In its sixth year, the Atlantic City Beer Festival has become a much loved crowd pleaser.
IT WAS ABOUT SIX YEARS AGO when Jon Henderson, president of Unsuited Entertainment, eyed Atlantic City as the perfect spot for an annual beer festival.
“We had just completed a similar type of festival, well, it was sort of similar,” he says. “But we had some success and we started looking at the city. The Convention Center is just such a great venue and there’s so much going on in the city with the restaurants and shows. It seemed like a perfect match.”
Henderson, who also owns the Cigar Box in Northfield, had no idea that the match would eventually become this perfect.
The festival has grown each year before settling in at about 17,000 visitors over the two-day, three-session event. Saturday’s two sessions are already sold out.
And this year, the festival (April 1 & 2) adds to what should be an already amazing weekend in the city as a full–scale rodeo hits town.
“It’s steers and beers in the city this weekend,” laughs Henderson. “You know you hear so many negative things about the city, but really, look at what we have here and these attractions. This is an amazing April Fool’s weekend that’s scheduled and we’re really happy to be part of it.”
“We owe a lot to a lot of people,” he says. “The city has been so supportive and our sponsors, WZXL, Harrah’s and everybody involved have been great. We have restaurants from around the city represented and so much support.”
Of course, first and foremost, the festival is exactly what the show is billed as — “A Celebration of the Suds.”
More than 75 different breweries will be represented showcasing their frosty products.
“The festival is really a celebration of craft beers,” Henderson explains. “There’s been a real trend in recent years among beer drinkers who are looking for more options to try these products. It’s no different than wine drinkers wanting to experience different wines. People like options and they like choice. You can get a little tired of just water, hops and barley.”
Some of the brands that will be showcased include Allagash, Troegs, Lancaster Brewing Company, Magic Hat, Victory Brewing Company, Brooklyn Brewery, Smutty Nose, Flying Dog, Dog Fish Head, Ommegang, Stone Brewing Company, Samuel Adams, New Jersey Brewing Company, Ithaca Brewing, Yards Brewing Company as well as Cape Ann Brewing.
The festival also offers a lot more than just beer, including food and live entertainment.
On the entertainment side, each of the three festival sessions kicks off with pipes and drums from the Founders, with separate bands scheduled for each of the three sessions. Scheduled for Friday’s session is New Jersey’s own pop rock band Life Speed. Go Go Gadget is the featured band for session 2 Saturday and the festival’s final session will feature Burnt Sienna.
It’s a pretty rocking slate for the suds festival.
“Yeah, these are pretty legit bands,” Henderson says. “We’re trying to make this the best experience possible. I mean it’s a festival. We’re even bringing in a barbershop quartet, so they’ll be wandering around doing their thing.”
On the food side of the festival, one of the star restaurants attending will be Atlantic City’s own, Tony Boloney’s. The pizza emporium will debut a series of beer infused pizza recipes at this year’s festival.
“Basically, we’re cooking the beer right into the pizza,” says Michael Hauke, owner of Tony Boloney’s. “I’m talking about the dough, the sauce, marinating the meat — everything. We’ve already tested these out and people say they taste like beer … and pizza … together. It’s pretty wild.”
Other primo A.C. area restaurants scheduled to be on hand include Phillips Seafood, Redding’s southern cuisine, The Melting Pot and W.L. Goodfellows (Absecon). Atlantic City bars represented include Game On!, The Trinity Irish Pub and Bare Exposure.
The festival also features some unique attractions. One of the most popular is the Mustache Lounge, a section of the festival billed as being dedicated to “the few the proud, the bold, individuals who have the ability and fortitude to let their lip hair grow strong.” Highlights of the mustache lounge include a variety of beer related games, prizes for best mustaches and limited beer tastings.
Over 90 breweries, many bringing varied samplings of their libations, have made A.C.’s “Celebration of the Suds” one of the largest beer festivals in the country.
The seventh annual Celebration of the Suds will have an expanded lineup of Garden State-based craft brewers and bands .
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