A few years after attending the inaugural 2014 Hop Sauce festival, inspiration struck Rob Zarko, owner of Ship Bottom Brewery in Beach Haven.
Inspired by the festival, which unites lovers of craft beer, music, art and all-things spicy, he and his team linked up with another Beach Haven favorite, the massively popular restaurant The Chicken or the Egg, and infused its Killer Bee Sting hot sauce into one of its IPAs. A year later in 2015, they debuted the spicy beer at the Hop Sauce festival. The massive line of people waiting for a taste let Zarko know it was a success.
“It’s a cult beer. People either love it or hate it,” he says.
Zarko is preparing plenty of this cult favorite for this year’s Hop Sauce festival, taking place 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at Veterans Memorial Park between Amber and Engleside avenues in Beach Haven. Hop Sauce was started by the companies Jetty, Spice It Up and Shore Points Distributing, which were inspired to create a craft beer festival that celebrated microbrews and unique flavors right at the onset of summer.
The Hop Sauce festival started as a somewhat unique concept, predating the craft beer boom, but is now one of the many beer festivals that pop up by the masses this time of year. Ship Bottom Brewery attends many throughout the summer, but Zarko still names Hop Sauce among the best.
“Oh yeah, we have four just this weekend,” he says of the popularity of beer festivals. “When I started (with Ship Bottom Brewery) in 2011 there were only a couple a year. Now they’re all over the place. We have to pick and choose which ones we go to, and Hop Sauce is a good fit for us … The beach vibe is really great. They have a lot of indie breweries like us. They don’t key in on big manufacturers. They look at the little guys, and it’s the same for the music. It’s an all-day party.”
Besides Ship Bottom, breweries like LBI’s Jetty, Ocean View’s Ludlam Island and Shamong’s Brotherton Brewing Company will be in attendance. Sauce vendors include Caldo, Butch’s Hot Stuff, Jersey Barnfire and Whitehouse Station Sauce Company, while the musical lineup features the band Pine Barons from noon to 12:30 p.m.; ILL Doots from 12:50 to 1:20 p.m.; The Ghost of Paul Revere from 1:45 to 2:40 p.m.; and Sinkane from 3:05 to 4:15 p.m.
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Ship Bottom Brewery will offer its Stupid Paddle Boat IPA, Beach Patrol Hefeweizen Ale, Barnacle Bottom Stout and more, each with interested flavors. Past beers Ship Bottom has offered at Hop Sauce have infused flavors like passion fruit, as well as mint and lime for a mojito-style beer.
“We use it as a testing ground for us,” he says. “A lot of times we don’t want to come out with 50 barrels that aren’t going to work. So, we add funky elements to our beer to see how people enjoy them (at the festival).”