The Brew Hop: Cheers to a good run, good beers, and a good time!

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The run. Photo by Key Frame Photography

A new piece by Kate E. O’Hara

If you missed the Brew Hop 5K + Craft Beer Festival held at Randall’s Island Park on Sunday on September 18th, get your running shoes and beer palate ready, and mark your calendar for next year.

The bright sunshine and the scenic park set the stage for the 5K run (or walk) along the East River. Once runners finished the race they entered the festival area which included unlimited beer samples from participating breweries, food trucks, and live music. A nice touch was that the runners received the perfect combination of souvenirs: a finisher’s medal and a pint glass with a Brew Hop koozie.

But, I confess, I did not participate in the run. I merely ran from beer tent to beer tent in the festival area. And, the festival area was just that: festive. Runners, of all ages donning their medals, chatted, laughed, and sipped to the sounds of the High and Mighty Brass Band and Argonaut & Wasp. The only thing missing was signage. I love a good ol’ fashion display of banners and PR material—especially since this event benefited City Harvest, the world’s first food rescue organization, and one of my favorite charities. The Brew Hop organizers were donating 10% of the proceeds directly to City Harvest and it would have been great if the City Harvest logo, along with the striking Brew Hop logo, were amongst the beer tents.

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I ran from beer tent to beer tent…Photo by Key Frame Photography

My first major decision upon entering the festival was what beer tent to visit first. In honor of my Bronxite family (shout out to the McMahons and O’Haras!) I headed straight for Gun Hill Brewery and had myself a Haka, recommended by Hector. It was a blond ale, dry hopped with New Zealand hops, which translated to me as a real tasty beer with mild bitterness and fresh aroma. I then moved over to Bronx Brewery for their No Resolutions IPA, poured by Andrew. My immediate reaction, “Wow, this is so light and smooth.” Andrew’s fitting response, “Yeah, an all day kinda beer…or after a 5K run…” I agreed.

From the Bronx I traveled to Queens, home of SingleCut Beersmiths, to try out Billy 18-Watt IPA, which had a bitterness to it yet was nicely balanced with a citrus finish. So with my plastic tasting cups stacking up, I lined up for a beer at the Brooklyn Brewery tent for a Sorachi Ace. It was golden ale with a clean malty taste but also bright with a touch of spice. As she poured, Alexandra described it as “so unique.” I think she’s right about that.

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Unlimited beer samples…Photo by Key Frame Photography

At Alphabet City Brewing Company I had their flagship beer, Easy Blonde Ale–and that it was; smooth and light bodied. Next door (er, tent), I tried some Blood Orange Pale Ale from Great South Bay Brewery, which I thought was aptly named with a taste that complimented the fading summer weather. From there I wanted to try an ale from Captain Lawrence Brewing, but they were all out. I was disappointed but I suppose I now have a good reason to take a trip to Elmsford, New York.

So onward I went…

At the KelSo Beer Company I tried a Nut Brown Lager. I love all dark beers, so I really enjoyed the light chocolaty flavor and medium body. Over at the Six Point Brewery tent I tried Tesla Lager. It was crispy with a distinct citrus hop. At Blue Point Brewing, I tasted their Mosaic Session IPA, which I found to be light bodied, with a dry finish and a hint of tropical fruit. Over at the Rockaway Brewing I gave their ESB a try. It was smooth with a bitterness that was balanced with sweetness. And, I wrapped up my beer tasting escapades at Third Rail with a Farmhouse Ale, which was perfect for an outdoor event; hints of herbs, spices and earthiness.

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It was a bright sunny day at the scenic park. Photo by Key Frame Photography

But, in fairness, I had to try all beverages at the festival. I made a quick stop at Original Sin for a taste of their dry, crisp, refreshing hard cider. Then, off to Spiked Seltzer for Cape Cod Cranberry. I expected sweetness but there was truly a light Champagne taste instead. I then ended at Crabbie’s Ginger Beer. I really like their original with a slice of lime, but never had the Scottish Raspberry. After my first sip, I was equally impressed. The brightness of the berry was a great combination with the ginger.

In addition to the delicious beer and beverage tastings, the festival had a section of “good eats.” Runners lined up for the delicacies of Bareburger, Blossom Ice Cream, and Ponti Rossi Italian Food Truck. I saw lots of grins and empty dishes. With my focus on the breweries, I know I have organic burgers, hand-rolled ice cream, and Spaghetti Pomodoro in my near future.

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The finish line…Photo by Key Frame Photography

So, as the day came to close the end, I realized in addition to learning about great beers, I learned about some great people. From the representatives at the breweries, to the runners, to the walkers, to the beer fest only attendees (which seemed to be just me!), and two lovely ladies in particular, Lani and Moni, who shared both stories of their beer festival adventures and their lives as sisters, the day was filled with smiles, warmth, and friendliness.

There’s nothing quite like beer to bring people together. I even think of crafting some beers myself at home. If you’re thinking of it too – you can check this website.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the second annual.