Aug 02, 2006 Staff Writer Uncategorized
With more than five dozen brewers pouring 4-oz. samples of their tastiest ales, stouts and lagers, it was easy to find a beer dear to your heart at the fifth annual Empire Brewing & Music Festival July 21 in Clinton Square.
Of course the odds also favored the likelihood of discovering some dud suds as well.
One of my favorites was the UFO Hefeweizen brewed by the Harpoon Brewery of Boston, Mass. and Windsor, Vt. The unfiltered wheat beer belies its slightly cloudy golden color with a refreshingly light body and a squeaky-clean, fruity finish. Hefenweizens orginated four centuries ago in Bavaria, and Harpoon is doing its part to keep that tradition very much alive. Prost!
On the other end of the spectrum was the Brooklyn Brewery’s Blanche de Brooklyn, a Belgian-style wheat beer spiced with coriander seed and Curacao orange peel. It tasted as though someone had dumped a bag of cloves into the vat, making for a weird biere blanche indeed. Ugh!
Nearly 5,000 festival goers paid $30 in advance or $35 at the gate to taste up to 24 of the 150 or so beers and malt liquors being showcased Friday along with New York state foods and wines and an equally varied mix of country, blues and jam bands.
Rochester groovemeisters, Buddhahood, were especially impressive, climaxing their sun-drenched set with an exciting djembe drum jam.
Not long after Buddhahood left the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que stage, the Belgian Beer Tent opened its flaps at 7 p.m. For the second year in a rown, the Beligian brews proved popular as tasters sampled beers that had been bottle-aged in caves. Brand names included Duvel, Lindeman, Westmalle and LaBinchoise, which offered a beer unabashedly dubbed Delirium Tremmens.
[Crawfish and oysters]
Food complementing the many beers ran the gamut from pulled-pork to pizza, from Liehs & Steigerwald bratwursts to Louisiana delicacies such as crawfish etouffee and jambalaya. In one corner of the Barley Garden tent Kitty Hoyne’s Irish Pub & Restaurant shucked dozens of raw oysters, which, when sereved with a dab of hot sauce and lemon, were a welcome addition to the overall epicurian experience.
An unexpected lagniappe was the unveiling of the new locally produced Ramona’s Chipotle Dressing, a delicious, sweet and spicy multi-purpose sauce concocted by Ramona Waldecker of Baldwinsville.
The next day, Saturday July 22, the 15th annual New York State Blues Festival got off to a rainy start with just a smattering of fans on hand to hear the country blues of Paul Rishell and Annie Raines. The crowd swelled dramatically as the day progressed, however, enjoying sets by Larry McCray, Kelly Hunt and Syracuse’s own Swing This!
A hastily assembled group of local blues all-stars filled in for the recently-reunited Built for Comfort, which had canceled its 6 p.m. stint on the second stage. The subsitutes rose to the occasion, as Pete McMahon, Pat DeSalvo, Rock Carbone and brothers Mike and Phil Petroff all blazed away on their respective instruments.
The audience had grown to some 6,000 strong for Elvin Bishop’s headline set. The Oklahoma-bred Bishop revealed the genesis of his 1976 hit, Fooled Around and Fell In Love, by riffing an intro of The Five Satins’ 1955 slow-dance In the Still of the Night.
Toward the end of Fishin, Bishop took his cordless guitar out into the friendly crowd and hooked a beautiful brunette — Marlene Lucio of Syracuse — to join him up onstage.
Though admission to the blues festival is free, its artistic director, Bernie Clarke, urged the Saturday-night crowd to indulge its thirst.
Beverages are how we pay the bills, he announced from the Budweiser Main Stage. The festival also had donation stations set up at Clinton Square entrances and exits. All you people who say to me, ‘Bernie, why don’t you book Eric Clapton?’ please donate to allow the New York State Blues Festival to remain admission-free.
[Jos (c)’s homecoming]
The sun shone all day Sunday and the music beamed just as brightly as provided by Canada’s Downchild Blues Band, Western New Yorkers Bruce Katz with Joe Beard followed later by Chris Beard, reservation rockers CornBred and The Blue Method.
Thousands turned out to hear the final two main-stage performances by bayou balladeer Terrance Simien and California roots rockers Little Feat.
Simien, an Cajun accordionist with a mesmerizing voice recalling a young Aaron Neville, turned up with former Syracuse-based electric guitarist Jos (c) Alvarez in tow.
Alvarez’ former bandmate, Colin Aberdeen of Los Blancos, joined his old pal on the main stage to add some incendiary guitar work to the group’s final fiery number.