As a first timer, I must admit it was all a little overwhelming. It took us a while to find our friends in the huge exhibition hall. We did't know where to start. So we decided to start at the first table and work our way around the hall clock-wise.
Luckily, Brewery Ommegang was the first sign I saw. I've visited their brewery in Cooperstown, NY and love all their beers. This time, as in the past, I enjoyed their Hennepin the most. I find it the most drinkable of their strong (in taste and alcohol) line.
As we got our "beer legs" and became more comfortable with the layout of the floor, it was obvious that the fest organizers knew what they were doing. Even though there were hundreds of people, the room was enormous and I never felt crowded. With over 70 breweries represented, we never had to wait long for a fill. There was a live band playing classic rock, but few people paid much attention as there was just too much drinking to do.
To be honest, I tried so many beers in so short a time it became hard to remember which was which after a while. But I do remember the standouts. We were able to try all three of Chimays beers at once and agreed that the blue label was the best. Lagunitas had two IPAs on tap and I was impressed at the level of hops in their beer while still being very drinkable.
It took us well over 2 hours to circle the floor and I finally found my favorite brewery: Dogfish Head. I was thrilled to see that they had their brown ale Raison D'etre on tap. I, like many others, spent the next half hour filling up and draining my sampling glass only to return to the end of the line immediately for a refill.
The brewery that had the best attitude was Cape Anne Brewing Co from Glouceter MA. I was drawn to their table by the sight of a green VW camper bus. Aparently TJ, their sales rep, drives the bus to all the fests and pours beer from two taps sticking out of the side of the camper. In the summer time, he cruises around Fenway Park serving beers to Red Sox fans. I can't think of a better job.
The most creative table at the show was the one that was raising money for a local charity. For $1 they sold fake mustaches that the donors wore and allowed them access to the "mustache lounge". The lounge was a 20' x 20' platform about 10 feet above the show room floor. There was a makeshift bar that served about a dozen offerings from the show. Mustachioed imbibers reclined on couches that offered a much better view of the show. Particularly of the scantily clad dancers below who were publicizing a gentleman's club down the road.
Our friends were just getting warmed up but my wife and I felt that if we stayed, we'd be paying the price in the morning. As it was, the $40 we paid was a bargain for all the fun, laughs and great beer we drank at the show. The AC Beer Fest will be a regular event on my yearly beer calandar from now on. Next year, I'll be sure to make a pretzel necklace and look like an experienced fest-goer.