Field Report: North Fork Craft Brew Fest

The common thread of beer festival attendees: Everyone is thirsty.

It's not as if someone is going to stumble onto the Martha Clara Vineyard on Long Island, sans ticket, and take in the scenery without a beverage in hand. No, let there be no confusion – this is a drinking crowd.

Over 50 breweries from around the country gathered in Jamesport, NY on Saturday, August 13 to whet the palates of the unquenchable mob at The North Fork Craft Beer Festival. But there was more to see than the beer, BBQ and the occasional glass of wine. People-watching was at a premium and the weather was perfect for it.

First off, you could easily spot the veterans — they were the ones donning homemade pretzel necklaces. Similar to the candy necklace we've all accessorized with in our childhood, the pretzel necklace serves as a portable snack that's perfect to pair with ales and stouts.

Pumpkin ales are coming back into season. In fact, several breweries competed in the Applebee's–sponsored Pumpkin ale competition. When I think pumpkins, I think autumn leaves, kids dressed in Pixar-copyrighted costumes, and Thanksgiving. Not really what comes to mind in mid-August. But you've got to be prepared for the coming months, and in this case, that meant glasses with rims rolled in brown sugar to accent the spiced seasonal brew.

Plenty of mustaches, fedoras and men with ponytails roaming the open tents. Did I throw a compliment or two at a few mustachioed festival goers? You bet your ass I did. Did I wing those same kind words to the fedora clad drinkers? Of course not — only Justin Timberlake can pull off that look.

Anyway, back to beer: Brewers are starting to really branch out with bold flavors. Sam Adams took a shot with Cherry Chocolate Bock — full but tasty. Yet it was overshadowed by the far more original and daring peanut butter brew from Blue Moon. Peanut butter–flavored beer. Read that back again. Beer goes with pretzels. Pretzels go with peanut butter. Ipso facto — beer goes with peanut butter. It's almost creating, and cornering, the market of dessert beers — which should exist. I think this is the next major fad in envelope-pushing concoctions. You heard it here first.

With all the hearts pumping alcohol-spiked blood in the place, I was shocked to witness zero fights. That proves it — alcohol is essential in a utopian society.

And the best part about the beer festival is that it allows all drinkers, novices and experts, to really get to know their own taste. For the connoisseur with wino-esque snobbery, there's always a new craft brew popping up. As for the casual beer fan, it's a perfect place to do research. Listen, there's a time and a place for ordering a Bud Light. But more often than not that's due to a lack of knowledge of what else is out there. Instead of making a safe selection in the future, one can recall their preference to pale ales over wheats, a hoppier beverage rather than a plain lager. Bartenders are usually very helpful in recommending something that meets your criteria.

Although my vision was blurred the day of the event, my hindsight is 20/20. Using a beer festival to stay hydrated on a hot summer day should be worked into everyone's social calendar. Take one down, pass it around...363 days until next year's North Fork Craft Beer Festival.