Craft Beer Express crosses Philly to find the best

This wet-hop brew will be poured Saturday at Johnny Brenda's.
This wet-hop brew will be poured Saturday at Johnny Brenda's.
Posted: November 08, 2013

BY MY count, 152 brands will be pouring during Saturday's Craft Beer Express, a crosstown pub crawl that visits a dozen fine bars. Maybe that's why bus tickets (at craftbeerexpress.com) are just 10 bucks.

It may very well be impossible to drink 'em all.

So, with a nod to Philly Tap Finder, which compiled the day's tap lists, here are 12 can't-miss beers on the Craft Beer Express:

_ New Holland Philly Wild Ale, at Kraftwork (Fishtown). Theme: Taste of the Great Midwest.

The Midwest is sending all kinds of good stuff our way, from the likes of Bell's, Great Lakes, Founders, Two Brothers and even Anheuser-Busch-owned Goose Island (seriously, do not pass up a chance to try Matilda Lambicus).

New Holland, meanwhile, sent us a love letter during Beer Week last June by cellaring its popular blueberry-flavored Blue Sunday ale with a big helping of rosemary. Seems there's one remaining stray keg in town, waiting to get kicked.

_ Philadelphia Brewing Harvest from the Hood, at Johnny Brenda's (Fishtown). Theme: 5th Annual Wet Hop Rodeo.

In contrast to most beer that is made with dried hops, wet-hop beer is brewed with freshly picked hops that go straight from the farm to the kettle. You can't get any fresher in Philly than hops that were plucked at Kensington's Greensgrow Farms, carted six blocks to Philly Brewing, then trucked 1 mile south to Johnny Brenda's.

_ Stoudt's Four Play, at Standard Tap (Northern Liberties). Theme: Sexy Singles.

No, my Daily News colleague Jenice Armstrong is not branching out to beer with her annual People Paper contest. The singles here are hops - beers made with just one variety, instead of the more typical blend.

This one's an IPA I wrote about a few weeks ago, using an experimental hop known as #01210.

_ DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus, at The Institute (Spring Garden). Theme: stouts and porters.

The Institute is going to be one of those CBX stops where everyone hangs for a second or third beer, and not just because "Star Wars" movies will be playing all day. The lineup is filled with unique dark brands, ranging from a pecan porter to a chocolate cherry stout.

But you shouldn't pass up on this chocolate-and-peanut-butter porter from Maryland. It's the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of suds.

_ Free Will Saison de Rose, at Bishop's Collar (Fairmount). Theme: Stockertown Beverage.

Only in Philadelphia can you build a beer event around a beer distributor whose main office is hidden away in Northampton County. That's because S-town can hold its own against any wholesale portfolio in town, with brands ranging from Helltown, in Mount Pleasant, Pa., to Nøgne Ø, in Norway.

Fill a pint with this pink farmhouse ale, made in Perkasie, and you'll be supporting Penn Medicine's Rena Rowan Breast Center.

§ucaba, at Kite & Key (Franklintown). Theme: Firestone Walker brewery spotlight.

Honestly, you should try every beer from this California outfit, named the Mid-Size Brewery of the Year at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival. But it's this huge (12.5 percent alcohol), malt-forward, English-style barleywine - typically available only in bottles - that will kick first.

_ Naked Driveway Sit-Ups, at Jose Pistola's (Center City). Theme: Terrell Owens' Retirement.

What to do when your favorite former Eagles receiver/teary-eyed reality star/pro-bowler wannabe is headed toward retirement from the NFL? Throw a party in which every beer on tap honors his jersey number at precisely 8.1 percent alcohol.

No one brewed a hot dog beer. But Naked Brewing, from Huntingdon Valley, got into the spirit with an imperial stout flavored with orange peels, named after one of T.O.'s more memorable stunts.

_ Allagash Midnight Brett, at Sidecar (South of South). Theme: American-made Belgian styles.

If you've been paying attention, you know sour beer is a thing these days. You also know that Allagash, of Portland, Maine, is pushing the envelope with a funky house strain of Brettanomyces ("Brett," in beer parlance) yeast. A sour-cherry flavor dominates this refreshing, dark wheat beer.

_ Class of '88 Barley Wine, at Pub on Passyunk East (South Philly). Theme: Deschutes brewery spotlight.

Deschutes is buzzing around town all week at more than a dozen bars, with its traveling Base Camp road show. And while its own brands can stand on their own, the brewery's series of Class of '88 collaborations (made with other breweries that opened that year) is something special.

This monster (10.2 percent alcohol) was brewed with North Coast, of California.

_ Southern Tier Krampus, at Devil's Den (South Philly). Theme: Get Animated Costume Party.

Bar owner Erin Wallace comes up with the most original themed events, and this one is decidedly strange: beers that feature cartoon characters. Look for UnderDog, Dogzilla and the Mad Hatter.

But be wary of Krampus, a malty-yet-smooth "imperial" Helles lager named after the evil Yuletime character who captures naughty children and drags them back to his lair.

_ Weltenburger Kloster Asam-Bock, at Brauhaus Schmitz (South Street). Theme: German monastery beer.

Most eyes will be on the spigots pouring beer from Bavaria's Andechs monastery, and rightly so: Its Vollbier Hell and Weissbier Dunkel are superb.

But do not miss this one, because it may be the best bock you've never heard of. Brewed at the ancient (c. 620 A.D.) Weltenburg Abbey, it's strong and dark, but smooth, with a swirl of fruit and candy flavor.

_ Great Divide Peach Grand Cru, at Race Street Cafe (Old City). Theme: Colorado breweries.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking: chick beer. Well, real women will love this beer, and so will guys, if they can get over themselves. It's a strong (12 percent alcohol), Belgian-style ale flavored with 1,600 pounds of peaches in each 50-barrel batch.

It's never too late to get started on the weekend, so don't forget the Lithuanian-themed craft-beer tasting I'll be hosting Friday evening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. We'll be pouring local craft beer, plus a pair of unusual Lithuanian beers, as a tribute to the Baltic nation's artisans, who are featured at the craft show.

Tickets to the event, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, are available on line at tinyurl.com/kaq4fur for $45.


"Joe Sixpack" is by Don Russell, director of Philly Beer Week. For more on the beer scene, sign up for his weekly email update at joesixpack.net. Email: joesixpack@phillynews.com.

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