The family went to Memphis Taproom for our New Year's Eve lunch yesterday, and it was excellent. I had a delicious glass of Blind Pig IPA (which beats the Plinys going away, in my mouth) and a sweet goblet of Great Divide Hibernation, and finished up with a big pint of Yards Brawler: a bold canvas of malt without the lumping thickness of 'big beer.' (Cathy agreed to drive home, so I had three without worry.)
Lunch was a Hangtown Fry hoagie, stuffed with an onion omelette and some perfect fried oysters dredged in cornmeal; the oysters were sweet and meaty, and the crust crunched with the realization of the corn. Cathy had a portobello patty melt that made me think of reubens, Nora tore up a perfect burger, and Thomas had a grown-up's chicken fingers, with rough, crunchy, spiced crust and fleshy chicken underneath. A great way to end the year at our favorite new bar.
But that's not why I posted, and certainly not why this is my first post of 2009. It was a brief conversation I had with owner Brendan Hartranft. We talked about Local 44 opening today, and that led to the 'business model' (work hard, pay it off, keep the string going), which led to talk of the possible next Brendan/Leigh operation: a cask ale pub. "Six beer engines," said Brendan, just spinning an idea (he spun others as well), "and a small place, maybe 30 seats, with a simple lunch menu, maybe five or six pasties, a couple salads. I think that could work."
Six beer engines? Great idea, makes me drool, but can you get enough real, true cask-conditioned ale to fill them? Without going into too much (secret?) detail, the answer is yes, he thinks he can, and with great session-strength stuff. Which led to this statement by Brendan: "I think this is going to be the year for session beer. We've all got a Belgian hangover, and people want to drink beer. And the beer that gets it right first is going to capture a lot of the market."
He's not the first to say this, but saying it that definitely, in Philly, is a landmark. We've got some beers that are ready (Brawler, the dry stouts from Victory and Sly Fox, EB+B's low alcohol series, General Lafayette's Mirage), we've got some bars and brewpubs that are ready. The big question is: are you ready?
I think we are. This could be the year we stop hitting ourselves over the head with beer...and start embracing and enjoying it instead. Less problems with DUI, less problems with outrage over high prices, and most likely, more local beer. All that, and the possibility of developing a true beer culture and getting more people back to bars to enjoy themselves in moderation.
Ask for session beer. It's our year.