Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Down by the river

New Jersey's ShadFest is this Saturday and Sunday in, where else, Lambertville, that quaint southern Hunterdon County town situated along the banks of the Delaware River and Delaware-Raritan Canal that has held this annual spring event since 1981.

The festival salutes the return of shad to the river, and features plenty of food, crafts and entertainment, i.e. live music.

There's also locally brewed beer, which is one of the things that distinguishes this event. Set up in the old Original Trenton Cracker factory building, River Horse Brewing has been part of the Lambertville landscape for a dozen years now. So it's as much a flavor of the festival as the myriad ways you can prepare shad.

If you made it to River Horse's Oktoberfest event last fall, then you'll know what to expect at the brewery's back loading area come this weekend. RH co-owner Glenn Bernabeo says the brewery will have its flight of beers on tap, including its new Belgian wit and its summer blond ale. There's no cover charge; it's pay as you drink. There will also be music and food from nearby vendors.

With a lot of events like this – Long Beach Island's annual Chowderfest comes to mind – it can be nearly impossible to find a beer in which you can taste the malt and hops. That's because distributors for the big national brewers usually infiltrate with some sponsorship, and next thing you know, the only thing on tap is fizzy yellow beers that are the portrait of boredom and undermine the unique flavors that are the host town or region's specialty.

We're not picking on Chowderfest, mind you, but we do think that folks on LBI could stand to turn things up a notch and marry some better beer flavors to the locally made chowders.

But this isn't about clams and ocean waves; it's about shad and the river. So yes, it's very cool, and even special, that there's a craft brewer in town serving locally brewed beer at ShadFest.

So by all means, support the local brewer. Your palate will be glad you did.

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