By AML Publisher
Photos courtesy of Kevin E. McPherson and Mimi Janosy (www.mimiprophoto.com)
On this morning of the eve of what has become America’s largest beer festival, there is a feeling of the calm before the storm. A storm that entails a tsunami of suds that is steering its way to the Philadelphia and Main Line region. Philly Beer Week 2009, in only its second year, is just shy of 700 individual events spread throughout its ten day gargantuan celebration of the region’s, the nation’s and the world’s best beer. PBW 2009 will kickoff with an amazing celebration at The Comcast Center lobby and Winter Garden tonight—and be followed by a flurry of fun for anyone and everyone who loves lager. From food and beer pairings, to a 5k Sunday run, beer brunches and lunches, lumberjack contests, a refined ‘Meet the Brewer’ cocktail party at The Four Seasons’ Swann Lounge and more, PBW offers something for everyone. With almost 70 events a day to choose from, it’s a most dizzying selection for any beer lover near or far.
Where did this smorgasbord of suds suddenly arise from? The three founding fathers of Philly Beer Week, who are now heralded for their ingenious idea across the city of Brotherly Love, are Tom Peters, owner of Philly’s Monk’s Café which is considered one of the greatest Belgian taverns in the country, Don Russell (best known as Daily News columnist Joe Sixpack) and Bruce Nichols, President of the Penn Museum Catering Company. In 2007, the three compatriots had just finished a very successful annual beer weekend with internationally-renowned beer aficionado Michael Jackson at the Penn Museum. The trio took note that a city-wide event called The Book and The Cook, an annual foodie festival and fair, had seen waning interest.
Jackson, known in the industry as The Beer Hunter and now deceased, had presided over the beer dinner and weekend organized by Nichols for seventeen years. With a strong following of beer enthusiasts (who had participated in the Jackson event) established and a beer-drinking city primed for a new, exciting annual celebration, the three friends saw a window of opportunity. Thus, the inauguaral Philly Beer Week 2008 drew over 15,000 participants and boasted no less than 100 events over the 10-day city-wide celebration.
One of the area’s of greatest expansion, besides a beer gut or ‘Milwaukee tumor’ as they call them south of the Mason Dixon line, is the increased participation from the Main Line and suburban bars. “This year the suburbs have really stepped up! It’s amazing how many people are participating and the range of events totally blows me away. It’s now not just a city event. The surrounding region is fully participating and I could not be more pleased,” said Tom Peters. “Some of the restaurants, like Wayne’s Teresa’s Next Door, participated in our inaugural event last year. And, I think many of them thought it was more Center City centric. But Teresa’s, TJ’s Everyday (Paoli) and Capone’s (in Norristown) sold out every single one of their events in ’08 so that’s when we (and our participating restaurants) realized it was going to evolve into a more regional event the second time around,” explained Peters.
Matt Guyer, of Wayne’s popular beer distributor The Beer Yard, echoed Peters’ sentiments. “It is amazing how big this has gotten in just one year. Last year, it was bigger than they thought it would be and this year it is just going to be insane! Hopefully, PBW ‘09 will get people to try new places and their old favorites. A big goal of Beer Week is to bring people in town—it’s a nice opportunity to bring friends into Philly or to visit in the burbs and show them around. I think it will get people to try new places and go back to their favorite neighborhood haunts,” said Guyer.
With a seamless and sensationally successful first event in ’08, this fall at the fifth annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver (which boasted 46,000 attendees), Philly Beer Week was all the buzz. “When we got out to Denver, it had really sunk in. People were talking and asking us how we did it the first time around,” Nichols said. The Denver festival is a weekend event confined to the Denver Convention Center and it’s the biggest judged beer festival in the world. Russell explained that the concept behind Philly Beer Week was to capture the culture of a region– from the city to the suburbs and everywhere in between. “What made PBW so unique (the first time around) is that it celebrated the tavern culture in Philadelphia and the suburbs. For the first time, people were realizing just how many places you can go in the city and just outside Philly to get a beer. I wrote a book about this last year (Joe Sixpack’s Philly Beer Guide: A Reporter’s Notes on the Best Beer-Drinking City in America , Camino, 2007), and I managed to put together a list of over 400 locations in this area that lend themselves to a sensational bar scene. Philadelphia is Belgium USA, we have world-class Belgian bars here right in the city—bars that would be right at home in Brugge or Antwerp or Brussels,” enthused Russell.
PBW 2009 promises to bring tens of thousands to the city and surrounding region within the next ten days. As for Main Liners and suburbanites, with the new campaign SEPTA Sips Safely, many can stay right in their neighborhoods and travel safely along the R5 to have a fulfilling and fun Philly Beer Week in the burbs. Gullifty’s in Rosemont is hosting eight PBW events and has creatively taken the idea of March Madness and developed a ‘Beer Menu Madness’ where patrons get to vote on their favorite beer (via their pocketbook) and the best selling brews advance to the next round or bracket. “I do think you can spend a week looking at all the events trying to decide where to go! Teresa’s Next Door and The Flying Pig are doing great events and many others. I think the SEPTA sips safely pass not only is a good, responsibility promotion for the suburbs, but it will also encourage those in Center City to hop on the train and check out what the suburbs have to offer. And, there is plenty going on in and around the Main Line region. I am really surprised about how cool the beer scene is in the burbs, it blows me away,” said Peters.
While a few local restaurants participated last year, that number has skyrocketed as younger chefs have become intrigued with beer and food pairings, Nichols explained. And, now that PBW has a cult following and a vested interest in becoming known as a regional event, the suburbs are an integral part of a successful second run. “The breweries know they have a strong following in the suburbs and its awesome branding for them to be at a local corner bar with the brewery owner themselves meeting and greeting patrons who love their beer. That’s got a great, positive feel for everyone. And, there are seven other cities across America trying to duplicate what we have going on here. So, as they say, ‘imitation is the best form of flattery,’” said Russell. As for a nation, and now a founding city, psyched about a booming beer culture…Peters offered his take. “The beer world is so different than the wine world. There is a great camaraderie in this industry and a lack of competition. If any brewery has a problem, another brewer will pitch in and help out without asking for anything in return, I think that is why there is a communal friendship in this industry. And, its one reason why this culture thrives. When the river rises, we all go up with it!”
Philly Beer Week Highlights for Main Line and Philadelphia Suburban Restaurants (listed in alphabetical order)
Boathouse Restaurant, Conshohocken & Wayne
Conshohocken location, Saturday March 7th 1pm-5pm
Victory Brewing Company’s Conshohocken Mini-Bar Crawl
Bring your friends to one of Conshy’s great neighborhood bars for an afternoon mini-crawl as Wild Devil will be flowing all day long.
Conshohocken location, Friday March 13th 5pm-7pm
Sierra Nevada Happy Hour
Featuring Sierra’s Imperial Smoked Porter, ESB, and Pale Ale—plus word on the street something even fresher may be served. Can someone say Stout Cask?
Wayne location, Monday March 9th 7:30pm
Meet The Brewery Rep, Anchor Steam
Former Phillies announcer Andy Musser brings in his Anchor Steam Small Batch to hook up at the Boathouse’s newest locale in downtown Wayne! Musser is the man if you have anything baseball (or beer) related to chat about.
Sunday, March 8th 10:30 am
Meet the Brewer for Brunch: Patrick Rue of The Bruery
Start your first Sunday of PBW 2009 off right with one of the newest Belgian-style American brewers, Patrick Rue. Rue will have on hand some of his finest craft creations.
Saturday, March 14th 11:00 am
Meet the Brewer: Rob Tod of Allagash
Come meet Rob Tod at Capone’s as you head down the homestretch of your best Beer Week excursions. Tod will be featuring many of his award-winning beers on draft, including lots of Belgian-styles and some aged beers soured with Brettanomyces yeast.
Flying Pig Saloon, Malvern
Wednesday, March 11th 7-9pm
Meet the Brewery Owner: Bruce Pia of Erie Brewing Company
AroundMainLine.com is sponsoring the great Erie Brewing Company, makers of some of Pennsylvania’s best craft beers, as Bruce Pia and Erie Sales Manager Jim Hicks hang at ‘The Pig.’ Attendees will have a chance to spin a prize wheel and walk away with free Erie t-shirts and six-packs of some of their finest brews.
General Lafayette Inn, Lafayette Hill
Monday, March 9th, 7pm
General Lafayette Inn/Green Flash Beer Dinner $69 per person
Enjoy a six-course beer dinner with Brewmasters Chris Leonard of General Lafayette Inn and Chuck Silva of Green Flash in a clash of coasts and brewing styles. A six-course comfort food cuisine will be served. Silva and Leonard are old acquaintances as Silva served as Leonard’s apprentice at a San Diego brewpub. Both are graduates of The American Brewers Guild, located outside of Sacramento.
Gullifty’s Pizza Grille & Bar, Rosemont
Monday, March 9th
Meet the Brewers
7-9pm, Weyerbacher : With 27 beers, and counting, Weyerbacher Brewery (Easton, PA) has poured their passion into their beers. Come out and let them stoke (or incite) your passions!
9-11pm, Victory: We’ll hear from one of the multiple-award-winning Victory’s representatives and have an opportunity to find out why they have experienced so many victories in the beer world. Wednesday,
Wednesday, March 11th 7pm
Meet and Greet With Joe Sixpack
Meet the real Joe Sixpack, Daily News columnist, beer author and aficionado Don Russell who will be on hand to chat it up with Gullifty’s great patrons and beer lovers. Enjoy a few of Russell’s favorite hops and take home an autographed book with you!
Thursday, March 12th 7pm
AroundMainLine.com Beer And Pizza Bites Night
AroundMainLine.com will host a great night of complimentary brick-oven pizza appetizers paired with Gullifty’s great selection of craft brews—at one of the Main Line’s staple neighborhood restaurants.
Oakmont National Pub, Havertown
Friday, March 6th 7pm
Cheese, Chocolates & Craft Beer
Enjoy complimentary Cabot cheeses and chocolates served with Sam Adams Double Bock on draft at The Oakmont and tastings of Imperial White and Stout with free glassware!
Saturday, March 7th 7pm
All Aboard At The Oakmont!
AroundMainLine.com is hosting a highly anticipated Saturday night event at the Oakmont, as Erie Brewing Company brings their award-winning Scottish Ale, Railbender Ale to Havertown. The party and giveaways start at 7pm sharp tomorrow night followed by fantastic live music and great food and company—all at The Oakmont!
Phoenixville Bar Crawl
Saturday, March 14th 1pm-5pm
Details Courtesy of MainStreetPhoenixville.com
Main Street Phoenixville has gathered their restaurants and bars together for a one-day Pub Crawl/Meet the Brewer event to be held on Saturday, March 14th from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event will give beer-lovers a chance to both sample the latest and greatest brews and meet their creators, all while getting a taste for Phoenixville’s beer scene. Among the brewers participating in the day’s events will be famed Guinness brew master Fergal Murray as well as Weyerbacher’s Chris Lampe, Flying Fish’s Drew Perry and Southampton’s Spencer Niebuhr.
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (130 E. Bridge Street): “HEAVY MEDALS.”Throughout the day, Iron Hill will offer all six of their 2008 Great American Beer Festival medal winning brews. Come by and taste the beers and meet the brewers who created them.
Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery (519 Kimberton Road): “Meet the Brewer,” with Sly Fox Brewmaster Brian O’Reilly and Standard Tap owner and former brewer William Reed. The pair will be featuring their collaboration beer-Standard Ale, a 5.6% cask-conditioned brew.
Columbia Bar & Grille (148 E. Bridge Street): “Meet the Brewer,” featuring Lancaster Brewing Company’s, Bill Moore.
101 Bridge ( 101 Bridge Street ): “Meet the Brewer,” featuring Stoudt’s Brewing Company.
Molly Maguire’s Irish Restaurant (195 Bridge Street): “Meet the Brewer,” featuring Guinness and Victory. Pay as you go with Guinness brew master Fergal Murray – 1 p.m-3 p.m. and Victory Brewing Company’s, Bill Covaleski 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
Pickering Creek Inn (37 Bridge Street): “Meet the Brewer,” with Weyerbacher Brewing Company’s Chris Lampe. The Inn’s event will also feature Southampton Brewery’s Spencer Neibuhr.
PJ Ryan’s (231 Bridge Street): “Meet the Brewer,” with Flying Fish Brewing Company’s Drew Perry. Troegs Brewing Company will also be featured.
Epicurean Restaurant & Bar (902 Kimberton Road): “Meet the Brewer,” featuring Yard’s Brewing Company and Dogfish Head Brewery.
Teresa’s Next Door, Wayne
Friday, March 6th 7pm
Meet the Brewer Curt Cameron of Thomas Hooker
A keg of 2007 Old Marley Barleywine has been hiding in Teresa’s cellars for just this event! Thomas Hooker Liberator and Imperial Porter on draft as well for all to enjoy.
Saturday, March 7th Noon
Teresa’s is bringing up some of their favorite cellared gems to share with the lucky crowd who can get in—starting at noon sharp. Many rare, vintage beers will be on hand to purchase and treasure.
Tuesday, March 10th 12:30pm
Luncheon with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery
Enjoy a five-course lunch paired with some of Sam’s most sought-after, strange and off-the-wall beers. Expect this event to sell out!
Friday, March 13th 7pm
Second Annual Chimay Night with Bobo
Another night with Bobo, the best personality in the business! Enjoy all three Chimay beers paired with some of Philadelphia’s most fantastic Belgian cuisine.
TJ Drinkery’s, Paoli
Monday, March 9th 7pm-9pm
Meet the Brewers Night-Suburbs
This is the night that PBW and the suburban bar owners deemed “Meet the Brewers Night – Suburbs”. TJ’s is hosting the brewer from Brewery Ommegang out of New York. (Ommegang is under the same corporate umbrella as D’Achouffe and Duvel.) TJ’s will be featuring some fantastic D’Achouffe products as well as the premiere of Duvel Green on draft–Duvel Green is the single fermented version of the popular Duvel “original.”