Music and beer: a match made in heaven!

14 Aug

So Hunter S. Thompson once said something about good people drinking good beer and the Colorado/Maryland brewery Flying Dog (which is great, by the way) uses a similar quote to promote their beer (a favorite brewery of the late great Thompson).

But what about music and beer?  Do people that have great taste in music also have great taste in beer?  And vice versa?  While I’d love for those two things to be synonymous (wouldn’t it be ideal if indie shows only served craft beer?) this probably isn’t a reasonable possibility due to the constraints of venues and their synchronicity with Budweiser and the other AmBev and InBev conglomerates. 

But what about curating a music/beer festival based on GOOD music and GOOD beer?  While there are beer festivals that include music (usually in the background) and music festivals that serve good beer (this seems to be a growing trend and is present in some music fests like Bonnaroo, who’ve been doing it for years now) there seems to be very little effort in uniting the two.

The Rocks Hops festival held this past Saturday in Mercer County Park in West Windsor Township, NJ, sought to improve on this lack of a union.  

The festival was an all day, outdoor music event that included food and beer vendors.  The unique aspect of Rock Hops was that it hosted an optional 2 and a half hour American craft beer tasting that featured breweries like Victory, Sixpoint, Weyerbacher and New Jersey’s own Carton. 

The unlimited tasting area was included in the price of a “V.I.P. ticket,” which also granted access to a V.I.P. area east of the stage. 

The oddest part was where the breweries were set up—in an ice rink area reserved for winter sports that had been adapted to host the tasting portion of the event.  Ticket holders who were participating in the tasting received a 4 oz. tasting glass and access to the rink. 

Because skating rinks are traditionally reserved for cold weather, there was no air-conditioning inside the venue—only a mere fan to provide little, most likely no, relief from the midday August heat. 

Sweaty revelers adorned in Dark Star Orchestra tie-dyes sampled the selection of craft brews—modest in breadth but not in variety. 

Victory Brewing (a solid Philadelphia area brewery) offered a sample of Saison du Buff—an extraordinary collaborative beer created by three outstanding breweries—with Delaware’s Dogfish Head and California’s Stone forming the other 2 points in the triangle.  An ale brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, the beer was a unique festival offering and itself invokes a musical tribute (Simon & Garfunkel’s version of Scarborough Fair, anyone?).

Carton Brewing Company, which I mentioned in a recent posting from my Jimmy’s No. 43 visit, was actually celebrating their one-year anniversary this past Saturday and their popularity and local appreciation did not go unnoticed.

Their enthusiastic pourers were happily sharing their Anniversary IPA and the BDG Country Ale. 

Not only did their pouring station stand out because of the fluorescent orange lettering and local New Jersey pride—their beer was a testament to their excitement.

The brand new Anniversary IPA was a pale yellow—unique coloring for an IPA but a hop profile to back up its name.   It had a grassy nose and was reminiscent of a hopped up version of their highly sessionable Boat Beer.

Another interesting offering from Carton was their B.D.G., which I can never remember the name of and always choose to refer to it by a random assortment of letters.  But once one recognizes what B.D.G. stands for (Brunch Dinner Grub) it’s easy to remember the beer’s purpose.

Which is that of an all-purpose “country ale,” meant to pair with a variety of food.  Food and beer pairing has gained wide recognition and appreciation due to brewers and foodies alike, but this ale is versatile enough to go along with almost every type of food and any meal, hence “Brunch, Dinner, Grub.”

On first taste, I acknowledged some coffee notes, while further sips brought out its heavy malt background.  Brewed in the style of an American brown ale, it was roasty and bready, but not overly heavy, and much lighter in color than many beers brewed in this style.

Aside from Carton, another local (and with a station next door) was Pennsylvania’s Weyerbacher.  The brewery is a great one, but seems to lack a large following in our area.  I’m unaware if it is even available in any of the 5 boroughs? 

I’m not sure why, because both beers being poured this day were standouts.  First was the “Last Chance IPA”, a solid IPA brewed with a variety of West Coast hops that is also a charity beer—a portion of its sales are donated to animals living in shelters and subject to euthanasia.  Drinking good beer and helping homeless animals are two things that make me happy.

Weyerbacher’s other beer was an Imperial Saison called “Seventeen.”  Peppery and citrusy, this brew was extremely quaffable despite its 10.5% ABV.

If you are a fan of Weyerbacher like we are, save the date!  On September 22,” Two Girls, One Pint” will be taking you on an unforgettable bus tour where Eastern PA’s Weyerbacher will be one of our brewery stops.

While Carton and Weyerbacher were the standout breweries of the event, a few supporting acts are also mentionable.  These include Erie Brewing Company (out of Erie, PA), Sly Fox (Pottstown, PA), and Old Dominion (Dover, DE).  Beers and breweries that are already popular and readily available in New York City like Victory, Sixpoint, and Keegan’s were present as well.  Compared to the recent Brooklyn Waterfront Beer festival, the selection was a lot more modest. 

Out of the rink and back out into the open New Jersey air…ahhh!  A large stage hosted a series of bands and more beer was available for purchase.  After being able to sample a variety of craft beers for several hours, the beer for sale left much to be desired. 

Now that was a choice I was happy to make and while awaiting some more jams (Dark Star Orchestra is not an act to be missed for you Grateful Dead fans) I was reminded of how beautifully beer and live music can go together. 

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