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Staten Island Beer Festival Returns to Raise Money for Sandy

By Nicholas Rizzi | February 6, 2013 9:26am

GREAT KILLS — The Staten Island beer festival will return after a two-year hiatus to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims.

The Staten Island Brewfest will hold its third festival celebrating craft beer in March.

“My son and I had been talking about what are some things we could do to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy,” said John Cocozza, organizer of the fest.

He said that people had been posting about the previous brew fests on Facebook, and that sparked the idea to restart the festival to help Sandy victims.

Organizers will donate 20 percent of the money raised to the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation, which has been doing Sandy relief work.

Cocozza plans on holding two more fundraising beer fests later in the year — one more in Staten Island and another in New Jersey — and making it an annual event.

The festival will feature over 30 different breweries in attendance, with each bringing at least two beers to sample, and the selection will focus on rarer brews.

“This is not going to be just standard No. 1 and No. 2 best selling beers from breweries,” Cocozza said. “We really worked hard to deliver the best possible beers — limited releases, one-offs, small batches, collaborations.”

It will also feature a section on the history of brewing in the borough by the Staten Island Museum, and a section dedicated to homebrewers.

The festival will be split into two sessions, and each one will award several awards for the best homebrew, judged by brewmasters.

“This is going to be actual pros,” Cocozza said. “So the feedback they give, I think, is going to be invaluable to the aspiring brewers.”

People in attendance will also get a chance to vote for their favorite homebrew, with an audience prize to be awarded for each session.

The festival originally held two festivals in 2010, but stopped after Cocozza sold his bar, the Wild Goose Pub on Forest Avenue.

Since then, craft beer has become extremely popular in Staten Island, with two festivals held in October and a homebrew beer-tasting to raise money for hospital workers affected by Sandy in December.

“It shows what I was hoping all along, Staten Island does have a vibrant craft beer community,” Cocozza said.

“If we had any part in having that trend start, we're just glad to see that it's going.”

And while he worried about the success of resurrecting his old festival with competition from two others in the borough, Cocozza said the response so far has been great, and they already sold 200 tickets.

The Staten Island Brewfest will be on March 23 at Dugout Pub South, 4029 Hylan Boulevard, with an afternoon session from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and a later sessions from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $49 online, $59 at the door. A shuttle bus will be provided to and from the Great Kills train station, and designated drivers get free admission.