AC Beerfest 2014
Boy do I love heading to Atlantic City for a weekend trip of drinking beer and fun at the casinos. I’ve been going to AC – as we all call it up here – pretty much yearly since I moved to NJ in 2002. I’ve also been attending the AC Beer and Music Festival since the beginning. Back in its early day, this wasn’t a beer AND music festival. They didn’t have live entertainment in the early goings, not like it is today anyway. I believe that was added the second or third year and has grown since. But I’ll tell you this much, for as big as it was the first time I went – which happened to be their first offering – since then it has grown to behemoth size just in time for its 9th annual event. The floor size is twice as big and there are more people than ever coming to this thing. If I had to give an estimate of floor size, I’d say this entire thing covered at least two football fields, if not three. And in case I forgot to mention, this thing always sells out. Boom.
I want to mention again that this is not my first rodeo with the AC Beerfest. Like I said, I’ve been to this thing since before they had music. Some fun facts about AC Beer Fest – in 2006 it began with 5,000 attendees over two days, myself included. Within four years it had tripled in size. Since it added music acts to the event, it has grown exponentially and now hosts a couple major headliners and a handful of independent bands, making it the most anticipated event in New Jersey, as well as one of the largest in the US. Last year The Reverend Horton Heat was a main attraction, this time around Less Than Jake was performing. There are over 100 breweries being represented and sharing their beers, close to a dozen restaurants and their culinary offerings and a slew of vendors the country over who are putting forth their goods and services. You also get to see culinary demonstrations from local area chefs, beer seminars hosted by various brewers and beer-related personalities and other fun activities. I remember the beginning when it was a fraction of this size. Man has this thing taken off. I’ve been to thing several times over the years, but this is the first time I had the chance to see it from the other side of the brewer’s table. Like the Chilltown beer fest that I wrote about recently, I was behind the counter pouring beers for the paying attendees, rather than being one of them. This was also just my second time working a beer festival in an official capacity. I still find it so interesting the new perspective I have of these things when I get to be on the other side of the table.
This beer festival started with Session 1 in the afternoon hours on Friday April 4th. We had agreed to work both sessions 2 and 3 on Saturday. Session 2 ran 12-4pm and Session 3 ran from 6-10pm. Oh boy, I thought. A whole day in AC surrounded by my new friends from the breweries and plenty of people wanting to see me because I had plenty of good stuff to share with them. Irv and I drove down early that morning and we arrived at the AC Convention Center sometime around 10:30 or 11. We immediately went to work surveying the area and setting up our stations – I was pouring for 21st Amendment Brewery and I believe Irv had Uinta and Elysian. Before long the doors flew open and the lines began to form. The feeling of anticipation and excitement was palpable. This thing was a lot bigger than Chilltown and I want to make sure I’m there and ready to handle it.
Before it all kicked off, I had a special friend stop in at the table next to me – Brant Schweinsberg. I mentioned him in the Chilltown article and was excited to be working alongside him in this new adventure. We had a great time pouring beers all day for many of the folks who came through the doors, eager to savor the malt and hops orgy that was presented for them across the floor of the convention center. I ran into a few friends – one that I knew would be there, and another I was shocked to see. She was as surprised to see me pouring her beer as I was to see her on the other side of the table at a craft beer festival. Good times indeed.
Speaking of people you would be surprised to see, Brian O’Halloran stopped in to pay us a visit. You may remember him as Dante Hicks in Kevin Smith’s cult classic film “Clerks” as well as several sequels/spin-offs that revolve around the antics of Jay and Silent Bob. He hung out with Brant and the gang from NJ Beer Co. for a while. Between sessions, Irv and I had the chance to survey the festival grounds, i.e. the entire floor. This thing was huge, but all that walking was just what the doctor ordered. Standing in one place for hours at a time can’t be good for your circulation. Getting around and moving definitely helps. Not to mention, it gave us an opportunity to chat with other brewers on the other end of the floor and grab food and drink to enjoy. It was like being a festival attendee after all. And man, was I hungry at that point.
The second session started off like the first, and while I didn’t get a chance to view the lines prior to setting up for the first session that day, I did get to see them for the later entry while I was walking the floor in between the two. And dude, it was big. See the included pics for what I mean. The second session was much like the first, a sell out crowd, plenty of people eager to imbibe all the different flavors we were offering and expand their beer knowledge. One thing I wanted to note is that during the two sessions, I opened literally hundreds of cans of beer in one day. Whatever I can do to make the people happy I guess. All that being said, I still had fun and enjoyed the time I spent serving the masses.
When it was all said and done, I had the opportunity to meet plenty of new people, plenty of brewers – those I hadn’t already met at Chilltown – and I got to enjoy plenty of food and drink being offered throughout the day. I want to give special thanks to Susan Greene and the Global Brewers Guild, with whom I had a great time working this event and I certainly look forward to doing it again in the near future. For all of you have never been to AC Beerfest, I suggest you plan a weekend getaway for next April and coordinate with friends/book a hotel room and buy your tickets. If not, get a designated driver – their tickets are pretty cheap. Regardless, come on down and enjoy the beer and the music being offered at a reasonable price. You’ll be glad you did. Cheers!