There is something classically American about the summertime beer festival. These large, outdoor, events are the grown-up equivalent of the weekend camping excursions or long road-trips I used to take as a youth and then throughout college. This time, however, you are taking that trip with a few hundred of your best, new-found, beer friends. Held annually at Ommegang Brewery, Belgium Comes to Cooperstown is pinacle of the east-coast’s summer beer festivals.
Now in it’s eleventh year, the 2011 Belgium Comes to Cooperstown event was part camp-out, part beer festival, and part live concert. It kicks off with a few hundred people camped out on the 140 acre Ommegang property… an old hop farm that now produces some of the finest Belgian-style beers in America. Then, of course, there is beer… over 75 breweries from around the world came and shared some of their finest, and rarest libations. Standouts included rare bottles of both Rosso e Marrone and Cuvee de Castleton from New York’s Captain Lawrence Brewery, Chardonay-Barrel-aged Stateside Saison from Stillwater Ales, a hoppy-session ale from Vermont nanobrewery Lawsons Finest Liquids and Scratch #44, a massive Belgian quad brewed with Black Currants from the Tröeg’s Brewery, and many, many more.
Vermont’s rising-star nanobrewery, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, proves a favorite of the festival with their citra-infused Session in the Rye Ale
But beyond the beer, the festival also featured a full on music stage with live blue and rock bands throught the day and well into the night. After sundown, the brewery sparked up a giant fire pit for festival-goers to gather around, and there was even a midnight screening of Spinal Tap projected on three screen on the side of the barn. Top that off with a rousing fireworks display and you have one jam-packed 24hr festival.
Early attendees made short work of one of the festival’s highlights… rare bottles of Chardonay-barrel aged Stateside Saison from gypsy brewery Stillwater Ales.
But one of the more enjoyable aspects of the festival was in the people. Often times, festivals of this magnitude and with beer of this caliber are either (a) overcrowded or (b) overly chaotic. But Belgium Comes to Cooperstown was neither of these. The beers flowed freely, the festival was not oversold, and the whole crowd was both friendly and inviting… of course, four hours of strong Belgian beer will put just about anyone in the right mood! Overall, however, we walked away from BCTC 2011 with great memories and more than a few new friends. Mark this one down on you calendar as on of the great not-to-be-missed festivals and we’ll see you there in 2012!
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A group of revelers celebrate Gnommegang, the collaborative brew between Ommegang and La Chouffe
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