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Beer Fields Craft Beer and Music Festival a hit in Selden

A crowd gathers at the third-annual Beer Fields

A crowd gathers at the third-annual Beer Fields craft beer and music festival at Pennysaver Amphitheater in Selden on Saturday, June 21, 2014. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)

Microbrew aficionados gathered for the third-annual Beer Fields Craft Beer and Music Festival at Pennysaver Amphitheater in Selden on Saturday.

Among them was Keith Collins, who trekked in from Brooklyn to sample some of the 200 beers from 100 Long Island and nationwide breweries that set up booths on the theater’s grassy grounds.

“I sometimes drink Bud Light and Miller Lite, but as the microbrew industry has grown over the past five to 10 years, I’ve learned that there are a lot of different beers out there to try,” said Collins, 30, who favors Blue Point Toasted Lager.

Collins and thousands of other festival-goers waited in line to have their five-ounce tasting glasses filled with any beer, all for ticket prices that ranged from $35 to $75.

Montauk Brewing Co. and Oyster Bay Brewing Co. were two of the many Long Island microbreweries that showcased their brands alongside companies from as far away as California. Duffy Griffiths, co-owner of the Crooked Ladder, which launched in Riverhead last year, poured beer from taps on a firetruck.  

“It’s been great, great music and great people,” Griffiths, 42, said of the festival. “Everybody’s happy to try different beers. That’s what matters.”

The musical acts performed at the amphitheater and a smaller, satellite stage throughout the seven-hour festival. The headliners were Matisyahu, a band that boasts a Grammy Award nomination for best reggae album, and Ballyhoo, a Baltimore-based rock band that fuses punk and reggae sounds. The Long Island performers included Nonstop to Cairo, of Baldwin, and The Tweekers, of Northport.

“We’ve taken the typical beer festival and added a musical element to it,” said James Bonanno, a co-founder of Beer Fields and owner of Tap Room in Patchogue. “There’s a lot of beer festivals around the world, but not many bring the type of music that we bring.”

Sean Ward, 30, of Raleigh, is a regular at craft beer festivals in North Carolina. He called Beer Fields unique for combining craft beer with music.

“We’ve got these festivals in Raleigh that are awesome, because you spend $50 and it’s a lot of local beers,” Ward said. “It’s huge down there. But this festival is $45 and you get all these beers in addition to all these bands. I’m blown away by it actually.”

Beer Fields has grown from an estimated 3,500 people in 2012 to 5,000 on Saturday, which Bonanno attributes to the popularity among microbreweries, which typically produce a limited supply of speciality beers sold regionally.

“There has been a whole craft beer revolution and it’s just been growing,” he said. “I’ve been in the industry for three years and we see firsthand on my day-to-day job just how big the following craft beer has become.”

Greg Martin has showcased his Long Ireland Beer Co. at the festival all three years. He and his business partner sold their first keg in March 2009, and with minimal advertising the East End-based company has averaged about 25 percent growth annually on Long Island.

“As we open new markets and new territories further upstate or another state,” he added, “we expect exponential growth in those areas as well.”

Tags: Beer Fields , microbrews , Pennysaver Ampitheater , Montauk Brewing Company , Oyster Bay Brewing Company , Long Ireland Beer Company , Crooked Ladder.

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