By Tony Forder
1/26/19 – DJ Durty Santa (aka (Pat) greets the early arrivals trickling off the train in Pearl River, NY outside Defiant Brewing with some classic 70s/80s tunes. Inside the 26 breweries are setting up for the VIP hour, or hour and a half, starting at noon – volunteers scurrying around, kitchen a busy hive, sound checks on stage. All is cool. It’s the 5th annual Abominable Snowfest – people know what to do, how it works.
The pouring begins, contortionist and stiltwalker ladies lend a circus atmosphere – the first act – hip hop – takes the stage, BBQ’d bites are passed. Most breweries brought a special beer for the VIPs – those Pastry or Pantry brews seemed popular – lots of imperial stouts, lots of coffee beers – bottled Dirty Chai Ded Moroz, 11.2% from Rushing Duck; Coconut Cream Choco-lit Pastry Party, 9.7%, from Brix City: KCBC collab with Mikeller RYders of the Black Rainbow, 14%; FIKA (milk stout with Brazilian coffee beans) from Naptime.
Ringmaster Neil Acer arrives, meeting and greeting. Right hand man Kyle Nicholson dons a gold jacket with a big D on the back. Food flows out of the kitchen – self-serve pulled pork tacos, brisket, wings, mac n cheese. Plan Bee’s energetic brewmaster/musician Evan Watson rocks the stage with bass and drum allies. I move from saisons, pilsners and pales (first beer was Fifth Hammer cask lager) to IPAs of varying strengths. Defiant runs their full selection at the bar (previously other breweries have also been stationed there) – a good place to chill. They also offered some of their barrel aged bottle selections.
As last year, the final musical act was all female. Heavy Temple featured three lasses from Philly –hard driving Black Sabbath-esque material. Time for some double digits and imperial stouts. Five o’clock it’s time to go – either home or to the after party at Ambulance Bar in Nanuet, one stop up the Pascack Valley line.
Breweries: There were a couple of newbies…Long Lot from Chester, NY, also home of Rushing Duck. Two Ton, joining Brix City, Cricket Hill and Ramstein from the Garden State, Alewife from Long Island City, and Pearl River neighbors Gentle Giant. Local has always been the theme – breweries from the Hudson Valley (Sloop, Plan Bee, Millhouse, Peekskill, Pine Island, Doc’s Cider, Newburgh); the 287 corridor (Naptime (formerly Kuka), Captain Lawrence, District 96 and Broken Bow); the Boroughs (Finback, Big Alice, KCBC, and Fifth Hammer; and the lone Long Islander Barrier.