Beer lovers from across Long Island can enjoy a few cold ones under the summer sun at Heckscher State Park on Saturday at this year’s Long Island Craft Classic event.
The Long Island Craft Classic returns for a fourth straight year Aug. 10 at its East Islip location, giving those in attendance the opportunity to try as many beers as they can in a four-hour timespan, including some they might not have ever heard of.
“The purpose of the Long Island Craft Classic is for people to find beers they never had and to purchase them again at tasting rooms or stores or bars,” said Andy Calimano, co-founder and managing partner of Starfish Junction Productions, the Bay Shore-based event production company behind the Long Island Craft Classic. “People will try these new beers and can write down or take pictures of what they’re sampling so they can find them in other places.”
This year’s Craft Classic includes 42 participating breweries and beer companies, 15 of which hail from Long Island. Calimano says they start recruiting breweries long before the Craft Classic to begin building the event’s lineup of participants.
“We start nine months before (the event), reaching out to those who might be interested,” said Calimano. “Some who have been with us since the beginning, such as Blue Point Brewing, are automatic, while some of the smaller and newer breweries will actually reach out to us about participating.”
“A lot of the breweries have their own tasting rooms now, too, so they tend to have signs up at the Craft Classic advertising their tasting room hours for people to snap pictures of and pay a visit to,” added Calimano. “This type of advertising especially helps some of the newer and smaller breweries that are participating.”
Breweries will once again be competing for the Golden Keg, the award given to the winner of the BREW’D Competition, which is a contest between breweries to create a beer using a fan-selected mystery ingredient, which was chosen through an online public vote. Two years ago, Greenport Harbor teamed up with Destination Unknown to create the Fuzzy Flamingo using peaches, which was the 2017 winning ingredient. Last year, Long Ireland Beer Co. took home the Golden Keg by creating its Moku Loa beer using the fan-selected ingredient of pineapple. This year’s ingredient for the BREW’D Competition? Mango.
“We get a lot of different ingredients nominated for the competition, but the crazier ones go nowhere,” said Calimano. “This year pickles were nominated, marshmallow was nominated, but they went nowhere. This year, mango was the BREW’D Competition winner, and this is the only place to try these experimental beers.”
Added Calimano, “New this year to the BREW’D Competition is the addition of non-commercial homebrewers. So instead of giving away one Golden Keg, we’ll be giving away two. One to the professional brewer receiving the most votes and one to the top vote-getting homebrew brewer.”
In addition to beer, the Craft Classic will also feature eight wineries, two malternatives and three cideries, something that Calimano said has become more popular over the four years he’s been organizing the beer festival. So even if you aren’t an avid beer drinker, there’s still something for everyone.
Besides drinks, the Craft Classic even has you covered when it comes to finding a bite to eat. Included in your admission ticket is food from local barbecue restaurant, Bobbique.
“What’s unique about the Craft Classic is that we’ve teamed up with Bobbique again, so everyone in attendance gets a free sandwich and side dish included in their ticket,” said Calimano. “We’ve partnered with Bobbique all four years we’ve done the event because we think the barbecue food pairs great with the beer and they always do a great job serving up enough food for everybody in just four hours.”
If you’re looking for something to do in between drinks, the event will also have live music from the local band Albums We Love, Instagram and photo opportunities, backyard games such as cornhole and giant jenga and something new to this year’s Craft Classic – axe throwing.
“Axe throwing is something we added to this year’s event, it’s something not a lot of people have done before,” said Calimano. “It’s fenced in, it’s secure and safe, so there’s nothing to worry about. You get three axes that you get to throw and the goal is to hit the bulls-eye. It’s pretty popular down in New Jersey, so it’s exciting that we’re able to bring it out to Long Island.”
Proceeds from this event will help raise money and awareness for two incredible local charities, Kids Need More and Natural Heritage Trust. Both VIP and general admission tickets remain on sale for this year’s Long Island Craft Classic, but a sellout is expected. VIP tickets are priced at $75 and general admission at $55, both of which can be purchased online at www.licraftclassic.com.
All ticket holders will receive a 5-ounce souvenir cup to sample beers, with a 2-ounce pour line for all drinks available at the festival. The Craft Classic kicks off at 2 p.m. for those with general admission tickets, while VIPs get to take advantage of a bonus hour, which begins at 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.licraftclassic.com.