Despite warnings, there were no tornadoes Saturday on Long Island, but that didn't stop Long Islanders from partying up a storm.
The Beer Fields Craft Beer and Music Festival drew thousands to the Pennysaver Amphitheater at Bald Hill in Farmingville, formerly known as the Brookhaven Amphitheater. The main attractions for the festivities, were 40 craft beers from around the world and a live performance by the band Sublime with Rome.
“We just wanted to expose people to craft beer,” said James Bonanno, the event’s organizer. “There are a couple [other] beer festivals out there, but they don’t really have music; we wanted to fuse the beer and music together, that’s why we got such a big act with Sublime.”
Bonanno is the owner of the Tap Room, a bar in Patchogue that boasts 18 craft beers on draft.
At the Beer Fields Fest, attendees were invited for free sampling from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., afterwards beer was available for purchase for the duration of the evening. Among the 40 breweries offering samples were seven from Long Island: Blue Point, Great South Bay, Spider Bite, Long Ireland, Port Jefferson Brewing Company, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and Fire Island Beer Company.
Bert Fernandez, 33, chatted with beer lovers as he poured drafts of the Fire Island Pumpkin Barrel Ale and Red Wagon IPA into the guests’ 5-ounce tasting glasses.
Fernandez was one of the founders of the brewery some 13 years ago when they set up shop on the Atlantique section of Fire Island. The brewery has since moved its main production center to Saratoga, N.Y., but Fernandez said they are looking to move back to the south shore of Long Island.
“Very well done,” said Anthony Walsh to Fernandez, referring to the Pumpkin Barrel Ale. “It loves your palate, it doesn’t throw it in your face.”
Walsh, 30, is a behavior specialist in a preschool who has a passion for craft beer. Believing beer can be an agent of solidarity, he eventually wants to start brewing his own craft beers.
“Beer is important; beer brings people together; beer brings cultures together,” Walsh said. “That’s a beautiful thing.”
True to Walsh’s words, the Beer Fields event seemed to bring together a diverse group of people. The festival-goers included hula-hoopers and dancers, some had colorful and elaborate tattoos others donned dyed hair running the full spectrum colors. Long Island hat designers and cigar rollers set up vendor tents. Even representatives from the U.S. Marine Corps attended, offering information to potential recruits.
Grey clouds raced back and forth across the sky all afternoon and evening, but no rain fell until early evening during the set by reggae band John Brown’s Body, and about a half hour before Sublime with Rome was scheduled to play.
Though rainfall was heavy at times, most festival-goers stayed to watch the current incarnation of the popular 1990’s band that was known simply as Sublime, famous for its unique blend of punk rock, ska, reggae and hip-hop. The band broke up after lead singer Bradley Nowell died of a drug overdose in 1996, but reformed with a new lead singer, Rome Ramirez, in 2009.
The Beer Fields crowd sang along to classic Sublime songs such as “Wrong Way” and “Garden Grove.” The band did several covers including “Scarlet Begonias,” by the Grateful Dead, and Nirvana’s “Drain You.”
Bonanno, the coordinator, said, if successful, he will try to make this an annual event. As for Fernandez, the Fire Island brewer, he would like the event becomes a yearly tradition.
“We’ll be here next year if they do it again.”