Tropicana Atlantic City has been rooted on the cutting edge of the craft beer and spirits craze since its inception, and an event that melds both adult-beverage styles together returns to the Grand Exhibition Center 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14.
The second annual Tropicana Beer & Whiskey Festival will feature more than 60 domestic and imported craft beers, and roughly 30 brands of artisan whiskies including White Cap American Whiskey from Atlantic City’s own Little Water Distillery, which became A.C.’s first legal distillery last November.
“Putting together any new event you tend to get a little nervous, but I’ll tell you what, everything came together really well the day of the event last year, and we heard lots of positive feedback from attendees and the participants themselves on how well organized it was,” says Tropicana Food and Beverage Manager Mario Chiong. “What an array of offerings we had, and this year should be even better in my opinion.”
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Little Water’s White Cap Whiskey is aged a minimum of 24 months in once-used bourbon barrels from Davis Valley Distillery in southwestern Virginia. Chiong says Suntory distillery, which dates back to 1923, will provide an array of high-end Japanese whiskies, and Bulleit distillery of Kentucky, which has a storied history in the bourbon-making industry dating back to 1830, will also bring along some choice spirits.
Spellbound Brewing of Mount Holly will create a special beer just for the Trop event, and other breweries and their offerings include Flying Fish Brewery’s Oktoberfish and Hopfish; Double Nickel’s Vienna Lager and Session IPA; Glasstown’s 609 IPA and Octoberfest Ale; New Jersey Beer Company’s L.B.I.P.A., Hudson Pale Ale and Garden State Stout, and dozens more. Souvenir sampling glasses will be provided to all attendees.
Tropicana Executive Chef Demetrius Haronis will have an a-la-carte food menu available during the festival with several samplings priced from $3 to $6 a piece, including a Black Angus hot dog wrapped in a hand-crafted Bavarian pretzel for $4.
“If you only have one thing to eat, have that,” Chiong says. “They are phenomenal.”
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Chiong mentioned that the reason the festival is six hours long is so that guests can sample at a leisurely pace and make day out of it.
“Most similar festivals tend to be three or four hours long, and by stretching out the time frame you won’t feel the need to rush through it,” Chiong says. “The way I personally approach events like this is to seek out what I’ve never tried before — any interesting whiskies or beers I’ve never had — and sample them first. I’ll mark down what I like and then seek them out later in stores. But we wanted to give people enough time to pace themselves.”
One minor tweaking since last year’s debut was doing away with beer and whiskey seminars, although renowned local beer expert Gary Monterosso — who is also no slouch when it comes to his knowledge of artisan spirits — will be on hand to offer advice and answer questions.
“I think consensus opinion on the seminars last year was ‘Don’t talk about it, just pour me a glass,’” Chiong says, jokingly. “But Gary will have a booth right inside the venue so people can come up and ask any questions on what they’re sampling, the differences between the various styles, that sort of thing.”
Eddie and the boys are back
The beer, whiskey and food offerings alone are likely enough to draw a healthy throng of festival goers, but bringing in John Eddie and his Dirty Ol’ Band is proof that the Trop goes above and beyond to make its event attendees happy. The singer-songwriter-guitarist has been a fixture in the South Jersey area, and well beyond, for decades. His personal following will be there, and guests will be treated to some incredible original songs as well as lots of classic-rock staples.
“We have a great fan base,” Eddie says. “They promote us better than we promote us.
“I’m really excited that they invited us to come back to do this, and I’m not just saying that. Last year the whole event was really well done and interesting and just a more unique experience than one of our typical gigs. You’ve got this whole kind of festive environment going on.”
The Dirty Ol’ Band includes Eddie on a plugged-in acoustic guitar; lead guitarist of nearly 30 years PK Lavengood; drummer David Halpern; Teddy Russell on pedal-steel guitar; and either Danny Rongo or Kenny Aaronson on bass. The band is sort of a hybrid of classic rock, folk and country.
“We’re majority original, but generally when we do casino shows we throw some songs in there that people know so they can relate to us,” says Eddie, who is from Richmond, Virginia, but migrates between homes in Nashville and northern New Jersey. “It will be mostly classic rock and the stuff I grew up on.
“The band has never rehearsed a cover in its life,” Eddie adds. “I’ll call out a song and everyone will play it to the best of their ability, and we end up giving it our own personal spin. You’ll hear a lot you know and some you might not — but hopefully my originals are catchy enough that you’ll like them anyway.”
Eddie says he’ll have some family members in the Trop audience.
“I have three sisters and they’re all coming up from Virginia,” he says. “And quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a beer-and-whiskey tasting event, I’m not sure they’d be making the trip.”