Last Saturday, wineries and breweries from across the country gathered under one roof at the Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch, NJ for the Grapes and Grains Festival, hosted by New Jersey 101.5. This traveling event circled up an impressive lineup of well known craft beers and a wide range of wines that were capable of satisfying almost any palate. Though originally intended to be held outside but pushed indoors by the sketchy weather forecast, a lack of sunshine didn’t stop the flow of alcohol and the sound of the BStreetBand jamming to some of Springsteen’s greatest hits.
Before even taking a look at the list of alcohol vendors, it’s easy to see this event is a steal. $40 in advance or $50 at the door got you four hours of unlimited samplings of both wine and beer, and the pours were always generous. There were light, crisp whites to enjoy on a warm summer night and richer, bolder reds to pair with your steak fresh from the grill. Some highlights from the vineyard included Rutherford Ranch’s Sauvignon Blanc, which comes straight from Napa Valley boasting melon and lemongrass aromas combined with bright lime and grapefruit flavors, and Hope Family Wines‘ Troublemaker Red, which had interesting flavors of black cherry, nutmeg and tobacco.
When it came to beverages of the carbonated persuasion, there were countless breweries that I was extremely excited to see in attendance: Allagash, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog, River Horse and Smuttynose, to name a few. But there was one table that had something special, and it wasn’t just the crowd gathering around it that seemed unable to leave. This crowd-inducing beverage was Crabbie’s Ginger Beer.
I was skeptical at first; I like ginger dressing on my green salad at sushi, but I don’t typically gravitate towards the flavor otherwise. My hesitance grew significantly as I saw them put ice in the glass. But then I noticed the faces–faces of people who were taking one sip of this beverage and were blown away. So I indulged and immediately understood. This crisp libation packs a spicy ginger essence that goes down smooth like a perfect summer cocktail, without actually being a cocktail. If you’re a stout drinker, this probably wouldn’t be your first choice; but I highly recommend this beer with an interesting kick for those looking for a fresh, new drink to sip on this summer.
If you are wishing you didn’t miss out on this festival, you haven’t just yet! There are two additional opportunities to get your booze on and sample what all the amazing craft breweries and wineries have to offer. Head down to Atlantic City this weekend, June 7, or make your way up to Maine for June 21 for one of the best festivals of the summer.