More brews, more brewers and bigger bands - the celebration of the suds just keeps on growing.
Organizers have upped the ante for the eighth annual Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival, taking place over three separate sessions on Friday, April 5, and Saturday, April 6, at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
Attendees can now sample beers from 116 breweries while listening to musical heavy hitters such as Rusted Root, Rev. Horton Heat and punk favorite The Bouncing Souls.
"It's going to be hard to top this year," says Jon Henderson, founder and producer of the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival. "We just completely went over the top."
Organizers added a music component to the festival last year as part of an effort to help grow the event, which can attract upwards of 20,000 people throughout the weekend. That effort was such a success, Henderson says, that he immediately began looking for ways to go bigger.
"Beer is one part of it," says Henderson, who also produces the Atlantic City Seafood Festival. "What the music does is allow us to set a really cool soundtrack to the tasting show. In seeing that formula worked, we looked at who would we like to see for music in 2013. We wanted to hit three different genres for each session. Once we got Rev. Horton Heat … we brought them to the table and it was like, 'Wow,'" Henderson says. "It's no joke - we really created a great soundtrack."
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 discovering new ones. Dogfish Head, Smuttynose Brewing Company, Rogue, Victory Brewing Company and Magic Hat are just a few of the breweries participating this year.
"We have 116 breweries at this year's event - that's no small feat on its own," Henderson says. "There are some new New Jersey breweries - Evil Genius, Bolero Snort - we have a section dedicated just to New Jersey."
The annual festival has kept its trademark sense of humor in its range of offerings. The usual - and unusual - beer accessories, funny T-shirts and beer pong will be there, as will seminars on topics such as how to pair beer with a cigar and pairing beer with chocolate-covered bacon. Love2Brew Home Brew Supply will offer on-site brewing demonstrations throughout the festival, and the Garden State Brew and Mustache Society will be returning with an even larger Mustache Lounge (where a mustache - fake or real - is required to enter).
"So every (vendor) has some sort of relatable component to what we're doing," Henderson says. "You can taste 116 different breweries, which is over 500 different beers. But say you're not really a beer person, or you're a light beer person - there are all these other experiences on top of that. We took these multiple levels and made it more festival-like."
Also this year, organizers will donate $1 from each ticket sold to Hurricane Sandy relief.
"So hopefully we're able to donate anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000," Henderson says.
This year, organizers even debuted a smartphone app to help attendees navigate the festival. Now, an entire beer festival experience -including mapping out which beers to try - can be planned in advance. Fans of a particular beer at the festival can rate the beer, share details through social networking and even find out where it is available locally using the app.
"We wanted an app that could help people navigate the festival," Henderson says. "And the other component was, you can take notes, rate your beers, and be social about it. The app tells you where this beer is available and places you can go after to buy this beer.
"Our goal is about craft beer and beer discovery. With beer, there is so much variety - even more so than there is wine. With festivals like this, you can expand your palate. If we can entertain you at the same time, then we did our job for $50. You get the opportunity to meet more than 100 brewers, listen to great music, and participate in really great activities."