enormous lines in the almost unbearable weather Saturday night, I was informed that some patrons waited upwards of 2 hours to enter the event. The event staff also apologized for the lack of restrooms for both men and women the venue provided, causing bathroom lines to exceed 30 minutes at sometimes during the event. If you experienced any of these issues, I can see why you were not happy, but with that said, I would like to move past the oversights of the planning committee and touch on some of the highlights of what an event like this should be, and hopefully will be next year. The event staff has stated that you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to request a refund if your ticket was unused or you can e-mail them your experiences and they will attempt to make it up to you, the customer, in the future.
There are very few words in the English language that when combined create a sense of pure joy deep down in a man’s core. Unlimited bacon for example, is one such combination, Super Bowl is another, but since my doctor says that my cholesterol is higher than Oscar Meyer’s and the Super Bowl just ended, there can only be one duet of manly verbiage that I can be writing about this week, BEER FESTIVAL!
For anyone who does not know what a beer festival is, -1 man point if you have a Y chromosome, it is an event where beer vendors from all over the country converge on one particular longitude and latitude to showcase their hoppy goodness, and attempt to woo potential new customers, by filling their gullets full of their wondrous concoctions. In addition, to the fantastic beers that are usually on hand at one of these magical soirées, there is never a shortage of awe inspiring food and attention-grabbing vendors vying for your business as well. These events are quite literally a warehouse full of Mangasm!
Last Saturday I had the privilege to attend The Morristown Big Brew Beer Festival that was held at the Morristown Armory. Kat, my wife, and I decided to splurge and purchase the VIP admission because it allowed us to enter an hour early, sample the most exclusive beers at the festival, and included a gourmet hors d’oeuvre spread provided by the Morris Tap and Grill. Considering that I knew that I was going to be writing a review about this event, I felt it was my duty as a food blogger to not only write about the tantalizing libations but also the unique food offerings, even though this ticket was $85.00 instead of $60.00.
Kat and I arrived at the Morristown Armory shortly before the doors opened and took our place in line while we waited to be let into the venue. Upon entering the venue, we met up with our friends Kristen and Brian and began to wander around the immense warehouse like space that housed the 100 plus craft beers that were on hand. We immediately headed for the V.I.P lounge which contained the extra special beers like 25th Anniversary Imperial Stout by Lakefront Brewery, INC., a Doppel Bock from the Climax Brewing Company, and of course FU Sandy by Flying Fish Brewing Co., which is a limited edition beer that supports the relief effort for rebuilding towns that were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
After we wet our whistle with some of the best 2oz samples of beer that I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, we decided to visit the hors d’oeuvre table. The Morris Tap and Grill offered an array of gastronomic appetizers that left me asking myself, why the hell I had not heard about this place sooner, seriously my so called Facebook “friends”, you are all at fault here, and I am not sure that I can forgive you.
If someone started a religion where instead of communion, I was able to approach the alter and eat the Bacon Hummus, the Morris Tap and Grill served, I might consider accepting whatever depraved creature that church worshipped as my lord and savior. In this religion we just created The Chili that was served would most definitely be considered Satan due to the perfect amount of burn that it delivered with each bite. Rounding out the food table was a variety of cheese and crackers and a delicate mushroom salad that added some relief from the flawless tingle left behind from Beelzebub dancing on our tongues.
After we ate, it was once again time for us to venture into the beer laden abyss known as the beer festival and imbibe some more mouthwatering offerings. As we meandered through the armory, we stopped at whatever random beer vendor that tickled our fancy. We sipped, gulped, swigged, sniffed, and tasted our way through a myriad of vendors and appreciated every second of it while we waxed poetically about the barrage of flavors that engulfed our taste buds. Some of the highlights of this second wave of tastings were:
Hop’solutely by Fegley’s Brew Works, Wookey Jack by Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Diesel by Sixpoint Brewery, Humdinger Burnpile by Magic Hat Brewing Company, Pumpkin Smasher by Big Muddy Brewing, Art of Darkness by Ommegang Brewery, Christmas Ale by Goose Island, Double Platinum Imperial IPA by Starr Hill, Ramstein Double Platinum Blonde Hefe Weizen by High Point Brewing Company , 400 Pound by Left Hand Brewing Co., Hopsecutioner by Terrapin Beer Co., Ubu Ale by Saranac, Double D IPA by Old Dominion Brewing Co., Maudite by Unibroue, Exit 16 – Wild Rice Double IPA by Flying Fish Brewing Co., Thunderhead IPA by Pyramid Breweries, Scarlet Lady Ale by Stoudts, Reserve Imperial IPA by Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Sneak Attack Saison by 21st Amendment Brewery, County Line IPA by Neshaminy Creek Brewing, Rumspringa by Lancaster Brewing, Sweaty Betty by Boulder Beer Company, Crispin Cider, and Woodchuck Hard Cider.
Since the neurons in our brains were firing more haphazardly than a Los Angeles’ Police Officer with an arrest warrant from all delightful libations, we decided it was a good time to refuel at the Morris Tap and Grill station once again. This time unfortunately we had to pay for this meal, but it was worth every penny. We decided to try the Grilled Voodoo Chicken Sliders and The Baconator Sliders. The chicken sliders were expertly seasoned and once again had just the right amount of tangy goodness to wake our taste buds. The Baconators were slightly undercooked but still tasty. Kristen and Brian procured some cheese curds from the Wisconsin’s Cows and Curds Food Truck that was parked in the event and afforded me a taste, which made my stomach smile.
After stuffing our faces full of this scrumptious nourishment, we decided it may be a good idea to saunter around a bit and visit some of the vendors that were not supplying us with an unlimited supply of hangover juice. The first vendor we spoke to was The New Jersey Craft Beer (NJCB) Membership Club which offers its members discounts on craft beer through its partnership with local businesses. Being that I am The Blue Collar Foodie, if there is a way to get a deal, it is most definitely for me, and I joined on the spot. The next stop on the sobering up tour was ChewTheDirt.Com, which is an E-Zine that claimed to be a curator of man stuff. I was able to speak to the man behind the magazine and peruse the website for a short while and liked what I heard and saw. Chew The Dirt reminded me of Maxim Magazine before they turned into just another boring men’s magazine and lost their edge. We then stopped over at the Jersey Club Sports’ table and discussed the finer points of Kickball and Dodge Ball, two of the team sports this innovative and fun company offers its clientele. Next we stumbled upon the JR Cigar table and chatted about the only product on this planet more masculine than the beer we were sampling, stogies. We were even able to find a table serving samples of Homemade Momma’s Hot Apple Garlic Chicken Wing Sauce, which Kat bought before I could finish my sample spoonful.
After all this nomadic gib-jabber, we realized that we needed to drink some more beer, considering this was a beer festival so we embarked on mission number 3. Knowing this was our last round of drinking, Brian and I set our sights towards the breweries that were a must visit before we vacated this beertopia, while Kat and Kristen decided to stalk the Cider tables once again. Our final choices to sample were:
Ellie’s Brown Ale by Avery Brewing, Oak Aged Barleywine by Schlafly, Deviant Dale’s by Oskar Blues Brewery, Finest Kind IPA by Smuttynose Brewing Co., Double Simcoe IPA by Weyerbacher, Evil Eye PA by Evil Genius Beer Company, Double White by Long Trail Brewing Co., Maximus by Laugunitas Brewing Company, IPA by Full Sail Brewing Co., Mad Hatter IPA by New Holland Brewing Company, and IPA by Cisco Brewers.
After this last round of drinks, it was time for us to catch our ride, a huge thanks to Kristen’s Mom because Kat and I were in no condition to walk 2 miles, to the Morristown Train station for our safe train ride home. I am sure I am going to catch some hate mail for writing this obviously pro Morristown Big Brew Beer Festival, but I absolutely feel that the event staff involved did not mean to ruin anyone’s day on purpose. This was the first year this event was held and like anything in life, you live and you learn. I do hope that this event will be held once again next year and everyone has the opportunity to have as good of a time as we did at this event.