The sun was shining and the flags were flying under the big white tents in Waban Park on Saturday as the fourth annual Martha’s Vineyard Craft Beer Festival tapped its proverbial kegs and kicked off the September celebration.
“What a stellar day to be on Martha’s Vineyard, have a beer, listen to some music, and just enjoy this incredible community,”said festival organizer Erin Bayer Santos, confirming what everyone was already thinking.
Indeed, the normally tame green space was alive and vibrant, with music from Stephen Hart, Freevolt, and Dock Dance Band wafting through the air as a perfect backdrop for some delightful Saturday suds.
“This is pretty awesome,” said Sea Smoke BBQ proprietor J.B. Blau, whose brisket sandwiches (and pepperoni slices) were a popular accompaniment to the fermented fever. “A lot of people come together to put on this event, and we wouldn’t miss it.”
Island stalwarts Offshore Ale and Wash Ashore Beer Co. were not to be missed, along with upstart breweries, including Coal Shovel Brewing and Progression Brewing, among others, attending the event for the first time, with concoctions as varied as grapefruit IPAs, mimosas in a can, bubble gum sours, and a whopping 13 percent ABV bourbon cream stout.
In the center of it all sat a reformed Boler camper with a surfboard proudly displayed on top and two tan Islanders, Nicole Corbo and Adrian Johnson, manning the stand for Yommi Popsicles. Handmade with local superfoods and all natural flavors, the brightly colored popsicles typified this Perfect Vineyard Day (PVD), along with distinctly Island gear courtesy of Tuck Life clothing.
Amid the flags and colors, revelers wandered the grounds equipped with tasting glasses, necklaces threaded with pretzels or Fritos, and good attitudes.
“What’s nice about today,” waxed Brew Krew LLC co-founder Oraibi Voumard, “is that it shows that you can have a great festival, no lines at the bathrooms, people having fun, no chaos, no problems — even the police are relaxed.”
There was a solid police presence, but as Voumard noted, the distinctly positive energy of the crowd made for an incident-free experience — a signature of the Martha’s Vineyard community and Island style as a whole.
“On the mainland, you just don’t get this type of vibe,” quipped a freckled-faced swiller from Rhode Island who had chosen this event to kick off a three-day “brewcation” along with his girlfriend.
Matthew Wollstonecraft, a descendant of the great Mary Shelley — author of “Frankenstein” (1818) — was inconspicuously wandering the VIP tent, a smile on his face and a picture of a hop (the signature ingredient in beermaking) adorning a black baseball cap on his head.
“My family has a house in the Campground,” he said, “so I come out every chance I can. I wouldn’t miss this event for the world — especially on a day like today.”
Gates for the event opened at 12:30 pm, with a VIP tasting beginning at 1 pm and featuring highly-sought-after offerings such as Trillium, Maine Beer Co., Treehouse, and others. Connoisseurs scoured the tables for rare finds, and took pictures of the shiny and sometimes art-gallery-worthy tall cans and bottles.
At 2 pm, general admission kicked in, with the big tent opening its doors to revelers. Alternative beverages were provided by Katama Kombucha, along with a host of ciders, wines, and hard seltzers — the latest craze in the quest for a calorie-free flyer.
The Martha’s Vineyard Oyster Festival crew were on hand, debuting a preview of their upcoming Oyster celebration (May 2020) with a table of oysters, ice, lemons, and kale that looked good enough to eat.
“A portion of the proceeds from all our events go to the M.V. Shellfish Group,” reported founder Nevette Previd. “They’re an organization that helps to replenish the oysters after they’re taken from the sea.”
As always, sustainability — or sud-stainability, in this case — was on the tasting menu as a subcurrent of the eco-friendly festival. Bare feet and the occasional bare chest were visible by evening when headliners the Edbury Allstars took the stage to help ease the crowd into a carefree sunset set.
“This is the best beer fest ever,” one passerby was quick to note.
All in all, the festival packed over 50 breweries, 150-plus brews, vendors, tunes, and town luminaries and visitors alike comingling across the street from Nantucket Sound.
“The fourth time’s a charm,” said organizer Bayer Santos. “But next year is going to be even better.”