Some of my favorite things in life begin with the letter 'B': there's basketball, and brunch, and, of course, bars.
Last weekend my wife and I encountered 3 other Bs close to my heart when we attended the "Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival" at LA.VENUE in Manhattan with some 5,000 other beer and bourbon-drinking, bacon-crazed porkophiles. Having successfully traveled up and down the East Coast the past three years, BB&B finally made its Manhattan debut. What's there not to love about a walk-around event that features unlimited tastes of 60+ beers, 40+ bourbons and all the southern 'cue you can handle, not to mention tastings of 10-plus artisanal bacons?
Local breweries, and even a local whiskey distillery, more than held their own amidst all the Southern flair at the festival, which included a mechanical bull, sweet tea vodka, collard greens and baked beans. And, as you can see from the pictures, there was quite a bit of local pride on display.
Sixpoint Craft Ales was pouring its Sweet Action and Righteous Rye. Kelso of Brooklyn poured its immensely popular pilsner. Saranac had its Pale Ale and Imperial IPA and Southampton Brewing was serving its IPA and Imperial Porter. Also on-hand representing New York were Brewery Ommegang with its Witte and Abbey ales, Long Island's own Blue Point Brewing Co., NYC's Heartland Brewing, Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery and Tuthilltown Spirits.
Let's not forget about the 'cue. Luckily, we arrived at the event as the doors opened at noon. The first session ended at 4 p.m. and by 1:15 p.m. the lines for local favorites like Hill Country, Dinosaur BBQ and Southern Hospitality were close to 20 minutes long. By 1:45 p.m., many of the BBQ vendors were already out of food.
Hats off to Dinosaur BBQ, the only vendor who had enough supply to meet the massive demand. They even sent a truck to pick up more 'cue from their Manhattan location. My favorites were the bbq pork sliders from a lesser known purveyor who was tucked away towards the back of the event space and bacon sausages from Brooklyn's The Meat Hook.
Thankfully, there was also plenty of tasty collard greens, baked beans and cornbread.
Given that it was BB&B's first go-around in Manhattan, the festival was not without its glitches. It appears they oversold tickets to the 12-4 p.m. session. The lines for the big-name BBQ purveyors were too long and they ran out of food too quickly. We heard some grunts from people who arrived closer to 1 and didn't get to try some of the food.
My advice to those attending future BB&B festivals would be to arrive early and skip the huge lines for the big-name vendors in favor of the lesser known purveyors with shorter lines, and in many instances, better 'cue.
- Maker's Mark had a table where guests could dip their tasting glass into the signature Maker's Mark wax for a one of a kind souvenir. As a bonus, shots of Maker's Mark were being poured as guests waited in line. We got to meet and chat with Master Distiller Kevin Smith, who told us about a new Maker's Mark bourbon that's in development and should be released soon. He said it's basically going to be similar to the Maker's Mark we've grown to love, but enhanced with toasted oak staves to give it more intense flavors.
- Loveless Café’s Famous Piggy Popcorn. This caramel-candied bacon popcorn goodness is popped in pure bacon grease, coated with a secret, homemade caramel sauce and studded with lean bits of Loveless' own hickory-smoked country cured bacon.