Saturday, June 4, 2011

Philly Beer Week Opening Tap

Last year for for Philly Beer Week my friend and I went to Philly Beer Week Opening Tap, with the mayor tapping the first firkin with the Hammer of Glory, which is relayed through the city like the Olympic torch.  This year we decide to piece together a few separate events rather than buy the ticket for the Opening Tap, which was a lot of fun but essentially a beer fest featuring local beers.  Here's what we did:

Christ Church Burial Ground Brew N' History Tour
This tour costs five bucks and came with a taste of Yards' George Washington's Tavern Porter at the end.  I had met the tour guide before, as he is the historian of Christ Church, where my wife and I attend.  He put together a very well thought out selection of stories of folks buried there who had connections to beer and other types of booze.  For example, the burial ground has the remains of the son of the man who supposedly invented porter beer in England.  The son supplied beer to George Washington.  Before the little tasting, the final stop on the tour was Ben Franklin's grave, who is said to have uttered these famous words, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Chemical Heritage Foundation Beer Talk and Tasting
The Chemical Heritage Foundation is like a grown up science geek's dream, with a beautiful museum dedicated to the history of chemistry and halls used for, well, science parties, I guess.  And talks and lectures.  They did this free talk and tasting for Beer Week.  Beer historian Rich Wagner gave a history of craft beer with a focus on Philadelphia brewing.  I always think of Yards, est. 1994 as the beginning of the Philly beer renaissance.  But Wagner's history started in the early 80s and included some failed breweries and brewpubs, as well as Dock Street, all of which contributed to the eventual bounty of craft beer now available to us.  I learned that Henry Ortlieb played a role in this; his family name is a famous old Philly beer that was sold off to a company in Baltimore--my grandpop still asks me if they are making Ortlieb's again.  Ortlieb got back into the beer business by way of a number of ventures, including the Manayunk Brewpub, before his passing a few years ago.  The talk concluded with a tasting led by Left Hand Brewing Co.'s Mid Atlantic sales rep.  He explained the Philly connection but it's fuzzy to me now.  The beers he had were decent, Good Juju was our least favorite, a ginger spiced pale ale that was a little watery for me.  The rye pale ale was very nice, as was the milk stout.  All in all, it was a great value, FREE, and at this point we'd had the equivalent of a full pint of beer for a total of $5.

Troegs Tap Takeover at Kite and Key
I love the name of this place, recalling Ben Franklin's famous electricity experiment.  I haven't spent much time in the Fairmount section of the city, but it's a very nice neighborhood.  The crowd at this place was strange to me, none of the hipsters that you would see at similar bars in my 'hood.  Almost like a Main Line type crowd.  Not sure if that's representative of other Fairmount spots.  The bar was nice, with a lot of old Philly beer trays hung up--including Ortlieb's.  We had to wait a while for a table, and there was some confusion about it.  The food was okay, nothing special, though I did quite enjoy the veggie burger, something I wouldn't usually order but the website and waitress both swore by.  It was very tasty and cheesy.  Now, the beer.  They had a solid taplist but the whole point of the night was the Troegs special "one-off" beers from their scratch series, as well as their collaboration beer called Brotherly Suds II.  We arrived at 7 (the party had started at 2) and several of the kegs had kicked already.  We did get to try a Quad that was very good.  But the other specialties had all kicked.  On the one hand, it was frustrating--if you advertise your beer week event you need to follow through with supply.  But if you take into account the nature of scratch and experimental beers coupled with the thirst of beer geeks on opening day of beer week, it's sort of understandable.  I did get to have some Mad Elf 2010, one of my favorite beers, and kind of fun to have a Christmas beer in June, even if it probably just means they are unloading their stock.

I think we spent less than we did at Opening tap last year, and got a larger survey of events.  I wouldn't say it was better, just different.  A great way to start Philly Beer Week, and I hope to hit a few more events.

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