Sticking a Toe into Philadelphia Beer Week
I realized after writing this whole thing, I’m doing the beer journalist stuff. I’m writing up the notes of a trip I took thinking that you’re interested in hearing about it, as in getting a feel for something. You know, photos and facts with some picture painting tossed in.
To be quite honest, that could have more to do with my old habits than anything else. I’m not sure that’s why you’re reading this blog. I promised a front row seat on a personal odyssey and I keep falling back to the tried and true journalistic narrative.
Well, what follows is in that vein. Philly Beer Week is a great event, although I’m not doing it justice at all, and that bug that had been following me around hit in fullstride and I ended up in bed for a couple of weeks. I’ve got my Siebel course this week coming up and a review of Randy’s book to write. Hopefully they will jolt me out of my conventionality and get on with the adventure, and stop retreating into irrelevant forms.
How can you get ready for Philly Beer Week, especially if you’re not from the area. I mean we’re talking over 700 events spread out over 10 days, and each one seems as cool as the next. Plus, the local press is agog with beer, the Mayor is tapping the first keg, and this city is running on malt, hops, yeast, water and a few other ingredients.
I had two reasons for the first stop. Stan picked Tria out as a must visit bar. He was right. Plus an old friend, Bill Covaleski, was hosting an event there an hour after I arrived. Better known as one of the two talents behind Victory Brewing, Bill is an artist of taste. I had his Rauch Porter (a spectacular combination of smoke and caramel) which was on tap at Tria, in the company of a couple of serious beer lovers, including 1997 Beer Drinker of the year, Jack McDougall.
I tagged along with Victory Brewing Co.’s film crew and snuck into Tria Fermentation Beer School for an exciting blend of two fav foods — cheese and beer, titled a Victorious Duo. Did I tell you what Tria stands for? They’re into three foods built around yeast — beer, wine and cheese. Duh.
Bill opened with a lovely quote: “Doing beer education is like writing on a chalk board with one hand and erasing with the other. We give you information and then give you alcohol to muddle your brain.”
Here are the pairings:
Victory Prima Pils with Andante Dairy Cavatina (Petaluma, CA – goat) I noticed how the CO2 clears the palate from the creaminess of the cheese. Both had very short finishes and the lemony flavor of the Cavatina matched the herbal, fruitiness of the Pils
Victory V-Saison with Ancient Heritage Dairy Adelle (Scio, OR – sheep and cow) The cheese had a slight yogurt sourness that balanced the beer’s nutty beginning and fruity finish.
Victory Hop Devil with 5 Spoke Creamery Tumbleweed (Lancaster County, PA – cow)
Victory Abbey 8 with Beehive Cheese Co. Barely Buzzed (Uintah, UT – cow)
Victory Rauch Porter with Dancing Cow Bouree (Bridport, VT – cow)
Victory Golden Monkey and Victory Baltic Thunder with Jasper Hill Farm Victory-Washed Winnimere (Greensboro, VT – cow)
Victory Sorm King with Sweet Grass Dairy Asher Blue (Thomasville, GA – cow) and Betty’s Tasty Buttons “Victorius” (Philadelpia, PA)
I barely got started when I had to skedaddle to the tapping of the opening cask, at the Comcast Center, where Mayor Nutter tapped the opening cask (and Yards Brewing Co.’s Tom Kehoe’s hand). The tapping was followed by an award ceremony that focused on entertainment and hilarity.
Scattered throughout the lobby and the food court downstairs was about 30 breweries presenting quite a range of beers to the sold out crowd. I’ve put a bunch of photos up on our Flikr pages, which you might enjoy looking over.
For a festival, or a tasting, this was slightly peculiar. Aside from being in the middle of a food court, the crowd related to the beers quite differently. Perhaps it was the size (a few hundred tops), the two floors, or that it appeared as if a large number actually knew each other.
The tables were in the middle of the food court so there wasn’t all the POS plastered all over the place. Just a beer or two, a beer person and a folding table. The brewery people were also jazzed about their beers. The sheer volume of beer conversation dwarfed what one hears at most beer events. There was a simplicity, a lack of complexity, that made this seriously fun.
The next day was a horse of a different color, Chris DePeppe’s Philly Craft Beer Festival at the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal. Located in the Naval Yards, for all you NCSI fans, the visual atmosphere for this event is rather jaw dropping. I have no idea what the intent of the building was/is, and my lack of true journalist background precluded me asking such an obvious question.
However, the ceiling soared, the vistas went on forever, the windows filled whole walls, and overall it had an aura of 19th century industry. You could imagine ships being constructed in such a cavernous room then wheeled out to the docks. This did afford an opportunity for a more rakish approach to POS display, with brewery reps creeping their signs up huge walls.
Chris and his wife were able to get about a third of the crowd in sort of a pre area that was cordoned off with yellow caution tape. Quite an amusing visual, about a thousand people jammed together with only a thin gossamer of tape keeping them from a fine collection of beer. When Chris pulled the tape the stampede had all the trappings of a land rush.
At about this time, I was running down completely. I did visit a few brewers but between the crowds and the flu/cold, I had very little stamina. I spent some time with Bill Metzger of Brewing News Empire and hung out while they led beer bingo.
I finally hailed a cab for the hotel, but couldn’t spend a weekend in Philly without a visit to Monk’s Cafe. I managed to grab a corner bar seat and proceeded to gorge myself on bowls of mussels steamed with different beverages and spices. I left it up to the bartender to select my beer, a steady stream of Belgians, including a rather unusual Duvel Green, a young, draft version of the famous Duvel.
I made it back to the hotel, crashed early and painfully drove back to Durham, loaded to the gills with cold medication.