Written By Lucas Jones & Ryan Demarco of News Over Brews
On Saturday, May 31st, Long Beach Island held its first annual Hop Sauce Festival (sponsored by Jetty). For weeks they had been advertising it, with more details coming out little by little. It was billed as a “craft beer and hot sauce festival”, and while that might sound awesome, we at News Over Brews had our reservations. Beer and hot sauce don’t really go well together (carbonation makes the burning sensations from hot sauce worse). Plus, would it be big enough to be worth attending? Is there a market for this kind of thing in a location that primarily house vacationing families with young children? And yet, because of our love for craft beer and ridiculously spicy food, we found ourselves In Beach Haven, lined up and ready to go. Boy, were we glad we went.
When we first arrived we were given a small tasting cup and set off towards the beer. Our plan was to taste all the brews first and the hot sauces second, because we didn’t want our taste buds ruined for the impressive line-up of breweries in attendance. Established names like Flying Fish, Magic Hat, Otter Creek, and Brooklyn Brewery were right alongside smaller breweries like Evil Genius, Ship Bottom Brewing, Rinn Duin Brewing, Pinelands Brewing, Captain Lawrence Brewing, Great Lakes Brewing Co., and Heavy Seas. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait more than two minutes for each beer, which really allowed us to dive in and experience what the festival had to offer. Here were some of our favorites:
• Ship Bottom Brewing’s Barnacle Bottom Stout. Jet black pour and creamy head, featuring strong coffee, chocolate, and oatmeal flavors. A full bodied stout with 8.4% ABV
• Pinelands Brewing Company’s Evergreen IPA. An American IPA made with whole leaf hops in the kettle, and dry hopped during conditioning. A hop-forward taste and smell, but still very crisp and enjoyable. ABV not listed
• Flying Fish’s Farmhouse Summer Ale. Available April 15 to September 1st. An earthy beer, perfect for summer without sacrificing any flavor. 4.9% ABV and 15 IBU.
• Evil Genius’ Hopking. A bitter, yet sessionable IPA. Simcoe, Citra, and Amarillo hops come together to produce an earthy IPA with notes of pine. 8.2% ABV, 96 IBU.
The hot sauce portion came next and was set up in between the beer and food vendors. It featured a ton of different vendors, styles, and levels of spice. There was a fantastic variety of hot sauces. Some vendors brought standard buffalo sauces. While other vendors upped the game with fruit based and other odd flavors of hot sauce. Two sauce vendors stood out. The first, was Voodoo Chile, a company that made quite possibly the best bacon hot sauce we have ever had. The second, was Cue Culture. They produce a line of gourmet BBQ and hot sauces, of which we purchased a Mild Texas style, a Wasabi Ginger, and an Acai Habanero hot sauce. All three were great, and we look forward to trying more. Most of the hot sauce vendors have their products at Spice It Up, located on Long Beach Island.
While the attendants were busy enjoying the various drinks, sauces and food from the local businesses they were treated to an array of bands who started in the tri-state area. The bands performed right alongside the vendors while allowing comfortable seating for those who simply were there for the music. Among the handful of bands who performed, For the Foxes headlined the event while being joined by other local legends The Brigantines (headlining the Asbury Surf Music Festival this July), The Lawsuits, Starlight Girls, and others. The music turned the event into a festival. Without it, something would be missing. It added another layer that allowed the attendants to enjoy that sample of hot sauce or finish that IPA with harmony.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was a great event that was pulled off without a hitch, and definitely opened our eyes to the wide variety of local flavors to be had in New Jersey. We can’t wait for next year. For more on craft beer, and entertainment news, like us at facebook.com/newsoverbrews and follow us on Soundcloud at soundcloud.com/news-over-brews.