Distributor Zach Moehle, left, and Brewmaster Jason Tsangarides of Coastal Extreme Brewing serve up samples of their flagship beer, Newport Storm.
DALTON, Mass. — More than 600 beer enthusiasts flooded the field at Holiday Brook Farm on Saturday evening to attend the 6th annual AugtoBeerFest, presented by Kelly's Package Store.
Kelly's owner John Kelly said the festival this year was a huge success, culling more than 150 different beers from craft and European breweries and drawing guests from as far away as New Jersey to the event, which benefited the Dalton Community Recreation Association.
"We're celebrating my husband's birthday and he loves beer," Pittsfield resident Gwen Davis said, "[and] when we found out it was for the CRA it made it even better ... we're definitely coming next year."
Last year's festival battled against the oncoming Hurricane Irene, which dampened the attendance, bringing in only about 150 diehard fans, according to Kelly.
The idea for the festival was born six years prior when Kelly, at the time a Dalton CRA board member, thought of it as a way to raise money for the organization, promote his business, and showcase craft beer.
"We wanted to do an interesting fundraiser that promotes our business and helps the community," Kelly said.
The festival is expected to raise between $3,000 and $5,000 for the CRA.
"We are big into community," said Jason Kelly (no relation to the owners), the store's IT manager and cheesemonger. "The Kelly family recently received the Gib Kittredge Award and the Dalton CRA, schools, businesses, homes, and every person would give you a different story about what Kelly's means to the community or how they have been helped by the family."
He stressed that the festival required months of preparation. The beers were selected not only for the quality of the brew, but for diversity.
"Another goal of ours was to include the whole of beer drinkers," John Kelly said. So in addition to the more traditional beers available, several types of craft ciders were present and eight different gluten-free beers.
"We look at this as the wine industry was 25 years ago," said Kelly, who believes the wide diversity of beers and the excitement of beer fans are similar to the modern interest in wine in the United States.
Kelly's prides itself on obtaining beers that are rare, or unseen in the Berkshires, bringing in breweries such as Coastal Extreme Brewing Co. from Newport, R.I., which distributes in the Berkshires exclusively to Kelly's.
Music was provided throughout the festival by Lady Di & Her Knights.
"Kelly's found us because they're that good," said Zach Moehle, regional distributor for Coastal Extreme.
Jeff Nardane, sales director for Mayflower Brewery of Plymouth, commented on the quality of the crowd.
"Great people. I do a lot of festivals and there are always a few knuckleheads. But here there aren't any," he said. "Usually, the most common question we get is 'which one has the highest ABV (alcohol by volume),' but there's been lots of great questions [here]."
His sentiment was echoed by Coastal Extreme brewmaster Jason Tsangarides.
"They want to learn about beer. They're not here to get drunk, they're here to enjoy a quality product," he said.
The festival also served as the release party for four beers, including from Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, N.Y. Ommegang Regional Market Manager Mike Larson was at the festival handing out samples of new Scythe and Sickle Harvest Ale, which arrives in stores this week.
Clockwise from top: a salmon slider with lettuce and tomato; pesto sandwich with sweet potato nuggets; the fast disappearing bruschetta. The other guy had a burger, like he always does. Said it was good.
Well, last Friday to be truthful.
Before we went to see just how Buffy our 16th president could be, we stopped for dinner at The Hub on Main Street in North Adams.
It was hot, and we were about to spend two hours in a seated position, so I opted for something light and fast.
My new favorite at the Hub is the salmon sliders on the specials menu — not too little, not too big, not too pricey. And they're always cooked just right.
Two sliders for $4.50 plus bruschetta with mozzarella, tomato and garlic. Seriously, you can live on their appetizers and soups. The only thing missing was a pomtini, sigh.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — North Adams plays host to the 11th annual Berkshire Food Festival on Sunday, June 24, from noon to 4 on Main Street. The event features the cuisine of the area's top restaurants along with beer and wine tasting.
Attendees can also enjoy an eclectic mix of live music from local bands Tom Corrigan and the Reformers and Jungle Work.
The north side of Main Street will be closed to motor vehicle traffic and large festival tents will be erected to shade vendors and patrons. The fare will range from traditional to the adventurous. Thirteen local restaurants and food vendors will line the streets with everything from sushi and Indian cuisine to pizza and ice cream.
Returnees include favorites Wild Oats Market and Spice Root of Williamstown, and Lickety-Split at Mass MoCA and some newbies - Public Eat and Drink and SoCo Creamery.
The offerings have to be purchased by ticket, which can be bought that day at booths on the street. The tickets are valued at $1 each and can be redeemed for food, beer or wine items priced in the $1-$5 range.
This year's festival includes a focus on microbrew beer and locally made wine. Eight breweries, wineries and distributors will set up with staff on hand to educate the public about their specific brands. Beer will be provided compliments of Berkshire Brewing Co. of South Deerfield, Madison Brewery of Bennington, Vt., Wandering Star Brewery of Pittsfield and Paper City Brewing Co. of Holyoke. Mead, also known as honey wine, will be provided by Green River Ambrosia of Greenfield and Maine Mead Works of Portland; Headwater Cider Co. of Hawley will bring samples of organic, hard cider made from locally harvested apples. Additionally, Kelly's Package Store of Dalton will be serving an assortment of imported and domestic fine wines and craft ales.
Berkshire Food Festival is sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union and Northern Berkshire Health Systems. Additional sponsors include Berkshire Menus, Aladco Linen Services and Allied Waste.
Wing Fling Draws Hundreds, Tingles Taste Buds
By Andy McKeever On: 01:16PM / Tuesday June 19, 2012
Winner, winner, chicken dinner. More photos can be found here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Olde Forge Restaurant took home the most awards at the 21st annual Wing Fling on Saturday while some others popped into the rankings for the first time.
The people's choice for both the tradition and hot wings as well as the ribs all went to the Olde Forge while Ozzie's Steak and Eggs reeled in the people's choice for best original wings.
In the judge's picks, Zucchinis won the traditional category, with Olde Forge in second and Spice in third; Mission Bar and Tapas won the original, with Betty's Pizza Shack in second and Zucchinis in third; and Halpin's Grub and Grog won the hot category, followed by Olde Forge and Flavours.
The judges also picked the Olde Forge for the best ribs.
For the second year in a row, iBerkshires has sacrificed our taste buds to help out judging at the annual contest. We, again, voted in the hot category and we're starting to get pretty good at judging these things.
Last year, I found that many of the entrees in the hot category focused on bringing the heat and that may have hurt their overall flavor. This year, the heat was tamed a bit and it resulted in great tasting wings.
I like hot wings, so I am looking for the restaurant that handles both taste and heat — I want to both sweat when I eat and for the wings to taste good.
I was torn on my top picks this year; as a judge you cannot tell which restaurant is which, so I can only deduce which ones I voted for. My choice came down to two and it was not easy.
I think that my No. 1 choice was Halpin's because I remembered the sauce was the talk of the competition last year. The chefs at Halpin's certainly don't want me to taste any other wing after theirs with the use of what I suspect is ghost chili. The atomic red color obviously stood out and I held those wings off until last.
While last year, I ranked them lower because of the intense heat, this year they had a much fuller flavor. The heat was mostly a back heat and came after eating the wing and then lingered for next half hour or so. But before that intense heat, the sauce tingled the taste buds with various flavors. They mixed the heat and flavor perfectly this year.
Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski was one of the members of the judging panel, which included some of the county's political and social leaders.
My second place choice, which I suspect was from the Olde Forge, had a great, great flavoring to it. While it was hot, it didn't blow me away. I went back and forth because the judging is supposed to be for the best tasting wing and not the hottest. When I first ranked them, I listed these wings first.
I moved further down my list and looked over my notes and then I didn't know what to do with the hottest ones. I couldn't take away points because of the heat this time because it did not overshadow the flavor.
I went and ate each wing again. The second wing from each changed my rankings. Those atomic hot wings really did it right — it hurt to eat but was well worth the pain and for that, they earned my vote.
I have no idea who my third place vote went to but I know they had a very sweet but hot sauce.
I am not a food expert but I am getting better at these judging food competitions. In the last year I've judged pizza, chili and wings. It is never an easy task because the chefs take tremendous pride in the food they make and when it comes to a competition, they make even more of an effort.
These competitions really highlight the quality of food being cooked in these restaurants. While the Wing Fling is another source of pride for the restaurants, that isn't the best part about the event. The Wing Fling is one of the largest fundraisers for the Pittsfield Family YMCA.
The competition supports youth programming and 21 restaurants volunteered to enter the competition — many of them have never taken home one of the coveted awards. While they do get free advertisement and some get plaques to hang on their walls, they are the force behind the fundraising efforts for the YMCA that attracts thousands of people every year.
The Wing Fling is a great example of the businesses and the community supporting each other and for that, every restaurant should be commended.