Sunday, April 27, 2008

TAP New York 2008

Another TAP New York is in the history books. According to the 2008 program, TAP NY started in 1998 as the Hudson Valley Beer & Food Festival and was held at the Culinary Institute of America for it's first two years before moving to it's current location at Hunter Mountain in Hunter, NY.

Last year was the 10th year the festival was held and my first year attending. I had a blast last year. However, I ended up eating quite a bit but only sampling a few different beers (which was the main attraction) because I didn't find out about it until last minute and didn't have a place to stay. So I only tried a couple of the best sounding beers before making the hour and 15 minute drive back home.

This year my girlfriend and I prepared a little earlier. We reserved a room just a 5 minute walk up the mountain at the Kaatskill Mountain Club.

We drove up on Friday night and checked into the hotel. It was quite expensive compared to places we usually stay but upon opening the door to the room we decided that it was worth it. Our room on the fourth (top) floor had a kitchen area with full appliances, dishes and a dining room table that was open to a living area with a gas fireplace and a door to a private balcony with a nice view overlooking the Catskills. Off of the living room was a separate bedroom which also had a door to the balcony and a jacuzzi tub. Everything was very clean and neat and in good shape. Nothing was out of place or broken. There were real photographs and paintings and not the typical hotel art. I would definitely stay there again!

After we checked in we dropped our stuff off in the room and went down to eat dinner at the restaurant (Van Winkle's) in the hotel. I don't think I'd recommend the restaurant as much as I would recommend the hotel. We were seated at a table pretty quickly at around 9:30 but we waited about 10 minutes for a waiter to even come over. One waitress walked by our table multiple times actually making direct eye contact with me once and didn't respond when I said "Hello." It seemed that nobody knew who's table we were at so we ended up with a really nice and apologetic waiter named Bill. I ordered a burger from their special (abbreviated) TAP NY menu cooked medium-well and it was medium rare at best. If I wasn't starving I wouldn't have touched it. It wasn't the best burger I've had but at least it stopped my stomach from growling. My girlfriend got a pasta dish with some shrimp added to it. She said the sauce was pretty good but the shrimp were very dry leading me to make the joke that they were probably shrimp cocktail shrimp that got tossed in the microwave when they forgot to put them on the dish when they first brought it out.

Anyway, now we're up to the reason we were in Hunter, NY... TAP NY. At noon we headed down to the base lodge to meet up with a group of our friends and pick up our glasses (that appear to hold approximately 3-4 ounces) and wrist bands. At 1 o'clock the doors opened and everyone rushed in eager to drink as many of the beers as they could. Someone who is better at math than I am figured out quickly that in order to try every beer before 5 (when the doors closed) you needed to try a new sample every two minutes.

I wasn't that ambitious but I did manage to sample about 22 different beers and Heartland Brewery's Berry Champagne Ale was the only one that was so bad I had to dump it out. (I can't remember the last time I couldn't drink a beer...) I do generally gravitate towards the darker beers but I tried to switch it up a little bit and sample some ales and light wheat beers. Some of them were very good... but this one (unfortunately) wasn't.

My favorites of the day definitely swayed toward the dark stuff for the most part. In no particular order, my favorites were: Adirondack Pub & Brewery's Maple Porter, Captain Lawrence Brewing's Smoked Porter, Defiant Brewery's Stout of War, Sixpoint Craft Ale's Gorilla Warfare Porter, Rohrbach Brewing's Bluebeary Ale and John Harvard's Brew House's Oatmeal Amber Ale. Ithaca Beer Company's Apricot Wheat should also be on this list even though I didn't get around to their booth. I have had this one a couple times before (plus had one with my burger on Friday night).

I was really excited that this year's food theme was chicken but it looked like the only chicken they really had (that I could find) were chicken wings with different seasonings. That was disappointing but they did have other food such as pizza, various sausages, soups, sub platters, meatballs, hamburgers, hot dogs, cheese & crackers, pretzels, mini crab cakes, scallops wrapped in bacon, etc. I definitely had enough to eat. Almost everything was included in the admission fee aside from a few of the specialty vendors. One booth was selling chocolate covered strawberries that were 3 for $1 which I couldn't resist.

Overall, though, TAP NY was an awesome time. The beer was delicious and plentiful. The weather was beautiful aside for a little rain around 9:30 on Saturday night and a cool morning on Sunday. The hotel was great and I got to see some friends that I haven't seen in awhile. All in all it was an awesome weekend. (Note to self: I need to get a jacuzzi tub and a fireplace when I buy a house!)

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