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The Best Beer at the NYC American Craft Beer Fest

What do you get when you put a pumpkin in a barrel?  You get hands down the best beer at this weekend’s New York City American Craft Beer Festival, at least in my humble opinion.  And it wasn’t even in the fancy VIP room, it was with the more common offerings on the main show floor. 

The beer I’m referring to is already one of my favorite fall treats, the boozy vanilla bomb that is Southern Tier’s Pumking.  Southern Tier has managed to make the ‘king even more noble by sending him to finishing school in fresh oak barrels.  The result is Oaked Pumking, a beer with a huge, sweet flavor, and enough oaken complexity to keep you taking sips, probing its delightful nuances.

Up to now this beer has only been available on draft in very limited quantities, but according to the volunteer who poured my sample (he’s a serial-volunteer for Southern Tier and seemed to know his stuff) they will be releasing it in bottles this summer, so keep an eye out for it.  I also asked if Southern Tier had any plans to release an Oaked Oat or play with whiskey barrels, and he said I should stay tuned.  I certainly will. Their Blackwater Series and barrels were made for each other.

I found it interesting that this treat wasn’t in the special VIP room that cost extra moolah to get into (I got in on a press pass), rather it was one of the two beers Southern Tier was pouring for folks who had purchased general admission tickets.  Nice.

There were a few interesting selections in the VIP area (Founders Curmudgeon Better Half – my second favorite beer of the day – DFH Noble Rot, Midnight Sun Panty Peeler, Goose Island Pepe Nero, etc.), but I think I’ve been totally spoiled by the Pints for Prostates Rare Beer Tasting at GABF, because this lineup wasn’t even close.  There was a bunch of stuff in the “special” room I can get at my local beer store, so just how “special” is it?

All in all, the beers in the VIP room were well-chosen and there were places to sit, a folk singer in the corner, and passed plates of food, so it was a cool place to chill out.  But my favorite beer of the day was out there rubbing elbows with the sales-volume-driving riffraff brews, which I think is awesome.

There’s always something good hiding in plain sight at beer festivals.

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Categories: Beer, Event, Lifestyle

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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4 Comments on “The Best Beer at the NYC American Craft Beer Fest”

  1. March 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    I knew it! More seasonal shifting! A pumpkin beer in the summer! Although, I guess the aging process kind of dictates the release. Does the oak barrel aging make it taste less like Kix cereal than the regular version?

    • March 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

      No, just a more refined version of Kix, or like Kix eaten out of an oaken bowl…

      …mmm…

  2. March 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I am troubled by the phenomena in general of “VIP sections” and “Brewmaster’s tents” and whatnot at beer festivals. Is it not enough to pay the $30-50 ticket price just to be able to get in? You also have to pay a second fee to get to all the stuff that is the reason you’re there?

    This wouldn’t be an issue at all if you could pay for a ticket SOLELY to the VIP section, but of course that will never happen. All in all, how much can I be expected to have to pay to go to a festival?

    There are even ones showing up these days where you simply can’t get into the area with the special beer, even if you’re willing to pay for that priviledge. This year’s Chicago Craft Beer Week closing party will be like that for me. The scenario: I live downstate, and will only be able to visit for a day or two, so I intend to hit the closing party to be able to taste the widest possible array of things. But wait! You can only get into the VIP section of the closing party by having visited about 10 participating bars in the past week and getting checks on a card. So clearly, if you don’t live in the city proper, this isn’t something you’re going to have access to. Never mind the fact that I’m FROM the city, I’ll still be barred from any chance of getting to try all the beers that the folks will be talking about the next day.

  3. March 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    I usually like ST’s beers but this is probably too sweet for my beer palate–’bout the only punkin beer I’ve had that I really liked was DFH’s Punkin’ Ale–but I’ll give a it try if it rolls around to the beer cave. Now oaked oatmeal stout sounds like another thing altogether–yummm!

    Like the Kid, I also object to elitism in a community that reputedly eschews such things. If there’s a pedestrian price and a premium price, then the sponsors should just say so up front and the customer should be apprised of and able to opt for one or the other at the ticket booth. (Anything else begins to sound like the kind of hidden-cost games the airlines have been playing of late.) I also know that when I go to a beer festival I want to try to get in at least a few words w/ one or more of the brewers, and I can almost guarantee where they’ll be sequestered if there’s a premium tent at a fest. As an unabashed egalitarian that kinda thing makes my wallet and taste buds migrate somewhere else real fast!

    (Are you listening out there fest organizers?)

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