Big Brew Beer Festival 2013

Anyone who has been following this site should know of the abject failure that was the first try in Morristown. The original Big Brew Beer Festival at the Morristown Armory was a noble effort in its attempt, but it was a disaster when all was said and done. Everyone should remember the immediate mea culpa they put on their website about the bad time we all had in this thing. They didn’t account for the amount of people attending, ticket sales went awry, yada yada yada. Everyone who had been there knew exactly what a disaster this thing had been, especially those who couldn’t even get in the door or were turned away when the beer and food ran out. The biggest question was “how are we going to fix this?” Enter this year’s entry. Granted, we went to the first session of the festival as opposed to the second session we attended last year, but there were a number of things we noticed that were improved from the first go-around.

JMK Events company president Allison Kohler said that there was going to a noticeable difference from the last time around. Basically, if you’re willing to go back and give them another chance, you’ll be glad you did. Amen to that. This thing was so much better than last year. Starting off was the line to get in. Last year, we were stuck out in the cold for nearly an hour or more waiting to get in. We didn’t get to the front of the line until after the general admission ticket payers were already going through the doors. So much for the extra money we spent for VIP access and the supposed perks that were supposed to go along with them. No extra hour for us to access the choicest brews. We noticed as the doors to the general admission opened up that we who had paid extra were still waiting in our VIP line to get in and enjoy the benefits of paying extra for that ticket. That didn’t happen. This time around, we got in rather quickly and without incident. They had a backup system and a company rep on hand just in case the scanners failed like they did last year. Only they didn’t, at least I never heard anything. And to think that twice as many people were in attendance as last year (2500 this time around) and it ran this smoothly. This only gives me hope and encouragement for future festivals.

The food provided to us, created by Food Network’s “Chopped” Champion Eric LeVine, was leaps and bounds better than what we encountered last year. The food was by and large pretty fantastic and there was plenty of it to enjoy. Side note – everything we ate was beer or liquor-infused food. LeVine even did a “cooking with beer” seminar for all of us before the doors opened to the general public.

We also had a dedicated VIP Lounge, from an area in the building that I don’t think had been utilized before. It wasn’t hard to reach either, simply a side room that allowed us easy access to the choicest beers in the event while the general public had access to more “regular” craft brews. We had access to all of them as well, but our perk was the specialty brews that were only available to us. Also, we had color-coded wristbands, something that wasn’t in use last year. Our pink bands (save the commentary for later guys) were noticed by all security personnel, who picked them out from the yellow and orange bands everyone else was wearing. This gave us access to the choicest spots, while everyone else had to wait. It pays to be pink I guess. The food was miles beyond what it was last year, with the VIP Lounge providing not only traditional pub fare, but beer and liquor-infused food from the Morris Tap & Grill, of which Eric LeVine is an executive chef/managing partner.

Among the improvements:

  • Extra check-in points – (eight total. Last year it was two)
  • Ticket scanning that didn’t break down, all with a backup system and an on-site rep in attendance, just in case.
  • Additional bathrooms – plenty of porta-potties outside near the Cigar Lounge. A definite improvement.
  • Easy Entrance and Exit – The system was set up with 8 lanes through which ticket holders could enter, as opposed to the two last year after the breakdown of the ticketing system. Actually, there was only one when it failed.
  • Color-coded wristbands – Everyone who worked security knew if you belonged in the VIP area. All they had to do was look at your wrist.
  • Extra bathrooms – No more waiting for an hour to take a leak. At least a dozen porta-potties were lined up outside the venue, near the outdoor Cigar Lounge, to avert the problems from the year before.
  • Dedicated Smoking Areas – The Cigar Lounge was set up outside the armory for those who wanted to lay down a puff or two while enjoying their favorite libations.

VIP Food List:

  • Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders
  • Beer Braised Pork Cheeks w/ garlic mashed potato
  • Chicken Carnitas w/ beer pickles (Dale’s Pale Ale)
  • White chocolate and Busted Barrel Caramel Mousse
  • Braised Short Rib Sandwich w/ Fried Onions and sevendust chips
  • Voodoo chicken sliders
  • Channa Dal Salad w. avocado mousse

VIP Beer List:

  • Tuckahoe Brewing Co. – Holly Beach Pumpkin Ale
  • Ommegang – Game of Thrones “Take the Black”
  • Duvel – Tripel Hop
  • Captain Lawrence – Xtra Gold
  • Brooklyn – Silver Anniversary
  • Starr Hill Brewery – Smoke Out (Limited Release)
  • Ramstein – Barrel aged, dry hopped Oktoberfest
  • Victory Brewing – Ranch DIPA Double Simcoe, 4 Hop Bock
  • Boulder Beer Co. – Honey-of-a-Saison
  • Epic – Brainless On Cherries
  • Flying Dog – Gonzo
  • Great Divide – Wolfgang Doppelbock
  • Neshaminy Creek – Highwater Hefeweizen
  • Oskar Blues – G’Knight Imperial IPA
  • Sly Fox – Black Raspberry Reserve
  • Smuttynose – Homunculus
  • Stone – 17th Anniversary
  • Weyerbacher – Blasphemy
  • Yards – Cicada Indigenous Ale
  • Slumbrew – Attic & Eave Toasted Brown Ale
  • LakeFront Brewery – 25th Anniversary Brandy Barrel Imperial Pumpkin (the best beer I had all night)
  • 3 Beards Beer Company – Bearded Lady Rye & Raspberry Belgian Pale Ale
  • Big Muddy Brewing – 17th St. Smoked Amber Ale