September 8, 2009

Beer Flows From Taps At Third Annual Brew Fest

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This story was conceptualized by Chris Bentley, Emily Cohn, Ben Eisen and Sarah Singer.
The scene was one of hazy euphoria. Tipsy townies swayed to the music of live performers alongside debauched fratstars, all under a bright blue Ithaca sky beside the waters of Cayuga Lake.
For a brief moment, it seemed, god was smiling down on our little hippy college town.
From 3 to 7 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, town and gown merged for the third annual Ithaca Brew Fest at Stewart Park. The taps were full, and the brew — like the conversation — was flowing, as 3,000 Ithacans rejoiced in Stewart Park for the festival. Upon entering, all attendees were given a two-ounce sampling glass and a packet of 20 tasting tickets. From there, they could navigate their own paths around the 40 beer tasting stations and multitude of food vendors.
Started in 2007, Brew Fest was the brainchild of Dan Mitchell ’00, president of Ithaca Beer Company. He envisioned the event as a way to “introduce people to new styles of beer,” according to The Ithaca Journal. The event has since grown into a haven for east coast craft breweries, and this year it hosted beer companies from as near as Ithaca to as far as the United Kingdom. Hard cider was also available.[img_assist|nid=37886|title=Beer me|desc=A representative from Wagner Valley Brewing Co. offers up a taste of Sled Dog Doppelbock at this year’s annual Brew Fest this past weekend.|link=node|align=left|width=336|height=244]
As the plentiful sunshine brought huge crowds to the park, long lines became a downside of the afternoon’s festivities. Brew Fest officially sold out the day before the event, and the disappointment of such news left many stragglers barred from the festivities, peering through the gates at the scene in awe. Us intrepid reporters felt lucky to obtain press passes.
Inside the park, it was all about beer — and the beer goggles, which one couple proudly sported. Others paid tribute to beer by donning shirts with slogans that read, “Save the planet — it’s the only one with beer,” “The Beeriodic Table” and “Save Water: Drink Beer.”
A crowd favorite proved to be Horseheads’ Hot-Jala-Heim, a libation brewed using jalapeño peppers, which was as hot as the afternoon sun. Others in attendance made note of the Sled Dog Doppelbock, produced by Wagner, a brewery and winery on the other side of Seneca Lake. Lake Placid’s Ubu Ale and Middle Ages’ Wailing Wench were much-talked-about brews. Local Bellwether Cidery provided a twist on traditional hard cider recipes, adding black currants to the mix for its Black Magic variety.
Pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest brews were aplenty, including offerings from Dundee, Leinenkugel, SlyFox and more. The sweet, spiced taste conjured up feelings that autumn is approaching all too quickly.
The mood was set by all in attendance and channeled by the musicians that took center-stage at the venue, including the Sim Redmond Band, Kevin Kinsella and the Mutron Warriors. Food and refreshments from Wegmans, Ithaca Ale House and the Ithaca Coffee Company kept guests on their feet even as the sun began to set over the lake.
Though the festival has only been around for three years, it has almost instantly found its way into the stockpile of must-do Ithaca traditions like Applefest in the fall, Chilifest in the winter and the Ithaca Festival in the summer. Some alumni even made the trek back for Brew Fest, marking their first return to their alma mater since graduating in May.
Ryan Lavin ’09, who graduated in the spring, returned for Brew Fest to partake in the annual tradition and catch up with old friends, many of whom also came back to Ithaca for the weekend.
“I loved being an Ithacan for four years, and I loved taking advantage of being an Ithacan for four years,” Lavin said. “Brew Fest is one of those events that bring people together for a fun festival where you can appreciate great beer, with great people, in a great place.”