Opening Tap Keeps the ‘Philly’ in Philly Beer Week
The 10 most exciting days of the year for any beer aficionado in southeastern Pennsylvania, Philly Beer Week, are now officially over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still reminisce about the great times that were had. On Friday, June 1, these great times were kicked off with the annual Hammer of Glory Relay and the ceremonial use of said hammer by Mayor Michael Nutter to tap the first keg of the week.
For anyone in the unfortunate position of having to go to work on Friday, the real kick-starter for the week was Opening Tap, the annual beer festival held in conjunction with the mayor’s tapping of the keg. The event filled the halls of the Philadelphia Visitor’s Center, first lining them with over 20 breweries set up to pour two to three different beers for the attendees’ enjoyment.
Philly Beer Week is known for bringing in many out-of-state breweries, especially ones we don’t generally have access to on a regular basis, and these events are almost always packed to the gills. But Opening Tap features a different kind of rarity, hosting brewers almost exclusively within a 100-mile radius of Philadelphia, with only a few breweries falling outside of that circle, though not by much. There was also a healthy mix of well-known and recently-started breweries, with the likes of Victory, Sly Fox, Weyerbacher, Stoudts and Dogfish Head pouring alongside Round Guys, Neshaminy Creek, Free Will, Shawnee Craft Brewing, and Spring House.
The best part about being able to sample these newer or harder to find breweries was that they all showed up with great beer. There wasn’t one slouch among them, and many of the breweries despite being relatively new to the game, really stepped up and delivered some exceptional beer. The Napoleon sour farmhouse ale—on cask—from Free Will Brewing was a clear favorite. It was a bit tart and a bit funky and went down extremely smooth, belying its 7.9% ABV well. As an inverse to that beer, Shawnee Craft Brewing offered a 10.5% barrel-aged porter, which was everything the Napoleon was not: it was big, heavy, warming and boozy; descriptors that would come in handy later in the night as the rain started to pour.
Other up-and-comers Round Guys Brewing were also pouring the good stuff, featuring their BerlinerWeister WeisterBerliner, a mainstay of their repertoire and deservedly so. Quickly upstaging the rest of the Berliner Weisses in the city, Round Guys’ version is a clean, crisp and tart experience that is as refreshing as it is delicious. Whether flavored syrup is added or not, the BW-WB is rising to the top of many beer lists in the city and should be a must-try for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure.
All in all, it was nice to see many of the breweries show off their best and brightest to kick off Philly Beer Week. It gives a great sense of what is in store for the rest of the week and proves that you don’t need to wait for rare bottles from Italy or breweries you can’t normally get your hands on to have a great week. We’ve got an exciting group of new breweries here that are producing some great beer, and everyone needs to look for them in the coming days to try to make it a true Philly Beer Week.
All photos are courtesy of Stephen Lyford, the unofficial photographer of Philly Beer Week.