Last night I attended the celebration of excess known as "Springfest on the Beach" AKA Chilifest.
Put on by the New London Rotary Club, Springfest, held in the pavilion at Ocean Beach Park, consists of about 30 beer vendors/distributors handing out samples of their various wares along with about 15 local restaurants competing in a chili cook-off. And while the beer distribution is monitored by a ticket system, the chili is all-you-can-eat.
Chili in the spring may seem like an ill-fitting concept, but considering the fact that last night was about 45 degrees, raining, and windy, it worked. Since the fest was in the pavilion we didn't have to stand on the beach in the rain and kept reasonably warm.
Gourmet Galley Catering had an excellent cheesy chicken chili offering that tasted almost queso-esque. It was the group favorite until we found the Cuban chili (and I will post the vendor as soon as I remember who it was; I can't believe I forgot!) with the pickles on top.
Most of the chilis were very good (New London Fire Department Burn Unit - great job, very flavorful!) The only two of the whole bunch that we were not crazy about were Flanders Fish Market (sort of a half-chili, half-chowder) and - while we love the Broken Yolk for breakfast - we didn't care for the Yolk's chili (too much garlic - and this is coming from a group of garlic lovers).
As far as the beer selection goes, these Ocean Beach beer events don't hold a candle to the Michigan Brewer's Guild Summer Beer Festival (an event I really wish I could take my Connecticut friends to enjoy) but they are extremely enjoyable. While not limited to microbrews like the Michigan Fest, it's still a great opportunity to try out some regional beers that I wouldn't otherwise get to try.
On Amanda's recommendation I went to the Berkshire Brewing Co. first and tried several varieties, including the Hefeweizen Summer Wheat. It was lightly fruity with a smooth aftertaste. While I still haven't found my summer beer to replace Oberon, I feel like this could be a contender if available. The Long Trail Belgian White was almost floral in taste, wile the Thomas Hooker Blonde Ale was pleasant if not particularly memorable.
Jess and Josh are here from Michigan at the moment, so they too got to enjoy our first Springfest. I don't know to to better entertain guests than to take them to an all-you-can-eat beer and chili party on the beach. I'm pretty sure it doesn't get much better than that.
Happy New Year!
2 years ago