Great brews, great tunes and thousands of people. For Jon Henderson, the founder and producer of the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival, that's the new recipe he promises is going to make this year's annual "celebration of the suds" the best one yet.
More than 80 different breweries from South Jersey and across the country will once again showcase their unique offerings at the seventh annual beer festival, taking place over three separate sessions on Friday, March 30, and Saturday, March 31, at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
But this year, attendees paying $50 to sample the latest libations from favorites like Dogfish Head, Brooklyn Brewery, Smuttynose or newcomer Cape May Brewing Company, can do so while checking out live performances from bands such as Brick Plus Mortar, Tsunami Rising and punk-rock favorite Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg.
For Henderson, adding the "and music" half to the festival's name this year was part of an effort to help grow the event, he says
"We were at six years - the last four were sold-out events," Henderson says. "So, we had to really look at, what's the next level? A beer festival is not a novel concept. So what does the festival need to take it to the next step?"
At first, Henderson and fellow organizers considered adding a food component, before eventually deciding on adding live music.
"It just seemed that music was a natural addition to the festival," Henderson says. "So the thought process was, 'Let's get some undiscovered talent.' We really wanted some indie music - and we really scored some great bands that have solid followings."
The festival gives beer aficionados and casual beer drinkers the chance to speak to company representatives and brewers responsible for some of their favorite brews, all while also discovering new ones.
"There's a lot that's new in terms of the beers," Henderson says. "New Jersey has seen a big push in craft beers. We're highlighting those breweries, as well as some specialty tastings from Magic Hat, Sam Adams, new beers or limited beers."
This year's festival will also feature culinary demonstrations from area chefs and beer seminars hosted by author and television personality Gary Monterosso, a certified beer server. Also new this year will be a free photo booth, where attendees can get souvenir photos taken.
Plenty of beer-related vendors, from the useful (home brewing supplies) to the hilarious (shirts with sayings like "Daddy wants a beer"), will be filling the festival as always.
Henderson works hard to make sure the vendors at the festival add something special and fun, he says.
"I don't want a flea market," Henderson says. "I don't want people to see a banker selling mortgage insurance. I've turned those types of vendors down. Here, you get the funny T-shirt people - things you can't get anywhere else. These guys really add something to the festival."
Beer Festival Featured Musical Artists
Session 1 (7 to 11 p.m. Friday, March 30)
• Muscle Shoals Revival
• Apache March
• Stellar Corpses
• Nicos Gun
• Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg
Session 2 (noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 31)
• Kyle McGill
• New Sweden
• Tsunami Rising
• Turf War
Session 3 (6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 31)
• Full Blown Cherry
• The Bailey Hounds
• Strawberry Jam
• Even the Slept
• Brick Plus Mortar