Central New York enjoys a long history of brewing and providing hops to the entire country. One of its most famous breweries, Ommegang, threw its annual beer festival Saturday, August 6th. The festival included a Bill Murray theme, but Murray did not show. Still, it’s hard not to enjoy a day filled with beer, food, music, and fun.
Mingling around the tents you’ll find conversation easy with fellow beer lovers. Stopping to chat with complete strangers and asking their thoughts on what they’ve tried is commonplace. Regardless, while the sense of community in this shared experience is part of the event’s charm, it’s the excellent beer selections that draws the crowd.
My favorites of the day included Woodcock Brothers Smoked Maple Porter and Broken Bow’s Broken In bourbon barrel coffee Russian imperial stout. I know, I know. It’s a summertime Belgian-Beer fest and these are “winter beers,” but I really see no reason to limit my consumption of excellent beer to a few months of the year, especially because Central New York winters often last nine months a year. Thus, I have ample opportunity to indulge. I’ve had my fair share of IPA’s this summer so these stood out as a welcome reprieve to my palate.
Speaking of IPAs, I finally tried Stone’s Mocha IPA, and I fell in love with how light and refreshing it was while still keeping a huge flavor profile with the perfect blending of hoppiness and coffee. How did they accomplish this sorcery? As for an excellent Belgium style brew, Duncan’s Abbey quad ale was a favorite of mine. Hints of fig and dates, very smooth, high gravity and all around enjoyable.
Meanwhile, I possess a deep-seated loathing for sour beer. However, I’ll try anything a few times for good measure. Plenty of sour beers were available, so I tried several of them. To rate them would be unfair because — I can say this now with even more confidence — I really, really do not like sour beer. I’m sorry lads and ladies, you can like them, I won’t judge….much.
Here’s a list of other noteworthy offerings that I sampled:
Brooklyn Brewing: Class Project Rye-duction Pale heavy rye-malt flavor with a touch of hops. Cleaver IPA pine and a bit of sticky resin sweetness.
Empire Brewing: Deep Purple – a beer for wine lovers, very grape heavy. Slow Mo IPA and a Golden Dragon which had spicy notes.
Keegan Ale’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Mother’s Milk – Mother’s Milk is a favorite of mine and this barrel aged variation was delightful.
Left Hand Brewing: Pride Runs Deep was light and refreshing, malt forward followed by hops and spruce. Extroverted IPA.
Peekskill Brewing – Simple Sour, tart but mild. I almost liked this one. Higher Standard was very boozy but with a light mouth feel.
Prairie Artisan Ales – Bomb! I’ve had this many times but never on tap and it was glorious.
Stone Brewing – Farking Wheaton W00tstout another win from Stone, nice blend of nuttiness with rye and barrel aged goodness.
The Mill House – Cucumber Blessings very light ale with lots of cucumber flavor, this was interesting and really refreshing like sipping cucumber water at a spa.
Woodcock Brothers Brewing – Smoked Maple Porter, this was one of my favorites. Great smokey flavor that was held together by just a touch of maple sweetness blending with the roasted malts.
This was my third year attending BCTC and my first year camping at the brewery. The best part of camping involved falling asleep to the choir of fellow beer fest-ers vomiting, as I laid in my tent thinking “I am a bit too sober and too old for this sh*t.” Of course, how I managed to go to bed sober is a true medical mystery. I consumed 37, 4oz samples (spoiler alert – the pours are almost always very generous and rarely only 4 oz.) But, I also drank several All Day IPAs throughout the day and evening between sampling other beers, you know to re-hydrate.
The one positive of camping involved our group’s personal bottle share, which truthfully was one of my favorite parts of attending the event. I brought a bottle of 2014 Alaskan Smoked Porter. While engaged in a game of Cards Against Humanity (and proving what a terrible person I am), I happily sipped on some Little Rooster – Trillium Brewing, Boom Sauce – Lord Hobo Brewing Company, Barrel Aged Snomegang Ale – Brewery Ommegang, and Second Fiddle Double IPA – Fiddlehead Brewing Company.
Ommengang threw a wonderful event, made even better by the countless volunteers that did so much of the hard work. Alongside the beer and camping, there were excellent food vendors, live music, lawn games, a bonfire, midnight fireworks, and Bill Murray movies playing on a big inflatable outdoor movie screen. Although Bill Murray did not show, BCTC was, as usual, truly unique.
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