In 1900, there were about 2,000 independent breweries in America. Beer was made locally for a local market, and every brew had its own style that reflected its historic origins. Some top-fermenting ales dated back to the Colonial era, while many others, especially cold-fermented lagers with names like Pabst, Schlitz, and Busch, were a product of immigration from Germany and Central Europe. Closer to home, Matthew Vassar founded what was, by 1836, the country’s largest brewery in Poughkeepsie.
Today, fewer than 20 of those breweries remain. However, in the past couple of decades, there has been an enormous resurgence of independent breweries in the United States, and a great many of these can be found here in New York. From Brooklyn to Buffalo, Long Island to the Finger Lakes, there are independent breweries of various sizes throughout the state as well as restaurants and pubs with microbreweries like The Gilded Otter in New Paltz and the Hyde Park Brewing Company, producing fresh beer served up locally.
TAP New York, on April 28 and 29, at Hunter Mountain celebrates the world’s third-most-popular beverage (after water and tea), and highlights the achievements of independent breweries from all over New York. Now in its 15th year, the event, which began in 1997 as the Hudson Valley Beer and Food Festival, will feature over 45 New York breweries. Originally hosted at the Culinary Institute of America, the event moved to Hunter Mountain after two years, where it has been ever since.
Bill Woodring, president and co-founder, coordinates the F.X. Matt Memorial Cup and Matthew Vassar Cup competitions, giving awards for Best Brewery in New York State and the Hudson Valley, respectively. “There are many things to enjoy at TAP New York,” says Woodring, “but for me the thrill is the opportunity to introduce new brewers to our guests. This year we have over 15 brewers in New York who were not producing beer last year at this time and most of them will be attending as we host their coming-out party. TAP New York is unique in that it is a New York brewer only event, although several times in the past we have invited some from out of state to participate.”
This will be the ninth year at the festival for Keegan Ales of Kingston. “We were just getting started our first year at TAP New York,” says Tommy Keegan, the affable owner of the brewery, one of Kingston’s favorite haunts. When asked what he likes most about the festival, Keegan says that “on a professional level, the event draws so many people, not only locally but also from the surrounding region, from New Jersey and Connecticut. This has been very important to us in building brand recognition in those markets. On a more personal level, the event brings together so many brewers and brewery owners under one roof—it gives me the opportunity to catch up with my colleagues and the entire beer-making community.”
The economic boost to Greene County is immense. During the TAP New York weekend just about every hotel room in the Hunter area is booked and restaurants are packed. The organizers estimate that approximately 5,000 people will attend.
The culinary theme this year is Caribbean regional cuisine, and there will be cooking demonstrations from esteemed Hudson Valley chefs, including Ric Orlando of New World Home Cooking in Woodstock and Marcus Guiliano of Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville.
Festival grounds will be open from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday and 12pm to 4pm on Sunday. Advance ticket prices are $64 for Saturday, $52 for Sunday with $20 designated driver tickets available. Hunter’s Skyride will also be operating over the weekend, allowing festival-goers to take the chairlift to the summit of the resort. Leave the kiddies at home—you must be 21 years of age or older to attend TAP New York. No infants, children, or pets will be permitted to enter. Tickets can be purchased at Tapnewyork.com and HunterMtn.com.