Philly Beer Week: 8 Days down… 2 to go!

It’s been eight days since Philly Beer Week officially kicked off at the Independence Visitor Center and the grand finale has yet to come. What better week to extend by a few days?!?! I’ve never made an effort to fully experience the sights, sounds, and suds of the city wide celebration until this year. Armed with the official PBW 2012 iPhone app, I carefully mapped out the events I wanted to attend. You really need a well thought plan with literally hundreds of events ranging from tap takeovers, opportunities to meet the brewers from around the world, food/beer pairing dinners, classes and a slew of other beer-centric shindigs. Here’s where my adventures have taken me:

Friday – Opening Tap – Independence Visitor Center
After the Mayor tapped the third annual firkin of Brotherly Suds on a gloomy evening, we shuffled into the Visitors Center to sample the best local breweries had to offer. Many brewers were there pouring some limited releases. The crowds were manageable but there were too many new beers to recall all the standouts. I do remember enjoying new offerings from Yards and Boxcar, Manayunk Brewery’s Grand Cru, Dogfish’s 75 Minute IPA and a sour quad aged 17 months by Stoudts. Good to see a big Barley Legal crew out to support Vince and Lappy receive kudos for Belge.

Saturday – Appel Arts and Music Festival
Okay not exactly a Philly Beer Week event, but a great time nonetheless. Beautiful venue and perfect weather! Flying Fish was the beer vendor so we stayed hydrated. Tedeschi Trucks Band headlined and played a great twilight set to close the fest. Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra were pretty good too. More to come later about this one.

Sunday – Rest
REALLY wish I went out on this day. That is all…

Monday – Belge Release Party – Iron Hill
Iron Hill in Maple Shade hosted their Belge release party with two of the collaborators behind the brew: Chris LaPierre and Vince Masciandaro. Their trip to Belgium is well documented on other sites if you want to read more. Along with the peat smoked blonde, the Hill offered a flight of beers from both Iron Hill and Brasserie Dupont. Dupont Belœil and Iron Hill’s Saison were my favorite. As an added bonus the “Three Stooges” brewed and homebrew clone to compare to the Belge. I found it more malty with less up front smoke, but equally as enjoyable as the real deal.

Tuesday – Celebration of Sours! – Eulogy
This was more of a pilgrimage then a night out. Eulogy is known for it’s wonderful collection of Belgian beers, but this was an achievement even for them. Phenomenal sours and two I’d consider the best I’ve ever had: Hanssens Gueuze from a firkin and Cantillon St Lamvinus on draft. Truly incredible blends and beers I’ll remember long after Beer Week.

Wednesday – Dunkel Dare – Frankford Hall
Marc Summers. Physical Challenges. Slime. Authentic German beer and food. What better way to spend a beautiful Wednesday with friends? The place was packed as Marc Summers hosted a round of “Dunkel” Dare the same way I remember it from the early 90’s. Great Lakes beat Vicorty and I hear they went on to win it all. Victory did, however, have the better selection on draft, including Summer Love and Prima Pils. The night was complete after a Franziskaner and some green slime.

Thursday – Farmers Cabinet/Boilermaker
Both bars had some really unique events this night so I went bar hopping. The first stop at the Cabinet featured three brewers offering eight variations of the same low alcohol base beer. Surprise, they were pretty much all sour! Stillwater had saisons spiced with different teas (vanilla chai was my favorite), Evil Twin made eight “Bikini” beers of various IBU’s, but the standout was Cabinet’s golden ales. Each variation was aged on different wood. The cherry wood and hard maple versions were both great with subtle differences. The Sour Bikini collaboration by Jeppe and Terry was awesome as well.

Boilermaker featured two breweries I’ve been especially excited to try: Tired Hands and McKenzie. The tap list was great with a lot of each breweries beers, but they’d have to wait. I was here for the blends. There one light and one dark featured beer. The dark variation, a blend of Tired Hands’ Guillemot and Mckenzie’s Dark and Stormy was a wild ale with so many complex flavors. Definitely a favorite of the week.

Friday – Rest

Thats it for now. Enjoy the last bit of PBW. I’m off to brunch.


The Session #61: What makes local beer better?

This month’s Session coincides perfectly with a lot of local happenings in South Jersey. The topic is local beer and our host is Hoosier Beer Geek. Matt poses the question: What does it really mean to be a local beer and how is it better? For my contribution I want to focus on my local brewery, Flying Fish.

The “local” moniker is used very loosely to describe craft beer. Isn’t every craft beer local to some geographic location? In most cases local doesn’t indicate much about ingredients: Grain, hops and yeast are shipped thousands of miles for use in “local” craft breweries. Water is sometimes treated to change the profile so certain styles can be brewed. This separates the finished beer from any local identity it may have. So is the term just a marketing ploy by these brewers to encourage consumers to buy fresh? I’d like to believe the answer is no.

Flying Fish has always embraced its New Jersey identity. You’ll find images of the state and sayings like, “Proudly brewed in New Jersey… you got a problem with that?” on their pint glasses and t-shirts. But they don’t stop here. The brewery has found a way to successfully highlight the local flavor of the Garden State with their Exit Series. Here’s a description taken from the website:

The Exit Series of beers is a multi-year brewing experiment to brew a series of beers as diverse as the great state of New Jersey. These big beers–in size as well as flavor–will celebrate each exit of the state-long artery that connects us. Each beer will focus on a unique aspect of an individual exit.

For those who have never had the pleasure, the NJ Turnpike is the main artery of the state and, in some cases, can cause some severe road rage. You wouldn’t think this portion of I-95 would work to showcase local ingredients, but somehow it does. Last night was the release of Exit 8: A Belgian-style brown ale brewed with chestnuts and honey which can be found right off the Turnpike in East Windsor Township. This offering, much like the others previously released, is a very well made beer any resident of the state should be proud of. The nuttiness of the chestnuts comes through nicely and compliments the breadiness of the Belgian yeast.

In addition to the Exit Series, Flying Fish stays true to it’s “local” distinction in other ways. Distribution is kept within a 100 mile radius of the brewery so it’s always fresh. Their beers can be found at local sporting events, including Citizen’s Bank Park and Campbell’s field. Owner Gene Muller is a big advocate to change the current state law that will encourage growth for the NJ beer industry. This company doesn’t just preach local… they back it up too. As we speak Flying Fish is moving from their original home in Cherry Hill to a bigger facility in Somerdale. Will this move change their local identity? Fuggedaboutit!