Spring in the Hudson Valley is typically rife with celebrations, with Memorial Day kicking off the fair and festival season, with events nearly every weekend. As the regional craft beverage industry has boomed, so have the number of beer, wine, and spirits fests. But with large gatherings banned, early-season fests like Tap NY, a popular craft beer and food fest slated for late April, couldn’t happen—and now mid-season events are in question.
Robibero Winery in New Paltz hoped to host their annual Sangria Fest in July, but felt less confident in doing so safely and canceled the event. “Even without the mandates we can clearly see that there is no reasonable way to have our event and maintain any type of social distancing safety measures,” says owner Harry Robibero. “Miracles do happen, so we keep a small glimmer of hope. We’ll get through this year by fully implementing all health and safety guidelines whether they’re mandated or not.”
Nearby in Marlboro, Benmarl Winery is holding out hope for their event, the Hudson Valley Sangria Festival, though Angelo Chruchi, the tasting room manager, says it will depend on what the state permits. He advises checking the Benmarl events page for updates.
Others are adamant that the show must go on as soon as legally possible. The Hops on the Hudson beer festival in Cold Spring was supposed to take place late June but now has a tentative outlook for late July or August, and is exploring new locations, as the town of Cold Spring has reportedly expressed reservations about hosting a festival.
“The new goal is to have it the day after Phase Four starts,” says John Scherer, spokesperson for the event, and father of festival organizers, siblings Lizzy and Peter Scherer. John, a retired engineer, created an in-depth, 20-page reopening plan to present to venues and vendors, citing precautions like attendance limits, six-foot spacing between vendors, hand sanitizer stations, and maze-like guideposts to herd attendees through beer and artisan tents. “The new version of the festival would be set up like a farmer’s market concept, with small tents for breweries, cideries, and artisan vendors, plus food trucks,” he says. Attendance would be capped at 500. For comparison, last year’s inaugural festival in June brought in around 800 people, and their follow-up fall festival saw 1,000.
Foregoing logistical complications and health risks, other festival organizers are opting to keep their events safe and socially distanced by taking them online. The Virtual Craft Beer Tasting Experience held by the NYSBA and GrowlerWerks on May 2 took advantage of the relaxed liquor laws under COVID-19. With the purchase of a ticket, participants had 64 ounces of exclusive beers shipped to their doorsteps. During the event, they connected with the brewers via Zoom, and were treated to a 90-minute livestream tour of each participating brewery. Industrial Arts, with facilities in Beacon and Garnerville, was one of the four breweries featured at this event. “It was a great way to connect with our fans during a difficult time for us all,” says Jeff O’Neil, founder of Industrial Arts.
Untappd, a social media app for beer enthusiasts, will be hosting the first-ever Untappd Virtual Festival in conjunction with Poughkeepsie-based Half Time Beverage on June 13-14. The idea is simple and engaging: Guests purchase a curated box of beer, dubbed the Drinking Socially Package ($89.99), and then drink along during livestream guided tastings followed by Q&A sessions that guests can participate in. The beer package sold out quickly, but a Stay at Home Stream ticket ($15) is still available, providing access to the virtual tastings which include hometown brews like Sloop Brewing’s wildly popular Juice Bomb, a hazy New England IPA, and a bock from Industrial Arts Brewing. A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the Restaurant Strong Fund, which is raising funds to support service industry employees nationwide that have been impacted by the COVID-19 restaurant closures.
For cider lovers, Cider Week Hudson Valley will take their 10th-annual weeklong event online from June 20-28, including virtual tastings, orchard and cidery video tours, cider pairings with recipes from local chefs, daily mixology classes, and panel discussions, among other events that are all free with online registration. “This is a different territory for the cider community, but it’s an adventure we’re exploring together,” says Scott Ramsey, executive director of the NY Cider Association, headquartered in Beacon. “The silver lining is the opportunity to build something new, a space we can learn and create best practices for events going forward.”