Friday, May 31st marked the official start of Philly Beer Week 2013. Prior to the official Opening Tap of this year’s Philly Beer Week, there was a Hammer Of Glory (HOG) Relay which kicked off at Northeast Philly’s Hop Angel Brauhaus at 9:30AM and ended at the Independence Visitor Center at 6:30PM (you can read more about the HOG Relay and the 19 stops made along the way to Opening Tap by clicking here.).
Although we weren’t able to follow the HOG on its journey to the Independence Visitor Center, Limpd and I were lucky enough to attend the official Opening Tap which kicked off at 7PM. Once again, rather than the usual “play by play” that we pull together for our event recaps, LimpD and I thought that we would instead share a conversation that we had via email in the days following the event.
G-LO: Before we get into the details about all that went down at this year’s Opening Tap, let me just say that I’m truly impressed that you were able to make it. I don’t want to tempt fate, but it seems the stars have finally aligned! Let’s hope our streak continues.
Although we’ve attended several Philly Beer Week events over the past three years, I find it interesting that we haven’t attended Opening Tap until this year. I know it’s been on our radar, but for whatever reason, we were never able to make it happen. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed our mini pub crawls, but I’ve always been curious to see what the big Philly Beer Week events are like. I think my biggest fear was the potential overcrowding. I mean, is there anything worse than having to muscle your way to the taps for a beer sample?
LimpD: First let me say that I am now two for two and have a mini-booze streak going. I think the key was low expectations, especially since my high hopes for WhiskyLive were dashed thanks to a nasty case of shingles. By keeping the expectation low (a little like the “It’ll never work Lippy!” of Hardy Har Har), I have been pleased with the results.
As respects the Opening Tap, I guess I too was afraid that there would be too many people and too little beer. And, I don’t think I fully appreciated the spectacle of the event or the presence of the Brew-vitational entries. And, in answer to your question, I think it’s worse to have to muscle my way to the taps only if I wind up with a bad beer. I am reminded of that awful Cucumber flavored beer from our last PBW excursion in 2012.
What did you think of the actual Opening Tap? I thought that they had a decent band keeping the crowd entertained, and the presentation of the awards from the Brew-vitational plus the actual tapping of Brotherly Suds 4 by Mayor Nutter was definitely worth seeing. The only thing missing was having a refreshing beer out on the lawn.
G-LO: Two for two? I think you’re more like three out of five this year, while I am five out of five. Not that I’m rubbing it in or anything.
And speaking of rubbing it in, I’m impressed that you remember the Cigar City Cucumber Saison from last year’s Philly Beer Week outing. While you may not have liked it, at least it wasn’t a case of “where are the cucumbers?” with that one. I need to revisit it at some point.
It was quite nice being out on the lawn for the actual “Opening Tap” by Mayor Nutter. Even though it was just over 90 degrees that night, the fact that there was a decent amount of shade made it seem much cooler than it actually was. The crowd was definitely in a good mood, and I really enjoyed the people watching (Hello Darth Vaderess!) and local celebrity spotting, i.e. Tom Kehoe of Yards, Bill Covaleski of Victory, Lew Bryson of Whisky Advocate, Jason Wilson of Boozehound and Washington Post fame, and of course Don Russell (aka Joe Sixpack). It was also great to run into some of our fellow Philly Beer Geeks like Ryan Hudak of the In Search of Beer blog and Stephen Lyford who is like the official unofficial photographer of all things Philly Beer (or is that the unofficial official photographer???). Those guys are everywhere! It was also nice to see Jennie Hatton of Profile Public Relations again so that we could thank her personally for the media passes to this event.
While there was plenty of room out on the lawn, I was kind of surprised at how crowded it was once we entered the Independence Visitor Center for the main event. The VIP section, where we were able to sample the Brew-vitational entries, was particularly crowded. Thankfully, the people working behind the tables were doing a great job of keeping the beer flowing, and they even managed to pass along some useful information about what they were pouring. I’m just happy that we were able to try that Weyerbacher 2012 Riserva when we had the chance. That stuff was ridiculously good. I need to track down a bottle ASAP!
LimpD: Either you are quite good at facial recognition or you are a shameless name-dropper (maybe both). I guess PBW has become the preeminent event in Philly so it draws out the talent. Although, I’m still not sure what the Star Wars folks were doing in full costume.
The VIP section was crowded but as you have said, the pourers were working in earnest to make sure no glass was empty. And you are right, while I was a little leery of trying another sour, the Riserva 2012 was fantastic. I also liked the Arctic Alchemy from Fegley’s. The beer may have been on the boozy side but the pourer did a great job with the history lesson. Sly Fox had their Incubus Tripel (which was good) and the Black Raspberry Reserve (which was only OK, not enough raspberry). I tried Manayunk Brewing’s Siembra Saison. This was an interesting beer as it is a collaboration between Manayunk, Siembra Azul Tequila and folks from Barry’s Homebrew and is aged in oak barrels that used to hold tequila. I think I need to try this one again with a fresher palette. And, I finally broke down and tried the My Antonia (it is a good as you say). Aside from the Riserva what were your other favorites?
G-LO: Yes yes! Shameless namedropper I am for sure. And as for my face recognition skills, they are generally quite good (pity there’s no monetary value to this otherwise useless skill). I was wondering about the Star Wars regalia clad beer drinkers as well, but then I remembered that in addition to the start of Philly Beer Week, Philadelphia Comic Con was going on from May 30th to June 2nd. Given your comic book hoarding tendencies, I’m surprised you didn’t put two and two together. We’ll blame this memory lapse of yours on Darth Vaderess (these are not the comic book geeks you’re looking for???).
As is usually the case, these events can be a bit overwhelming, so while I can’t remember everything that I had that night, there were a couple beers that I need to try again (you know, for research purposes only). I already mentioned the Weyerbacher 2012 Riserva which was absolutely delicious (hoping to grab a bottle at The Foodery very soon! Fingers crossed! Fingers crossed!). I also liked the Arctic Alchemy from Fegley’s Brewworks (talk about a great back story! Almost sounds like that Shackleton Whisky story), and it sounds like I enjoyed the Sly Fox Black Raspberry Reserve a bit more than you did (I liked the subtle raspberriness of it all). And let’s not forget that Bourbon Barrel Aged Insidious (also by Fegley’s) that we tried upstairs. That stuff was super tasty and way too easy to drink given its high octane.
And speaking of upstairs, if I didn’t run into Jennie Hatton again during the event, we would have never had the chance to meet Chris Wilson of Weyerbacher or try Manneken-Penn, his Belgo-American collaboration beer. To be perfectly honest, after all those sours and stouts, I couldn’t get a good read on the Manneken-Penn, so I can’t really say all that much about it. I will say this, it was infinitely better than that Yuengling Porter we tried (as my oldest would say, “Manneken-Penn was googleplex infinity times better!”). In all fairness to Yuengling, there is no way that their beer could hold its own against some of those monstrously huge beers we tried last Friday night. Not exactly a fair match up.
LimpD: Sadly, I only recognize that I probably should know someone. It isn’t until much later that I can recall (usually with prompting) why I might know them. Philly Comic-Con still doesn’t quite explain the appearance of Star Wars clad characters at the Opening Tap. Seems like a shameless attempt to get photographed. Also, what poor planning to wear a full helmet to a drinking event. I don’t even think a crazy straw would have helped her.
Outside of the VIP area was a mix of some interesting craft brewers, home brewers, and some of our old favorites. I thought the Haggis beer was probably the most interesting. One of the home brewers crafted a Shock Top-esque beer that was quite refreshing. I was a little disappointed with the lineup that some of the brewers chose to bring to the event. For example, I had had some great stuff at the Rock Bottom in La Jolla, but their offerings at the event were a little meh. And, don’t even get me started on the Yuengling Porter! I can recall with great joy the purchase of my first case of beer, a Yuengling sampler. I can also recall how much I enjoyed each bottle (the Porter in particular). I’m not sure if it was sensory overload, or just the education of my palette, but the Porter was, to steal our hirsute friend’s favorite descriptor, dreadful.
And, we were extremely lucky that you ran into Jennie. I didn’t even realize that there was an upstairs, so not only did we get to try the Manneken-Penn, but we also found the Fegley’s Bourbon Barrel Insidious Imperial Stout, and the Space Monkey (a Saison/Farmhouse Ale with real raspberries). The Space Monkey was good; the Insidious was great. And, I had that mint and honey beer from Twin Lakes. Not my cup of tea; too sweet and minty. Unfortunately, we had waited too long to get upstairs and a number of interesting local beers had run out by the time we got around to the second half of the room. I find no fault in this as there was quite a crowd. I’m just pointing out that some of the brewers just didn’t anticipate the demand.
My night ended with a lengthy chat with the folks from Penn Brewery. I had no idea that Pittsburgh was steeped in so much tradition and that there are old beer caves all over the place out there. I had a couple of Penn Brewery beers when I was out there about three years ago and I found it to be an average beer out of the bottle. That was not the case on draught. I might need to reacquaint myself with this one and see if my initial impressions hold true.
About two weeks prior to the event, Profile PR offered us media passes for Opening Tap, the International Great Beer Expo at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and the opening of the Philly Beer Week Garden at Headhouse Square. Since we couldn’t make it to all of the events, I started making calls and emailing a few people to see if they could go in our place. Of course Miracle Max was the first non-Booze Dancer that I called, but he had other commitments and couldn’t make it. After giving it some thought, I remembered going back and forth with Ed on his blog about Philly Beer Week, so I figured that I may as well check with him to see if he could go. He was all set to attend the International Beer Expo, but at the last minute, we were informed that the 10AM “Meet the Brewer” breakfast was cancelled, so they offered him Opening Tap tickets instead.
After playing a bit of “find the beer geek” via Twitter, it was good to finally find him when we went upstairs to try the Manneken-Penn. Have you ever read his blog? He is a really talented writer and puts a very unique spin on the usual beer reviews. Definitely worth a read! It helps that he also knows his beer (he is playing at the Miracle Max and Alemonger level of Craft Beer Geekiness for sure!). It was also great, and a very pleasant surprise to meet Patrick Huff, especially since I had no idea that he would be there. Always great to spend some time with fellow Craft Beer aficionados!
LimpD: We met Ed and his fiancée Tracey (bless her soul) and Patrick at just the right time as I was beginning to feel some of the effects of our VIP session and the conversation certainly slowed me down. Plus, once the air cut out in this municipal building, I was getting a little hot and looked forward to our time near the door to the patio on the second floor. I think Ed and Miracle Max are kindred spirits and we need to get the two of them together. Perhaps a Bloggers Beer Fest at the Barthenon!
I would like to think that guys like Ed and Patrick are part of the reason we got into blogging. Friendly, knowledgeable, and certainly fans of craft beer, they impart their experience and wisdom without coming off as douchy (I’m looking at you G-LO!). There is no right or wrong with them (okay maybe their opinion of 16 Mile was a bit strong), just an appreciation for the effort that is made in every attempt to brew a quality beer.
Thanks again for scoring the invite. Not to press my luck, but what’s next on the event horizon?
G-LO: I know what you mean about slowing things down a bit. We hooked up with Ed, Tracey, and Patrick at the perfect time. And you are totally right. Hooking up with other likeminded people over the past few years for drinks and conversation has definitely made all of this blogging silliness worth the time and effort. Opening Tap was definitely worth the wait!
And with regards to future events, you’re a greedy, greedy blogger!