If there’s one thing I have a passion for besides craft beer, it’s music. OK, artisan cheese, too, but that’s for another blog entry.
Beer festivals and music festivals are, in my books, two of the greatest things on Earth. In addition to providing a sense of community to throngs of kindred spirits, festivals provide ample opportunity to sample an astonishing variety and even become introduced to some new favorites – be them beers or bands.
Strange, then, that more often than not, the bands and the beers don’t mingle that well together; most music festivals still serve only industrial, fizzy yellow beer and the music lineup at beer festivals usually aren’t designed to be a draw, but a backdrop and a side stop to the beer.
So, as a first-timer, I was more than a little concerned about how I was going to fulfill my MDGBR (Minimum Daily Good Beer Requirement) on Jam Cruise. For those who have not been enlightened to the wonderment of Jam Cruise, let me try to explain: It’s a five-day floating music festival. On the Love Boat. (Well, not really. But it is a full-fledged cruise ship with all the trappings.) With top-notch musicians who hang out with you when they are not performing. And it all happens in the tropics in January. In short, it’s paradise.
Or almost. Cruise ships definitely aren’t known for supporting artisan beer. And some friends who have sailed other, similar-themed cruises tried, unsuccessfully but hilariously, to smuggle good beer on board for their voyages. (The cruise ship folks tend to frown upon such activities, because they want you to buy their booze while they have you captive on the ship.)
So, after my husband, Mark, and I committed to Jam Cruise 8, and we started saving our pennies for the big adventure, this beer girl was getting pretty worried about going without good beer for the duration. That is, until news surfaced that a couple of craft breweries have been involved with Jam Cruise for several years. Thanks to Starr Hill Brewing Co., of Crozet, Va., and Sweetwater Brewing Co., of Atlanta, the Jam Cruise sets sail with craft beer on board.
In fact, this year, Cloud 9 Adventures, the organization that deftly wrangles the Jam Cruise each year, expanded the craft-beer lineup, called “Brews at Sea,” to include other well-known craft brewers, Lagunitas Brewing Co., of Petaluma, Calif., Magic Hat Brewing Co., of South Burlington, Vt., and Shipyard Brewing Co., of Portland, Maine.
Admittedly, a beer fest it was not: Only a beer or two, always on the lighter-flavored side of the scale, were available from each brewery at only one (well publicized) Brews at Sea location on the entire boat. But long-timers Starr Hill and Sweetwater took advantage of the kick-off party to offer a free beer to each of-age Jam Cruiser, which, I think did a great service in helping promote not only the location of the craft beer station, but also how tasty the beers were.
Granted, the macros were available at every bar throughout the rest of the boat. And, also granted, I saw more Bud Light in Jam Cruisers’ hands than I did all the good beers combined – except on the pool deck where the Brews at Sea beers were stationed.
And, even I have to confess to sipping on a few strawberry daiquiris and gin and tonics, especially when the music took me far away from the Brews at Sea outpost. But when the “daiquiris (were) too fruitiful,” to poorly quote Jimmy Buffett, it was good to know that my craft beer in paradise was just a few steps away.
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