Friday was a double rainbow over Nashua, and Saturday was a beer explosion! Turns out Nashua knows how to party, and loves good beer, as evidence by the massive turnout at the Gate City Brewfest and Wing Competition. I’m glad I went to experience it myself, because today I read the Telegraph review and it failed to mention some basics including, 1. the number of people who attended 2. the number of breweries that were there 3. who won the chicken wing contest. Here’s a more complete picture of what went down than you’ll find anywhere else, in case you’re thinking of attending next year! (And you should!)
By 1pm lines were crawling out of Holman Stadium. Both the will call and same day ticket lines were long but moved steadily. Organizers were smart to separate the lines to both sides of the stadium, and volunteers in blue shirts were readily available to guide confused beer guzzlers. At first I kicked myself for not saving $5 and getting my ticket in advance. I worried it would rain, and I figured I wouldn’t go if that was case. But let me just say, the price is worth the sheer number of beer and wings you get to sample, and had it rained the tents they set up would have made it okay. My guest bought a $10 designated driver ticket (no beer samples for her), but definitely ate her ticket price in wings. Luckily, the day ending up being overcast most of the time. I did find myself sweating so profusely from my face that I could have filled my beer sample glass, but a lot of the heat came from just the sheer number of bodies squished in the tents. Still, I’m not sure this wouldn’t be a great event to do in say, May?
The first stop from the entrance was the Whole Foods tent. Whole Foods was the sponsor of this event, and you might remember I also attended their block party last week, which I wrote about here: Whole Foods Block Party Review. I know they’re a big corporation, with some exorbitant prices, but my jaded black heart really does appreciate what Whole Foods has contributed to the community. Especially at an event like this, I’m reminded of the great products made here in New Hampshire and how this store aims to highlight them. They had a spinning wheel game, and I won a coozy (how appropriate!) Props to the cool girls working the Whole Foods table and had to feign excitement for each spin at the wheel ; )
From there we wandered into the first tent. Along both sides of the tent were the breweries pouring their samples. In all, there were two large tents filled to the brim with the beer and cider makers. When I say I hate large crowds, I mean I hate them so much I have panic attacks where I can’t breathe and will shove people away from with the force of a thousand elephants. Here, I found the tents and crowds okay. There were standing tables in middle of the tent, so groups did form in a super inconvenient way for people trying to get in. But once you were in line for a table the lines moved quickly enough. And it was the worth the wait at each one! I happen to like cider, and I know it’s a great gluten-free option for celiacs, but from what I witnessed the cider tables were not feeling the love. If ever you were thirsty and a beer table’s line seemed to long you could just walk up to a cider table for a sample. People, you’re missing out! I’ve tried Woodchuck before and liked it, but I tried their summer seasonal cider and it was a highlight of the event. So. Delicious.
I tried to focus on sampling the New Hampshire beers in both tents, though somehow I ended up tasting so many beers made in Maine. Since I didn’t try everything it’s not fair to pick a favorite, but if there was something I hated I would share it here. I ultimately liked everything though. I even discovered some local places I’d love to check out in the future, like Ale Ebenezer in Merrimack. I sampled some kind of smokey IPA from them that was um, unique, but lived up to its smokey name.
There was a third magical tent, not filled with beer, but with chicken wings from local restaurants. This piqued my interest because most of the restaurants were places I’ve never tried. Would any of their chicken wings tempt me to come check them out? This is why an event like this is GREAT for local businesses. For example, I’ve driven by 603 Lounge and thought its location was kind of sketch and the couches in the front window puzzling. But you know what, I LOVED their wings! And the guys handing them out were so fun! On the flip side, I like getting a beer at Peddler’s Daughter once in a while, but boy were their wings unappetizing to look at and even less enjoyable to eat. I remember when that place first opened… is it just me or has there been a decline in quality of their food? Anyways, everyone was given a little wingnut to leave in a glass for their favorite chicken wing, and here are the results of the contest:
People’s Choice: Riverside BBQ
Judge’s Blind: Texas Roadhouse
And what about families? There was of course a bounce house, and some kid activities scattered around. Organizers did a great job of setting up a picnic table area under a tent for shade, and a tent for non-alcoholic beverages as well. My one big complaint? THE MUSIC. Rock 101 set up a stage, and during the prime time 2:00 time slot all we heard was garbage noise blasting from the stage. I’m a musician and appreciate all types of music, but this music sucked. I mean, it was not only bad music but a waste of opportunity for the organizers. Imagine if you had a band that could motivate kids to dance around the stage, or adults to sing along while drinking their beer. No joke, the clashing cymbals and relentless guitar slashing chased my guest and I away from the event earlier than we planned to leave. That whole space in front of the stage could have been a great place for people to sit around and enjoy music and food, but as this picture shows, no one seemed to want to be near the stage.
This was the third annual Brewfest, and the attendance record shattered last years. (I’ve been trying to find the exact number of people who went, but I don’t know, so please share your estimates in the comments below!) It might be worth noting that the crowd was very white, like only white. I mean, I know Nashua is not a hot bed of diversity, but I wonder, how can this be made more inclusive of people other than upper middle class white people? In fact, a low point of the event for me was standing behind a group of college-aged frat boys freely discussing beer and women’s bodies in rank of who they’ve slept with. Their mothers must be so proud. Besides that, I can see this becoming a destination for people from all over the area, and I hope people found some great local craft beer they’ll be buying in stores. But mostly, I’m glad to have an event like this Nashua.