Last year we attended the Belgium Comes to Cooperstown beer festival at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY.
I’m a huge fan of Belgium beer – it started with big glasses of Hoegaarden and a bucket of mussels on Monday nights at what was my ‘local’ belgium beer cafe in Auckland, New Zealand. It was here that I first developed a taste for wheat beer. Skip forward and I found myself in Delirium Cafe in Brussels - in heaven, surrounded my the largest selection of simply the best beers. I tried to taste my way through their 2400 + selection of awesome beers, it didn’t happen but I certainly developed a taste for a strong Belgium beer.
Skip forward to our North American road trip and this beer festival was one of the first things we booked – literally I think we booked tickets to this festival before I’d even found a camper van. Tickets for 2012 go on sale April 12, here is the website with the details.
There are a few things about this beer festival that made it totally awesome (for me and hopefully for you too).
Firstly is the quantity and quality of beer available. It would seem just about every American brewery who makes a good Belgian style beer was present plus all the beautiful Belgian beers which are imported were present too. Your Duvel, the Chimay, Leffe and countless others – I honestly cannot imagine anyone being disappointed with the selection.
Secondly with your entry ticket ‘tastings’ are unlimited between 3pm to 7pm. Most of the stands are manned by volunteers so I found drinking sufficient beer no problem at all; if you liked a particular beer and wanted a full glass that didn’t tend to be a problem, likewise if you just wanted an inch to taste you just had to ask.
Thirdly with your entry ticket you get a free tasting glass, in this case it was sponsored by Duvel. My point is you’re drinking out of a beer glass, not plastic. I hate drinking good beer out of plastic.
Lastly the Cooperstown beer festival has a ticket where you can camp on the Brewery Ommegang pastures, so you don’t need to worry about transport or going anywhere after drinking. Note that these ‘camping’ tickets are only offered in a limited quantity.
After the tasting finishes at 7pm the party keeps going to midnight with a bonfire, an outdoor movie and other stuff. To be honest after four hours of blissful beer drinking we were exhausted and rather drunk – we didn’t make the movie. Also, don’t tell anyone, but we weren’t actually able to get hold of camping tickets (we don’t even have a tent) but we were not disturbed while sleeping in our camper van in the car park. Overall I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the festival, it seemed laid-back and good natured. No paranoia about alcohol control and I saw no issues or negative incidents.
Hopefully I’ll see you in Cooperstown, NY in 2012!