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Beer retailer’s first GABF trip is as much about socializing as it is sampling brews

GABF first-timer David Schultzer schmoozes first, tastes second

The scene at the GABF (photo courtesy American Brewers Association)

The scene at the GABF (photo courtesy American Brewers Association)

GABF_Logo_LRG_V_RGBBy Alan J. Wax

For Dave Schultzer, a New York beer retailer, his first trip to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver was in a word, “overwhelming.”

Schultzer, who for the past 18 years has operated Bellport Cold Beer and Soda, a beer store with more than a thousand different bottles, in Bellport, Long Island, spent more time during his inaugural Sept. 24 visit to America’s biggest beer talking with the brewery people he’s gotten to know over the years than he did tasting beer.

Schultzer was one of some 60,000 people expected  to descend on GABF this year, the largest three-day crowd in the event’s 33-year history. Tickets, released in July, sold out within an hour.

As he made his way into the sprawling exhibition hall of the Colorado Convention Center, Schultzer took note of the space’s enormity— and the plethora of bearded gents in black shirts, the defacto uniform of many craft brewery workers. “I’ve never been in a beer event anywhere near the size and scale of this thing.”

But Schultzer was unperturbed by what might lay ahead. Over the course of nearly five hours during the first of four GABF sessions, Schultzer crisscrossed the convention center’s exposition hall, the size of 10 football fields, dozens of times. “That’s a massive amount of space to cover,” he noted.

Yet, over five hours he sampled only two dozen brews of the 3,500 available while taking14 selfies with brewing industry folks on his iPhone.

Schultzer and Captaiin Lawrence's Scott Vaccarro.

The reason, he explained, was his need to re-connect with brewery owners that he helped in bringing their products t0 Long Island. He also visited with his friends from Long Island breweries. Among those he connected with were Sam Calagione of Dog Fish Head of Milton, Delaware, Scott Vaccarro of Captain Lawrence Brewing, Jeremy Cowan of Schmaltz Brewing, and Eric Wallace of Left Hand Brewing, of Longmont, Colorado. And he made new friends, too, among them Hugh Lewis of (512) Brewing Co. of Austin, Texas.

Left Hand's Eric Wallace and Schultzerx

Left Hand’s Chris Lennert and Schultzer


“That’s the fun of the show for me,” he noted, adding, “There’s so much to see and when you know a lot of people, you allot time for seeing them, but you end up with not a lot of time for yourself.”

As for the beers he sampled, he said, “We started off on a high note with a sample of Goose Island Vanilla Rye Bourbon Stout.” But he also enjoyed, he said, Barrel Licked Boot from Fort Collins Brewery, Barrel-Aged Narwhal from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Udder Love from Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, of Long Beach, California, Peanut Butter Milk Stout from Belching Beaver of Vista, California,

Schultzer said his first GABF experience was fun. “Being around like-minded people who are happy to see you is not a bad way to spend a day.”

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A charity showcase for Long Island’s brewing talent in Bellport June 13

Participants from the last Bellport  Charity Beer, Wine and Food Tasting event

Participants from the last Bellport Charity Beer, Wine and Food Tasting event. David Shultzer is fourth from right in bottom row.

An annual Long Island event that has become a launching point for some of Long Island’s newest and smallest breweries takes place on June 13, 6-10 p.m. at the Bellport Country Club.

“It’s been a cool little showcase of Long Island’s brewing talent,” says organizer Dave Schulzter, owner of Bellport Beer and Soda, one of top beer merchants on Long Island.  “It’s the first exposure for some brewers before they are anybody.”

This year’s lineup of 18 breweries includes Outer Lands Brewing and The Brewers Collective, both groups of advanced home brewers who intend to go commercial. Ten restaurants and two East End wineries also are participating,

Schulzter, who for many years has been involved in the charity tasting event, the Bellport Charity Beer, Wine and Food Tasting  marks the fifth year he’s doing it on his own with sponsorships from a local wine shop, South Shore Wines and Liquors and a home brewers group, Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts. “It’s been very rewarding,” he said of the work involved in running the event.

All proceeds from the event – beer, food and wine are donated – go to local charities.  Tickets to the Bellport Charity Beer, Wine & Food Tasting are limited to just 300. It takes place 6-10 p.m. on June 13 at the Bellport Country Club.  Local charities receive the proceeds from the event. Three hundred tickets are available. Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online.

Proceeds from event will go to Camp Pa-Qua Tuck, which serves disabled children; The Lighthouse Mission , a faith-based soup kitchen in Bellport, and for three scholarships for deserving, needy seniors at Bellport High School.

Who’s going to be there?

Participating brewers include: Barrier Brewing, Blind Bat Brewery, Blue Point Brewing, Brewers Collective, Brewers East End Revival, Brickhouse Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery, Fire Island Beer Co., Ghost Cat Brewing, Great South Bay Brewing, Greenport Harbor Brewing, Long Ireland Beer Co., Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts, Port Jeff Brewing, Rocky Point Artisan Brewers, Sixpoint Brewery and Spider Bite Beer Co.

Among the restaurants and bars participating: Avino’s Italian Table, of Bellport; Bellport Country Club; Bobbique, of Patchogue; The Brickhouse Brewery, of Patchogue, The Good Life, of Massapequa Park; American Cheese, of Sayville; Ms. Michelle’s Urban Gourmet, a gluten-free bakery/café in Bayport, and Jackson’s, of Commack.

Wineries at the event include Ospreys Dominion Vineyards, Southold, and Comtesse Therese, Aquebogue.

The Bellport Country Club is at 40 S. Country Rd., Bellport.

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