Monday, March 9, 2015

Selling books and sampling beer at the Craft New York Brewers Festival 2015

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know by now that I co-authored The Handbook of Porters & Stouts, which went on sale last November. I haven’t really done much in the way of signings and appearances, though*. Anyone that thinks you can get rich by writing a book is pretty naïve, though I must admit I do take pride in seeing my name on the cover of a gorgeous 400+ page hardcover book.

Saturday night at the second annual Craft New York Brewers Festival at The Desmond was the first major event in which I hawked my book to a captive audience. I shared a table with Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod – the organizers of the Albany Ale Project and authors of Upper Hudson Valley Beer; and Mark Marnell – the author of Craft Beer Crossword Puzzle Book. I know Craig and Alan have done a few events like this; in fact, Craig and I sold our books side-by-side at the Homebrew Emporium back in December. But that was pretty small potatoes compared to this event, which I would describe as a smaller, indoor version of the TAP New York beer fest. According to Paul Leone, the executive director of the New York State Brewers Association, over 700 people passed through the doors – wow! That’s especially impressive when you consider there was another beer fest happening across town at the Washington Avenue Armory at the very same time.

NOTE: I forgot to bring my camera with me so I took all these pictures with my phone. Sorry for the low quality. Check out the Times Union's "SEEN" gallery here.


I must admit I was a little nervous before the event started. I’m not much of a salesman, not even of my own product*. Fortunately, that’s not much of a problem when it comes to my book as it pretty much sells itself. I notice that the cover draws people in and their eyes light up as they thumb through it; they’re always impressed by how great it looks. I can’t recall seeing so many people having such a similar, elated reaction to a single book (regardless of subject). I don’t really have to convince anyone that they need my book in their lives, the content and design does that for me (credit must be given to Carlo DeVito who designed and edited it). The cover price is $29.95 but I always sell it for $20*, which also helps move copies as prospective buyers know they’re already getting a good deal. Especially when juxtaposed to all the other books on the table which were also selling for $20 each. However, I did notice quite a few people bought one of each book.



If you’ve been a reader of this blog and other blogs on the Times Union, no doubt you’ve noticed there’s a lot of animosity amongst the commenters. I’m sure it’s just a matter of 1% of the people making 99% of the noise, but it’s difficult to ignore. What was great about this event (besides making money and drinking beer, obviously) was how pleasant the people were. Not a single person made a snarky, snide or otherwise rude remark; it was just the opposite. The courtesy and respect I was shown was pretty amazing. I met a lot of nice people, many of whom said they are regular readers of my stuff and they really enjoy it but they rarely or never comment. It’s not something I’m used to hearing, especially to my face, so it was a little difficult to process. However, I’ll gladly take that awkward positivity over moronic, anonymous hostility any time.



As for the beer festival itself, it was great. Though I probably could’ve sat at the table the entire time and sold my book*, I decided to peruse the festival and try some beers. I would spend 30-45 minutes at the table, then 30-45 minutes drinking beer. I wish this had been a two-day event since there were a lot of breweries whose booths I didn’t get to hit up. What I did try, though, was pretty good for the most part (in fact, most were very good to excellent). Here’s a quick overview of what I sampled (according to my Untappd feed):
  • Albany Pump Station’s new India Pale Lager: Pretty solid example of the style. This would go well with most of the dishes on their menu. By the way, did you know former Ommegang brewer Scott Veltman is now with Albany Pump Station? If you’ve ever had any of their “Handsome Guy” brews you’ve already tried his stuff. I can’t wait to see what new recipes he comes up with.
  • Lake Placid Brewing’s Patriot Pale Ale: A classic American-style pale ale. “Ubu Man” told me this was named after his favorite football team (I like the beer much more than the team!).
  • Upstate Brewing’s Common Sense Ale: I’ve had this many times and I’ve always enjoyed it. Similar to a cream ale, but a little more complex. A great beer to bring to the track in the summer.
  • He’Brew Funky Jewbelation (2014 and 2015 editions): I thought the 2014 vintage was the best beer I had last year. The 2015 edition was similar, though it had a slightly smoky quality. I talked to the staff and they said a lot of people have noticed that. Not that that’s bad, just different. I got a full 22oz bottle of this which I’ll be giving a formal review to soon.
  • Druthers Dunkelweizen: It was a pretty standard offering for the style, though I got a little smoke in this one which I didn’t think needed to be there.
  • Saranac Prism Ale: A witbier with some peach juice added. I’ve had it before and I’ve always enjoyed it. Good summer beer.
  • Skewed Brewing’s saison: This is a new nanobrewery out of the Watertown area. Their saison was really refreshing and true to the style.
  • Cooperstown Brewing’s Pride of Milford Special Ale: One of those rare beers in which the Ringwood yeast actually works well.
  • Great South Bay Brewery’s session IPA: I’ve tried many of their suds over the years at TAP NY and I’ve never been all that impressed. Not surprisingly, this did not do much for me either.
  • Rushing Duck Brewing’s FT3: Man, these guys have the Midas touch itellyawhat. Most of what they make is gold and this pale ale was no exception. The last beer I had during the festival and a great one to end on. I really need to make a trek to this brewery.

The fest technically wrapped at 8pm, but the event area was still pretty well populated until about 8:30 or so. Craig, Alan and I were in no rush to pack up since our table was directly across from the coat check room. I think we sold more books during this time than we had the previous four hours. The reason for this was understandable – most people don’t want to walk around a beer fest having to hold [a] book[s] in one hand and beer in the other.

Once we decided to call it a night I put all my stuff in the car and hit the hotel bar for the after party for the brewers and vendors. It was fun going to an event like this, informal and casual as it may be, as a “vendor” instead of a hanger-on. As I walked in, Jeremy Cowan of Shmaltz Brewing handed me a pint of his latest beer – the 518 Lager, which is a standard pale lager available on draught only in the 518 area code. It was a nice palate-resetter after the many flavors I had encountered over the last few hours.

I also struck up a conversation with Devon Hamilton, the head brewer for Paradox Brewing – a relatively new micro brewery up in Schroon Lake. A brewer named Matt from Olde Saratoga was also there, and the three of us chit-chat for a good hour or so. I may try to interview or profile them in a future blog so stayed tuned for that.

*I’m sure my publisher is cringing reading this