Having spent 14 years in the Big Apple and nine of those years in a trendy part of Brooklyn, I became accustomed to ordering an expertly crafted cocktail, made by a curlicue-mustached hipster, with several artisanal liquors I’d never heard of in it and an oversized ice cube swimming in the middle. With the rare exception of a full-bodied red at a steak dinner or a line of shots consumed on a birthday, the cocktail was my go-to drink.
Since I’ve moved back upstate, that’s no longer the case. Here, the de rigueur drink, at least at the places I go out to on the weekend, is craft beer. It’s bloody everywhere, whether you’re drinking it at an actual craft beer brewery, bar or restaurant—and the number of alcohol contents, flavors, colors and prices seem to be all over the place. I tend towards the darker ones—the stouts and porters—but I love a good IPA, ale, lager or practically anything anyone hands me. Not that I’m some kind of college-aged lush; no, I’m 38 and at this point in my life, just a big fan of never-before-tasted tastes. And that’s what makes craft beer so palatable; it’s like the “32 flavors and then some” of the alcohol world.
It turns out that the Capital Region is bit of a groundbreaker when it comes to craft beer production—and the area loves its beer-based confabs. Take this week’s Albany Craft Beer Week, which runs through April 7, culminating in a Craft Beer Festival this Saturday, with a pair of sessions—12:30pm to 3pm and 4pm to 7pm—with a maximum of 750 participants for each. The Beer Week festivities, which kicked off on Monday, April 2, include a panoply of different tap takeovers, pub crawls and specials at local bars. The Festival, held at the Washington Avenue Armory, will feature pub grub from vendors such as Lost & Found (porchetta sandwiches) and City Beer Hall (gourmet hot dogs); and pours galore (some extremely rare) from breweries, such as Ballast Point, Crooked Stave and Oxbow. Also onsite will be a number of locals tapping their treasured kegs, such as Brown’s of Troy/Hoosick Falls, Ommegang of Cooperstown and Druthers of Albany/Saratoga.
Festival tickets cost $65, and can be purchased here. Follow any goings-on on Albany Craft Beer Week’s Facebook page, too. And if you happen to run into a guy this week or weekend, who’s going slightly gray on the sides of his head, with a grin from ear to ear, at one of these great events, that’s probably me. But then again, that could be just about anybody—who’s 21 or over, of course.