Philadelphia has been called the best beer-drinking city in America and, this week, the city will celebrate the title — call it the City of Brew-therly love? — with the return of the annual Philly Beer Week events.
More than a week’s worth of celebrations dedicated to the liquid ambrosia that gave Brewerytown its name are set to begin on Friday, June 3, and last until Sunday, June 12.
This year, more than 185 businesses, including bars and restaurants throughout the city, will host events during Beer Week.
But, the most activity might be saved for the local breweries who, throughout the week, will be attending firkin tapings, beer and food pairings and “meet the brewer” events, in addition to hosting various special events.
“It’s really draining,” said Nancy Barton, who owns East Kensington’s Philadelphia Brewing Co. with her husband, Bill.
“But, it’s great for the city as a whole,” she continued. “It sheds a great light on the city.”
The city’s two commercial breweries — Philadelphia Brewing Co. and Yard’s Brewing Co., located on Delaware Avenue — will be participating in this week’s events in a big way.
For a company like PBC, which regularly supports community events — neighborhood meetings are often held at the brewery and they participated in the recent Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby with the spaceship stylized “Fermenterprise” — Beer Week can be a lot of extra work.
“We say every week is Beer Week,” said Barton, pointing to the many community events the brewery supports.
Yet, she said, the week really allows local businesses to work with the brewery to create unique, new events to attract the audience that descends on the city during Beer Week, now in its fourth year.
“This week makes people think creatively for promotions,” said Barton.
For example, as well as the typical “meet the brewer” events that brewers from PBC plan to attend, Barton said they decided to spice it up a little with a “meet the drivers” event, to be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on June 8 at Old City’s Philadelphia Bar and Restaurant at 120 Market St.
“That should be fun,” said Barton. “Anyone can brew beer, but try having to lug kegs up and down stairs and into basements. That’s a real tough job.”
The next day, PBC will host a Gong Show-style talent competition at Standard Tap, 2nd and Poplar streets in Northern Liberties, from 7:30 to 10 p.m.
Also, if you want to see brewers from various breweries shaking what their momma gave them, head to the Grey Lodge Pub, 6235 Frankford Ave., in the Northeast, for “Grey Lodge goes Bollywood.”
It’s an event where they will be “putting the Indian in India Pale Ales,” said Barton, noting there will be dancing and Indian-style music.
The Grey Lodge will also host a “Dead Presidents” event with Northern Liberties’ Yards Brewing Company, with actors dressed as presidents and a selection of Yards’ Ales of the Revolution, beers replicating those the Founding Fathers would have imbibed.
This will be held from 8 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 4.
Steve Mashington, operations manager for Yards, said they’re scaling back celebrations this year, but only slightly.
There’s no “Smoke’em if You Got ‘Em” smoked beer festival this Beer Week, for example. Instead, they’ll focus more on supporting events at area establishments and saving events held at the brewery for another time.
“We just didn’t want to take away from those other events,” he said.
With that in mind, Yards will be nearly everywhere during Beer Week, with plans to attend a kick-off party, held just before Beer Week, on Thursday, June 2 at the Iron Abbey at 680 N. Easton Road in Horsham, from 7 to 2 a.m.
As a brewer in a city with such a beer pedigree, Mashington said he is proud of Philadelphia’s notoriety as a beer-drinking urban center and, while it puts pressure on the Philadelphia-based breweries to perform, it’s a pressure he’s happy to confront.
“There’s a lot of pressure, but it’s good pressure,” he said. “We have a very knowledgeable [customer] base … If our beer isn’t up to snuff, our customers will notice that.”
Also this year, Yards will be offering some special brews for thirsty Beer Week patrons. The first will be a brew that comes from the winners of a homebrew contest the brewery held this year.
It’s called “CB4” for the two homebrewers’ first names, Craig and Brad, and the fact that they used four kinds of hops in the Belgian Pale Ale, said Mashington.
Yards also partnered with a number of other breweries, including Tröegs, Stoudt’s, Victory and Center City-based Nodding Head to create a lager, “Brotherly Suds 2.”
“We used the Schmidts’ [Brewery] lager yeast from right here,” said Mashington about the beer, adding that the breweries were able to obtain the same lager yeast the historic 2nd Street company used before it was shuttered.
Both of these limited brews will be available at special events throughout Beer Week, said Mashington.
Done with Beer Week or need an escape from the crowd?
In Port Richmond, at 2253 East Clearfield St., the new Port Richmond Pour House will offer what owner John Boswell is calling “Beer Week Relief.”
Anyone who comes in and mentions Beer Week will get a discount on the bar’s wide variety of craft beers.
Located in the rough and tumble section of Port Richmond west of Aramingo Avenue, the bar is unique for that section of the city. But Boswell, a former bartender at the recently closed Swift Half Pub in Northern Liberties, said there is an audience for good craft beers in the area.
“I wanted there to be a place over here where I could take my family,” said the father of a toddler. “There’s a lot more people in this neighborhood that like good beer than people give the neighborhood credit for.”
The establishment — which still sits under the Corner Spot sign for the bar that used to occupy that space, though Boswell said that would soon change — has been a pub since the early 1900s. With such a history, Boswell said he is excited to return the business to a thriving location like had been in its heyday.
But, when he took over the spot in February, it was far from historically appealing, he said.
It was like a scene from Seven in here,” he joked, noting the Brad Pitt thriller movie. “But I’ve been gradually growing the place … This is like my basement bar and it’s been great.”
Specifically, Boswell said, like Beer Week, he’s hoping to support local breweries and, with a few exceptions, the Port Richmond Pour House serves locally produced or American beers.
“It’s beer made by friends and family,” he said of the Yards and Philadelphia Brewing Co. beers that he offers at the pub. “That’s the kind of thing you want to support.”
For a full listing of Philly Beer Week events, visit www.phillybeerweek.com.
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215–354–3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org