By Andy Freedman, New York City Correspondent

Some of my favorite things in life begin with the letter 'B': there's basketball, and brunch, and, of course, bars. 

Last weekend my wife and I encountered 3 other Bs close to my heart when we attended the "Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival" at LA.VENUE in Manhattan with some 5,000 other beer and bourbon-drinking, bacon-crazed porkophiles. Having successfully traveled up and down the East Coast the past three years, BB&B finally made its Manhattan debut. What's there not to love about a walk-around event that features unlimited tastes of 60+ beers, 40+ bourbons and all the southern 'cue you can handle, not to mention tastings of 10-plus artisanal bacons? 

Local breweries, and even a local whiskey distillery, more than held their own amidst all the Southern flair at the festival, which included a mechanical bull, sweet tea vodka, collard greens and baked beans. And, as you can see from the pictures, there was quite a bit of local pride on display. 

Drink-ny Sixpoint Craft Ales was pouring its Sweet Action and Righteous Rye. Kelso of Brooklyn poured its immensely popular pilsner. Saranac had its Pale Ale and Imperial IPA and Southampton Brewing was serving its IPA and Imperial Porter. Also on-hand representing New York were Brewery Ommegang with its Witte and Abbey ales, Long Island's own Blue Point Brewing Co., NYC's Heartland Brewing, Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery and Tuthilltown Spirits.

Perhaps the most interesting of the local beers was the Heartland Brewing Sumatra Porter with Chicory, a collaboration between Heartland founder Jon Bloostein and his brother, Oren, of Oren's Daily Roast Coffee in Manhattan. It had a light, mocha aroma and tasted of very strong, very good coffee. 
Of the out-of-state breweries, our favorite beers were Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA from Maryland's Clipper City Brewing Co., Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye and Lagunitas IPA. I would say the surprise standout beer for me though was Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout, a potent 13% ABV bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout.  If you can get your hands on this, I strongly recommend giving it a try. It sported huge aromas of bourbon and vanilla and tasted of chocolate, vanilla and sweet malts.

Dinosaur-bbq Let's not forget about the 'cue. Luckily, we arrived at the event as the doors opened at noon. The first session ended at 4 p.m. and by 1:15 p.m. the lines for local favorites like Hill Country, Dinosaur BBQ and Southern Hospitality were close to 20 minutes long. By 1:45 p.m., many of the BBQ vendors were already out of food. 

Hats off to Dinosaur BBQ, the only vendor who had enough supply to meet the massive demand. They even sent a truck to pick up more 'cue from their Manhattan location. My favorites were the bbq pork sliders from a lesser known purveyor who was tucked away towards the back of the event space and bacon sausages from Brooklyn's The Meat Hook. 

Thankfully, there was also plenty of tasty collard greens, baked beans and cornbread. 

Given that it was BB&B's first go-around in Manhattan, the festival was not without its glitches. It appears they oversold tickets to the 12-4 p.m. session. The lines for the big-name BBQ purveyors were too long and they ran out of food too quickly. We heard some grunts from people who arrived closer to 1 and didn't get to try some of the food. 

My advice to those attending future BB&B festivals would be to arrive early and skip the huge lines for the big-name vendors in favor of the lesser known purveyors with shorter lines, and in many instances, better 'cue. 

It was great that so many representatives from the breweries came out for the event. I use these festivals as an opportunity to learn more about the breweries and the people behind them, and there's nothing worse than someone pouring tastes that has no clue what they're even pouring. Many of the out-of-state breweries were manned by either volunteers or distribution reps. 
We caught up with Jeff Gorlechen of Sixpoint Craft Ales, who's celebrating their fifth anniversary this month.  They've been busy brewing Double Sweet Action, their special Fifth Anniversary Ale. Sixpoint has also recently released its Redd, an American amber ale. When asked what else Sixpoint has in the works, Jeff said they're making their first foray into bottling. So, the day when you can bring home a six-pack of Sixpoint from the store may not be too far off. For now, you'll have to continue to fill a growler or head to a bar to get your Sixpoint fix. 
While he was busy pouring away his Hudson bourbon whiskeys for the masses, we were able to sneak in a few words with Gable Erenzo, the Distiller and Brand Ambassador for Tuthilltown Spirits.  New York may be well known for its wineries and breweries, but Gable tells us that it's also becoming a hotbed for the emerging craft distilling industry.  In speaking with him, we learned that Tuthilltown use only organic product and locally-produced ingredients, such as New York grown corn and apples, in their eco-friendly distillation process. 
Some other highlights from the festival included:
  • Maker's Mark had a table where guests could dip their tasting glass into the signature Maker's Mark wax for a one of a kind souvenir. As a bonus, shots of Maker's Mark were being poured as guests waited in line. We got to meet and chat with Master Distiller Kevin Smith, who told us about a new Maker's Mark bourbon that's in development and should be released soon. He said it's basically going to be similar to the Maker's Mark we've grown to love, but enhanced with toasted oak staves to give it more intense flavors.
  • Loveless Café’s Famous Piggy Popcorn.  This caramel-candied bacon popcorn goodness is popped in pure bacon grease, coated with a secret, homemade caramel sauce and studded with lean bits of Loveless' own hickory-smoked country cured bacon.