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Signs of spring: New beer standouts at the Long Island Craft Brewers Festival

Katie Joos taps a cask of Great South Bay Brewings' supper dry hopped  Massive IPA with Condzella hops

Katie Joos taps a cask of Great South Bay Brewings’ super dry hopped Massive IPA with Condzella hops, one of several special kegs available.

It was the first sign of the season: the Spring Craft Beer Festival at Long Island’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Beer fest logo

After days of rain and cool temperatures, on March 9 the sun shone bright, the sky was blue and the temperatures more moderate. Inside the Coliseum’s sprawling exhibition hall, bright smiles abounded on the faces of brewery reps and volunteers pouring beer and on the hundreds of attendees sampling their wares

And what wares. There were perhaps a hundred beers from more than 50 brewers— some of them familiar, many less so. A few brands were new to the region, among them Dark Horse, Horney Goat and Redd’s Apple Ale. Discovering new breweries and tasting exciting new products makes attending festivals, such as this event, produced by Starfish Productions of Bay Shore, worthwhile.

Volunteer Rich Thatcher of LI Beer & Malt Enthusiasts is all smiles as he pours Pabst Blue Ribbon

Volunteer Rich Thatcher of Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts is all smiles as he pours Pabst Blue Ribbon beer,

And while there were ciders, too, plus jerkies of all sorts, hot sauces, cigars, t-shirts and beer collectibles, beer, of course, was the star of the show. Among the brightest examples, at least for me:

— Reserve Special Black Ale by Dark Horse Brewery of Marshall, Mich., a rich roasty example of the style.

— Crooked Tree IPA, another Dark Horse entry. A big chewy, golden brew that screamed hops with some malt to back the big hop profile and a winey finish.

Euphoria, a 9% abv Belgian-style strong ale from Ruckus Brewing, a Manhattan-based contract brewer that plans to open in Allentown, Penn. Hazy gold in color, this delicious brew was smooth as silk and it’s high alcohol level deceptive.

New Burton IPA by Newburgh Brewing Co.  A balanced, British style brew.

Brown Ale by Newburgh Brewing Co. A deep brown, chewy brew with roasty notes and a bittersweet finish.

Saison by Newburgh Brewing Co, A cloudy golden brew with a spicy nose. Dry and herbal.

Fire Down Below, an Irish red ale by Spider Bite Beer Co.  It’s amber and it’s amply hopped as per the brewery’s trademark style.

Silver Anniversary Lager by Brooklyn Brewery.  A beautiful, well-balance 9% abv doppelbock that was among the best beers I sampled.  It’s an amber, full-bodied brew with sweet, juicy malt and caramel flavors intertwined with hops.

Timmerman’s Strawberry Lambic by Brewery Anthony Martin. Some Belgian Lambics are too sweet or too fruity. This pink-gold hued brew offered up a delicate strawberry nose and on the palate reminded me of strawberries and cream and surprisingly, no cloying sweetness.

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