SARATOGA SPRINGS & SCHENECTADY — One city’s Beer Week is over, another is about to begin.
The craft brewing boom has led to a proliferation of beer festivals, and almost back-to-back February events are helping to break up the dead of winter: Schenectady’s second Beer Week wrapped up Sunday and Saratoga Springs’ eighth Beer Week will start Tuesday.
The Schenectady promotion was primarily a showcase of locally brewed beverages and what local restaurants can do with them. And while there is some of that in Saratoga, the highlight there is the opportunity to sample 180 beers on tap all in a single room.
Discover Schenectady County Executive Director Becky Daniels said the second Schenectady Beer Week was a big jump from the first, with 3,200 people clicking “interested” on Facebook vs. 187 in 2018.
“It was a really fun way for us to bring together businesses,” she said. Businesses kept adding events right up to a week before.”
One of the key takeaways was the power of collaboration, Daniels said — brewers working together, chefs highlighting a local beer as an ingredient, beers paired with menu items, and live music presented with fresh beer.
“There are a lot of cool and unique things that you can do with beer that you wouldn’t really think about,” she said.
Schenectady’s Beer Week didn’t exclude outside brewers but the focus clearly was on the local team.
In Saratoga, the marquee event is the Beer Summit on Feb. 23 at City Center, with representatives of dozens of brewers from Maine to California. Last year’s summit drew about 1,500 people. There’s also Cider Night (Feb. 22) and Whiskey Night (Feb. 21) with a similarly wide array of tastings, all of it presented by America on Tap, which is also staging events in Binghamton, Oneonta, Iowa and Hawaii in the next several weeks.
More locally focused pieces of Saratoga Beer Week include “The First HOPportunity of Saratoga Beer Week,” a smaller group of local brewers presented Feb. 19 by Racing City Brewing Co. with Oliva Winery at the Excelsior Street brewery. Broadway craft beer shop Pint Sized has a different promotion Tuesday through Saturday and then a Hangover Brunch on Sunday morning.
Still not enough hops and barley for you? The New York Craft Brewers Festival is coming up in early March in Albany and The big TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Festival will be at Hunter Mountain in April.
Daniels at Discover Schenectady County said Schenectady Beer Week still is a work in progress, and the number of other beer festivals isn’t worrisome.
“There’s plenty of beer lovers to go around,” she said.
Last week’s series of events was a learning experience as much as a celebration and promotion.
There has been less activity than hoped with the new Schenectady Ale Trail Digital Passport, which encourages holders to try all of the county’s brewers. Also, the invitation for participants to post selfies during Beer Week 2019 drew little interest.
But the businesses involved took lots of pictures, so Discover Schenectady County will post those instead.
“Given the success and interest we drew, I can’t imagine we won’t do it again,” Daniels said.