Thursday, June 7, 2012

Philly Beer Week - report

Well...we're over halfway through. I skipped the first two days for personal reasons, but Philly Beer Week is well underway. My first event was Sunday evening at the Grey Lodge: the New Jersey beer event. Scoats had an ambitious program of New Jersey beers planned, but we had some wholesaler issues and that fell through...but then River Horse came through with an unexpected pin of cask Hopalotamus, which was MOST welcome! I sang a rewritten version of John Gorka's "I'm From New Jersey", talking about what New Jersey beers were like ten years ago:

Beers from New Jersey —
We don't expect too much.
If those beers ended today
We would adjust

Beers from New Jersey
I don’t mean Rolling Rock;
That’s just Budweiser
with added corn

Beers from New Jersey
They’re mostly contract;
Some guy with a label
and a dumb idea.

...and so on. But like I said: ten years ago! Things are quite a bit different now. What we did note, Scoats and I, was that the breweries still look kind of 10 years ago: small, handicapped by state laws, the "no sales by the glass" for breweries and "no packaging" for the brewpubs (and only two locations, too). Excepting of course Flying Fish, where the new brewery is flipping huge... We had good beers -- the Cricket Hill was exceptional --talked to some good folks, but I won't lie to you: it wasn't crowded. NJ breweries are not the draw that the Upstate PA Beer Night has been in previous years.

An anonymous donor buying Jack's beers.
I left at 7 for the Scratch Off at Standard Tap, the head-to-head who'll-buy-the-most pints with the Tröegs beers Uncle Jack Curtin and I brewed: Biere de Grouch and Zwickel Licker, respectively. It was crazy, a madhouse, and we got silly rather quickly. It was, as someone said, a true Philly election: it was bought. I may have started that, buying ten glasses of "my" beer at the upstairs bar, and it escalated. Still, both beers were quite good, as was the Perpetual IPA that was also available, and the crowd was happy and having fun. The number sold teetered back and forth all night, but when the final totals came out at was 111 to 108, and Zwickel Licker was on the short end. Congratulations to Uncle Jack, and his well-heeled partisans! (And many thanks to my well-heeled partisans -- especially the ones from Al's of Hampden!)

Tuesday I did two events again, again starting at the Grey Lodge. The first one was the booze song karaoke we dreamed up, and I did get up there in front of everyone -- okay, about 20 very amused folks, including my Hulmeville Inn friends (Steve, any pix you can send?) -- and sing songs like "A Jug of This," "I Drink Alone," "I Like Beer," and "Whiskey in the Jar," which was a big success and had most everyone singing along on the choruses. We ran out of songs around 8:30, so I tore into "Ring of Fire," which was right in the meat of my range, and "Love Me Two Times," and I'll admit that I have no idea why I sang that one. Maybe because I'd sung "Moon of Alabama" before and the karaoke guy thought I liked the Doors? Anyway, we wound up with the Hulmeville folks and Scoats and me roaring out The Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl," and that was great. Good times.

I ran out the door and drove down to Center City to join the Session Beer Panel in progress at Farmer's Cabinet. Stellar panel of east coast bar owners/managers (see the post below for the names and the beers we tasted), and a good crowd in the room...but I wish we'd had more discussion. It mostly came down to one person at a time talking about one beer or brewery at a time, which got a bit stultifying. Still, some excellent beers, and my pick, Yards Brawler, came off quite well among them. Terry Hawbaker's non-traditional Göse was quite good as well. That went till almost midnight...and I finally got home. Whew.

Last night I did two events just for fun; only one of them was mine. I went to the Great Lakes industry presentation on water quality and sustainability at the Waterworks, and it was just beautiful there. Never been before, and I intend to take the family back.The beer was excellent as well: The Wright Pilsner, Rally Drum Red (rare appearance of a pub-only brew), and of course, my beloved Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. Good eats from London Grill and Mad Mex, too. We had a very interesting presentation on Philadelphia brewing history from Rich Wagner, celebrating his new book, Philadelphia Beer. (I am quite proud that Rich asked me to write the foreword; cheers!)

After that, I drove up the hill to London Grill, where I hosted a cider event featuring Arsenal, Revolution, and Desiato ciders, all from Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, Philly, and Bucks County, respectively), and all had their owners there. Arsenal's Bill Larkin, Revolution's Jonathan Gradman, and Desiato's Rich Smithson all did presentations on their ciders, all of which were quite different from the others. Arsenal's were more like dry apple wines at higher ABV; Revolution was unfiltered (a pale cloudy yellow, much like a witbier); and Desiato was quite rustic, interestingly rough. We had a good time talking and learning; I'm really an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to cider, and while I was happy to share what I knew, I was there to learn myself. A most satisfying event; not surprising at London.

Onward! Tonight it's the Philly Beer Geek Finals at Manayunk...


fhnsab said...

Kane Brewing Company and also Carton Brewing Company should be on your radar next time. Great stuff coming from both of those breweries!!!

Lew Bryson said...

Tried to get some Carton -- actually, we tried to get a LOT more NJ beers, but it's not that easy getting them in PA. There was some Carton at the Session Beer event, but it was all gone by the time I got there -- a good sign, I guess.

Joey Ballgame said...

Does it seem almost like cheating that Mashington won the Beer Geek contest? (yes, I read the rules and he was allowed to participate but, come on)

Lew Bryson said...

I dunno. There have been some semi/full-pros in before; Mike Gretz, for example, bartenders, and such. Mashington was right in the contention with the questions -- all the contestants were, actually, very good beer knowledge this year -- and put on one hell of a show, which is always a massive part of it. Every year this competition gets tougher, which amazes me, but it's true.