On the Culture Front: NY Brewfest and the Music Tee

This past weekend, thousands of people piled on ferries to attend NY Brewfest, a truly massive offering of the incredible diversity of the craft beer movement. With over 300 beers to choose from, I knew I wouldn't even come close to tasting them all, so I limited myself to breweries I've never had before - no Bluepoint, Sixpoint, Smuttynose, Laugunitas, etc., but it turns out that list is rather long as well! My first stop was the corner of local breweries, located just inside the entrance. I was waiting for a friend to arrive, so I wanted to stay close. Turns out that wasn't a problem with several beers easily within grasp.

One of the best of that group was New York's Ellicottville Blueberry Wheat - incredibly refreshing with just a subtle hint of the fruit. Their ale and IPA were also good, but after trying this one it was hard to even remember the other two. I'll definitely look for it at bars this summer.

Other local brews of note included Maryland's Heavy Seas Loose Cannon double IPA, a complex and intensely hoppy beer, and Massachusetts' Cisco Unfiltered Wheat, a crisp hefeweizen that's almost as refreshing as the blueberry. There were also some misfires. I never quite realized how important a role gluten plays in the brewing process until I tasted Bard's Gold, a gluten-free beer that's nearly undrinkable. I poured most of mine into a nearby bush. California's North Coast Blue Star (somehow mixed in with the locals) also disappointed with a hollow and uninteresting taste.

When my friend arrived, we ventured to the stage at the back of the venue where we caught a few Grateful Dead covers by Syracuse's jam band Dark Hollow. I hadn't listened to my Dead cds in years, but there was something about standing in the sun with a craft brew and listening to them play the band's famous endless melodies. We might have listened longer if there weren't so many beers to try. Around the halfway point, it began to feel like a competition. With the hours slipping away, people became more aggressive (a couple muscled, tattooed guys walked right to the front of the line at Long Ireland) and rushed from line to line. We noticed if we hopped on a line after getting a beer, we'd be ready for another when we got up to the taps. I couldn't resist trying the Samurai Ale from Great Divide. How badass does that sound? I was really pleased with Butternuts canned IPA; their porkslap is a good summer mainstay and a bit more dynamic than the ubiquitous Pabst, though I do have a special place in my heart for the Blue Ribbon. Too bad they didn't showcase a different beer at the fest. All in all, it was a great experience, and we got to try a couple dozen beers we'd never heard of while basking in the great outdoors of Governor's Island. There's always something kind of depressing about events in convention halls, so this was a welcome change of pace, and the massive space made the massive crowd more manageable. Can't wait for next year!

If there's anything that goes hand-in-hand with beer and summer, it's band tee-shirts. The Music Tee takes it to a whole new level with high-end sweatshop-free shirts matched with designs of select bands and accompanying music downloads. The fitted tees have colorful designs on the front - my favorite's the Cold War Kids - and a tracklist on the back, mimicking the classic concert tee but taking it to a new level with an intense and focused attention to detail. They're always adding new ones and recently "released" ones for Los Amigos Invisibles and a new teenage pop singer Daisy Dares You. They're a little pricey at $45 but will definitely be a conversation starter as you stand in sweaty crowds this summer waiting for your favorite band to appear onstage.

If all the excitement makes it hard to sleep, take a long lunch on Wednesday and head over to Patricia Morrisroe's talk on insomnia at the 92Y Tribeca. The former New York magazine contributor discusses her own experiences as well as sharing what she learned from psychiatrists, anthropologists, hypnotherapists, and even "wake experts". This promises to be a thought-provoking and entertaining way to spend a lunch hour, especially if you work around SoHo.