Good cheer at Philly Beer Week

Beer drinkers thronged the International Great Beer Expo at the Navy Yard on June 4. (Laurence Kesterson / Staff Photographer)
Beer drinkers thronged the International Great Beer Expo at the Navy Yard on June 4. (Laurence Kesterson / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 09, 2011

In a city where residents sport sweatpants in public with pride, the crowd at Brew Works Pajama Jammy Jam Brunch Party on Saturday appeared remarkably well-groomed.

That's Philly Beer Week for you.

More than 35,000 folks - some well-dressed, some not - are expected to flood the region for the fourth annual frothfest, which wraps up Sunday. Organizers say it is the largest celebration of its kind in the country.

So it was a must for Beau Baden.

The head brewer at Brew Works in Allentown, Baden, 40, arrived at the Pajama Jam - held at City Tap House in West Philadelphia - with some of his more popular brews: Hop'solutely, Space Monkey saison, and Blueberry Belch. He'll headline a dozen such events before Beer Week ends.

"It's important to build our name, show who we are, and what we are making," he said. "This brings a ton of attention."

During Beer Week, everybody wins.

Bar stools get filled, the thirsty get great suds, and brewers get a direct connection to eager hop heads. There are highbrow events - educational seminars, tasting menus, and brewer meet-and-greets - along with more expected dunk tanks, wing-eating contests, and tap takeovers. There's even an arm-wrestling contest.

On Saturday Jackie Borelli, 26, had her first beer of the day at 2 p.m., while standing smack in the middle of 10th Street, which was shut down between Spruce and Locust for a block party outside Varga Bar.

"They should legalize open containers like in New Orleans, so you can drink in the street all the time."

The Bala Cynwyd resident and a friend had decided to build up their thirst by biking to Center City from City Avenue. The two had a front-row view of the beer pong tournament in progress and watched as young women signed up for a pinup-girl contest that was about to start.

Borelli and her friend were not going to kill their buzz by figuring out how they were going to get home.

"I think we'll have to put our bikes in taxis," Borelli said with a shrug.

Fun and beer may be self-evident, but there's a subtext here. Philly's Beer Week is about craft beers, the sorta-serious, small-batch, flavor-pushing, irreverently named brewskis that have taken the country, and this region, by storm.

Miller Lite aficionados won't find their favorite here.

On North 12th Street, just past Spring Garden, a neighborhood bar called the Institute was a little more subdued Saturday.

With a John Wayne movie playing on the TV, owners Heather and Charlie Collazo had flooded their taps with fruit beers, a personal favorite of Charlie Collazo's. Brothers Dan and Walt Mikorski, from Princeton and Fort Myers, Fla., respectively, were doing some fraternal bonding over a nice sampling of ales.

"We home-brew, so we are into beer," Dan Mikorski said. "We came to see what the pros made."

The out-of-towners planned to make many more stops for beer and would spend the night.

Brewers and owners play celebrity during beer week.

Ken Grossman, founder of California-based Sierra Nevada, and his son Brian pulled in a packed house (at $55 a ticket) for the Tria Fermentation School's talk and tasting on Sunday.

"These guys really started it all," says Tria owner Jon Myerow.

Fans hailing from South Jersey to the United Kingdom filled the seats of the smartly appointed room at Tria, waiting for the empty wine glasses in front of them to be filled with Sierra's popular Summerfest or its rare Life & Limb, a collaboration with Delaware's Dogfish Head brewery.

As they sipped, father and son narrated the inspiring story of Sierra, complete with color-washed photos from the '70s and '80s and crisp images of the massive copper pots that now brew hundreds of thousands of barrels a year.

A young couple from South Jersey watched with wide eyes; an avid home brewer asked about the waste that is lost from dry hopping. Everyone drank.

It was the Grossmans' first trip to Philly Beer Week.

"Philly is a great beer town," Ken Grossman said. "The knowledge base that consumers have here is much higher than in most cities. And there are some great bars."

Cooperage, a wine bar off Washington Square, loaned its taps to Dogfish Head for a few hours on Sunday, a day it is usually closed. By 7 p.m. almost every seat was filled and revelers were loving the $5 beers (which often cost double that), the rarely tapped kegs, and the opportunity to chat with Dogfish Head brewer Wayne Milford.

They might not have loved the hangover from those high-alcohol-content ales the next morning.


Beer Week: A Snapshot

Only three days of Beer Week remain, but that still leaves plenty of events. Find the right one for you at www.phillybeerweek.org. Meanwhile, enjoy these amusing but irrelevant facts (and non-facts) and figures:

Number of breakfast /

brunch-related events: 29

Number of suburban events: 35

Most unexpected suburban venue: The Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting

Brewer who traveled the farthest: Jim Robertson, brew master of UK-based Wells & Young's.

Number of kid-focused Beer Week events: 3

Most intriguing event: Pub on Passyunk East's Shel Silverstein Tribute Brunch with Ommegang

Number of competitive events: 47

Our faves: South Philadelphia Tap Room's Lefthand arm- wrestling contest, and Dock Street Brewery's Dock Street to Dock Street Philly Beer Run (a run from the bar in Old City to the brewery in West Philly, roughly 5.5 miles).

Most highbrow event: Osteria's Cena di Domenica dinner with Stoudt's Brewery, $100 per person, which took place Sunday.

Most lowbrow: Show us Your Cans at Delilah's Gentlemen's Club & Steakhouse, which you also missed - on Wednesday.

- Ashley Primis


Read about The Inquirer's second annual Local Brew-vitational - a blind tasting of 38 brews from 20 breweries - at www.philly.com/food.


Contact staff writer Ashley Primis at 215-854-2244, aprimis@phillynews.com, or @ashleyprimis on Twitter.

 

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