One of the things that always intrigues me about beer festival is the roster of brewers. On September 16, 2017, the Garden State Brewers Guild held Jersey Drafts & Crafts Festival at iPlay America in Freehold, NJ in which the brewers in attendance represented nearly one-third of those in operation within the State of New Jersey. In addition to breweries, other vendors such as cheese, chocolate, snacks and craft items had tables at the event. Although I attended the event as a volunteer with Flying Fish Brewing, I was able to walk around and sample from many breweries, especially those that I never tried in the past.
My first stop was at Carton Brewing’s table in which they poured their recently released 10% Double IPA, EGOIPA. Although I found that to be very enjoyable and one that eluded me all of last year, I felt that EGOIPA would set the bar for the festival as far as my favorite beer. When I approached the VIP table, I was lucky to sample Hop N Awe (10.3% DIPA) from Angry Erik Brewing and It’s Dam Cool Turkish Coffee Porter (7% Porter) from Magnify Brewing, both of which turned out to be amazing in their own right. One of the newer breweries in attendance, Death of the Fox Brewing (Clarksboro, NJ), they poured a New England IPA called Hazy Crazy Diamond, which was absolutely enjoyable.
As with any of my beer festival reviews, I need to point out a few flaws that occurred. The most obvious was the fact that this festival did not sell out (neither GA or VIP). The Garden State Brewers Guild is known for their annual beer festival held on the Battleship in Camden, NJ; however, there was hardly any advertisement of the Freehold event and any attempt of doing so was done by the brewers and vendors in attendance. Another flaw was that distilleries were supposed to be part of the festival and drink tickets were allocated for those samples; however, they were turned away at the last minute with no notification communicated to ticketholders until an hour before the festival ended. Finally, I was somewhat confused as to why a listing of VIP beers was not published, only because other New Jersey breweries were represented but not advertised.
Although it was my first beer festival attended with only New Jersey breweries, I had an enjoyable experience. The fact that I was pouring beer for Flying Fish Brewing only enhanced my experience and I cannot thank them enough for allowing me to do so. If this event is to be held in 2018, I am curious if it will be held at the same venue or at another location.