TAP New York celebrates the state's thriving craft beer industry

At the annual TAP New York fest, New York State craft brewers showcase a wide variety of local beers, from crisp lagers and hearty ales to rich, malty stouts and porters. Photo courtesy of Hunter Mountain.

There are lots of reasons to celebrate craft beer in the Catskills right now. Several new breweries and brew pubs are opening this year, and the growing market for crops such as hops and small grains offer new opportunities for local farmers.

Luckily for Catskills beer-lovers, the state’s biggest celebration of small-batch beer takes place right in the heart of Greene County’s mountaintop region every year, and this year it’s bigger than ever.

On Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27, nearly 100 breweries from Buffalo to Brooklyn will set up shop at the base of Hunter Mountain for the annual TAP New York festival. Offering about 300 beers and a wide variety of “beer-friendly” food, the festival was founded by veteran brewmaster Nat Collins and Bill Woodring 17 years ago. It has since grown from a few dozen beer-lovers geeking out over a handful of local brews into a two-day affair of tasting and competition for coveted awards. Judges anoint the best regional and statewide breweries, as well as the best individual beer in the state.

The festival has expanded to include related businesses, such as cideries, distilleries, hops producers and malting companies. Vendors also sell beer-related items, gourmet food products and arts and crafts. The food theme this year is “regional recipes,” and the organizers are planning to revisit some favorite offerings from the last 15 years. In addition to the beer and food tastings, there will be cooking demonstrations and educational sessions.

Tickets are available online in advance, and—if available—at the door for slightly higher prices. The festival often sells out, particularly on Saturday. Group rates are available on Sunday, and designated drivers pay only $20 plus tax. Please note: No one under 21 is admitted to the event, including infants and children.

TAP New York. 1-5 p.m. Saturday, April 26 and 12-4 p.m. Sunday, April 27. Hunter Mountain, Route 23A, Hunter. Advance ticket prices: $68 Saturday only, $56 Sunday only, $105 both days, $20/day for designated drivers. For more information, see the event's website, tap-ny.com, or the TAP New York Facebook page.