The Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival roars back into town this weekend for three sessions of rockin,’ drinkin’ good times. Brought to you by Jon Henderson and the rest of the folks at Good Time Tricycle Productions, the event is held at the Atlantic City Convention Center 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, March 23, followed by a double dose of fun on Saturday, March 24, with two sessions — the first from noon to 4 p.m. and the second from 6 to 10 p.m.
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The Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival is one of the biggest events of its kind. Its name alone tells you two things — thousands of gallons of glorious craft beer will be up for the sampling and quite a bit of great music will be performed live, this year with a punk flair thanks to headlining appearances from Descendents, Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Pepper.
But the Beer & Music Festival is so much more than just beer and music. Almost overwhelmingly more. Want specifics? Here goes … there is the massive list of vendors selling everything from hand-rolled cigars to spreadable bacon, the silent disco, the free play arcade, a beer swilling 5k race known as “The Hops Trot,” a hatchet throwing booth (drunks throwing sharp objects — what could go wrong?) and a plethora of amazing food from local A.C. hotspots like Vagabond Kitchen and Taphouse, Tony’s Baltimore Grill and more.
Clearly if you are going to attend one of the three sessions you are going to need a bit of guidance, because you can’t do it all. Here are our picks of what to check out:
The Beers: There are nearly 200 breweries coming to the festival this year and truthfully we think you should try your best to broaden your horizons and try some stuff you may have never heard of! Of course we still have some favorites that we think you would be silly not to sample and Tuckahoe Brewing Company is first on the list. Why? Mostly because they make some really great beers, but also because they are local favorites and because their “Long Hug” is the official beer of the Atlantic City Beer & Music Fest. What does that mean? Rob Callaghan of Tuckahoe Brewing explains how they were awarded such a prestigious title: “I stopped at Jon Henderson’s office, kicked in his door and pleaded my case to him until he agreed! It is one of the biggest and the absolute best beer festivals in the United States. We at Tuckahoe are honored to have been chosen to represent the A.C. Beer & Music Festival as their official beer.”
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Of course beer and music are a natural pairing, but one brewery in particular, New York’s Alphabet City Brewing Co. has partnered with 100.7 WZXL (a sponsor of the festival) to create a literal pairing of beer and music with their “Listener Lager,” which will make its official debut at this year’s festival. Why should a radio station have its own craft beer? WZXL’s programming director Steve Raymond explained it best.
“The world of radio has changed so much and in order to really bond with our listeners, we have to like what they like, drink what they drink and become part of their world,” Raymond says. “If our core demographic likes to drink beer, why not brand our own craft beer?” Makes sense to us.
The Bands: Every year they seem to bring in great bands, but this year really knocks it out of the park. While Descendents and Pepper will certainly put on worthwhile performances, the act to catch this year is The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, whose ska-punk show is so high energy they even have one guy onstage whose sole job is to dance wildly the whole time. The crowd will surely follow suit, as it’s all but impossible not to rock out hard when songs like “Someday I Suppose,” “Simmer Down” and “The Impression That I Get” are on the setlist.
The Food: One of the best things about the Atlantic City Beer & Music Fest is that it’s held in — you guessed it — Atlantic City. Why is that great? Because A.C. has some of the best eats around, and the festival is showcasing a whole bunch of them. Our suggestion: divide and conquer. Split your group and send someone to get a burger at Broadway Burger Bar, another to grab a pizza at Tony’s Baltimore Grill, and have the last guy pick up a sub from Ernest and Son. You’ll thank us later.
Those looking to learn a thing or two about food while sipping a beer will enjoy the culinary demos offered this year. Top local chefs Michael Brennan, Pam Green and Rob English will be onstage cooking for the crowds.
The Vendors: Shopping in normal retail stores is boring. But the Atlantic City Beer & Music Fest offers the opportunity to shop for some of the most unusual goods you will find anywhere. Let’s be honest, your average shopping mall is not likely to stock spreadable bacon by the jarful, but The Bacon Jams will sell just that at B&M fest. Some other of our favorite shopping options include Thirst Quencher Neckware, a company devoted to making jewelry and other items out of bottle caps; Good Donuts, a company devoted to socially conscious and unique donuts; and Jaker’s Pickles, where you will find some of the tastiest dills around.
The Random Stuff: While beer and music are enough to get most people going, there will always be a certain group of folks who demand more. The Atlantic City Beer & Music Fest is keenly aware of this. Each year they seem to offer more and more to do. Let’s start with this year’s most exciting (and potentially life threatening) activity, hatchet throwing. Yes, you read that right, the fun-filled activity of throwing hatchets has gained popularity in recent years and if you haven’t tried it yet, what better time to start than after knocking back a few cold ones? The good folks at Chopper’s Hatchet House will be on hand to give you that opportunity. (Not responsible for lost limbs)
If whipping sharp objects across the room isn’t your speed, perhaps the silent disco will get you going. Brought to you by Golden Nugget Atlantic City’s Haven, those looking to cut a rug can throw on a pair of headphones and boogie to tracks spun by DJ Redline, DJ Aiden Scott and DJ Dave Mass.
Those searching enlightenment amidst the raucousness of the festival may enjoy Pints and Poses, an onsite Yoga class brought to you by Grace and Glory Yoga that is sure to leave you mentally and physically refreshed.
The Hops Trot: Of course perhaps the most celebrated of all the events taking place at the festival is the Hops Trot. While most 5k runs seem to have some type of do-gooder cause behind them (cancer research, special Olympics etc) the Hops Trot exists purely for its own silliness — and that’s ok. If you haven’t witnessed it, the event is simple- a race beginning and ending at the Atlantic City Convention Center that requires all patrons to run a course through the streets and Boardwalk of Atlantic City, all the while making strategic stops at various watering holes at which time each participant must drink a beer and continue racing. Participants are encouraged to have fun and dress in costume, all in the spirit of the festival. Oh, and the quicker you finish, the more time you get to spend inside drinking beer, as all who finish get automatic early entry into Session 2.
The teetotalers: Thinking of not drinking and being the designated driver instead? Bless your little heart. Tickets for non drinkers will be available at the door for just $25, and will never sell out.
While we applaud your ability to surround yourself with obnoxious drunks, we still think you deserve to have some fun at the festival. Luckily, the folks at Good Time Tricycle agree, and the list of alcohol-free activities is a long one. We suggest you make your junior high dreams come true and hit up the free play arcade, followed by a bite to eat at one of the aforementioned restaurants. If you were clever enough to come up with a great costume to wear, you just might be rewarded with a prize at this year’s first-ever costume contest. But most of all, not drinking means that you will be coherent enough to fully take in the music, culture and general tomfoolery of the day. It also means you will have plenty of stories about your friend’s antics with which to blackmail them with for years to come.
T-Pain gets sprung at The Pool After Dark
T-Pain performed at The Pool After Dark on Friday.
Photo: Tom Briglia/PhotoGraphics