We’ve told you before—many times—about how much we love the all-German Philly Bierfest. We haven’t missed one yet, and don’t plan to in the future. Some people, however, aren’t yet convinced, so here are a few lists of what you’ll be missing if you choose not to get your ticket. If you do choose to get one, though, you better act fast—there are only a few days left until the event, which is limited and bound to sell out. Hopefully, I’ll see you there.
Local breweries pouring (bolded breweries will have their brewers in attendance):
Appalachian Brewing, Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery, Erie Brewing, Free Will Brewing, Lancaster Brewing, Lion Brewery, Neshaminy Creek Brewing, Nodding Head Brewery, Penn Brewery, Philadelphia Brewing, Round Guys Brewing, Samuel Adams Brewery, ShawneeCraft Brewery, Sly Fox Brewing, Stoudts Brewing, Straub Brewery, Susquehanna Brewing, Troegs Brewing, Victory Brewing, Yards Brewing, Yuengling & Sons Brewery.
In the new German Beer Hall (at the Latvian Society), the following German beers will be sampled. Some of them are limited, so be sure to get there early so you don’t miss out:
Ayinger, Brauhaus Faust-Miltenberger, Bitburger, DAB, Dinkelacker, Dollnitzer Ritterguts, Freigeist, Fruh, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrauhaus Traunstein, Hofbrauhaus Wolters, Hofbrau Munchen, Kloster Andechs, Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe, Konig Ludwig, Kostritzer, Kulmbacher, Mahr’s, The Monarchy, Newmarkter Lammsbrau, Paulaner, Pinkus, Radeberger, Sunner, Stiegl, Tucher, Veldensteiner, Warsteiner, Weltenburger Kloster, Wurzburger Hofbrau.
Haven’t heard of most of those? Great! This is your chance to try a bevy of new beers and see what you like without making the trek all the way to Germany (though it is well worth it).
There will be finger foods provided by Wursthaus Schmitz. They will also be selling full meals in the Ratskellar, which will include authentic wursts, platters, and vegetarian food.
The event runs from 1:30 until 5:30, and tickets are $45. If you purchase a $65 VIP ticket, you will get to join Marnie Old for a VIP seminar at noon, you’ll get a collectable mug, and you’ll get a 30 minute head-start on the regular ticketholders in the beer hall. At 4:30, you’ll be able to join the Bierfest Academy for their 3rd annual seminar, this one about “The Rise and Fall and RISE AGAIN of German-Style Brewing,” moderated by Marnie Old and featuring Neshaminy Creek head brewery Jeremy Myers, Don Russell (aka Joe Sixpack), Shelton Brothers importer Joel Shelton, and special German guest Thomas Woelfel, who is the Kulmbacher export manager.
Is that still not enough? Do you need free childcare while you’re there? Perhaps you want to arm wrestle a Roller Girl, see some German-style cabaret from BEERlesque, or partake in a stein-holding masskrugstemmen contest? Maybe you’d be into something like the Kulmbacher Learning Lounge, with its interactive education about beer basics and the beer history of German and Pennsylvania? Or are you the kind of person who just wants to sit back with some German beers and listen to polka and bluegrass?
Either way, the Bierfest has it all—yes, everything we just listed. It’s one of the most reasonably priced tickets in town for what you’re going to get—please do not sit on this one. It’s got a great family atmosphere and a jovial Oktoberfest-like feel, so bring yourself, bring the family, bring whoever you need—just make sure you get there.
Photograph courtesy of Krista Patton.
It is unfortunately rare that we make it over to Bella Vista part of town. When we do, Royal Tavern is always an option for a place to stop—if not the only option. While there isn’t much room to spread out, we’ve never found the place overly packed. Indeed, we only had to wait a few minutes to grab a seat on New Year’s Eve, which makes this the ultimate chill spot for hanging out without a cloud of noise. This helps in hearing the better-than-average jukebox, as well.
This place won’t overwhelm you with selection—they have eight taps and usually about 20 or so bottles on hand—but they know what they’re doing in terms of quality. There is a nice mix of local breweries and out-of-towners, and there is always enough change-over on the taps that you won’t be bored despite the smaller number of offerings.
Where bar and pub food is concerned, Royal Tavern is ahead of the curve. Their regular menu is always solid, but once you’ve had a few regulars the specials menu is really where you want to turn your attention. The specials are diverse and exciting, and if you can tear yourself away from the burger (which is one of the best in town), you will do well to pick something from the secondary menu.
If you’re in the area, absolutely stop in. And if you’re not in the area, go to the area and stop in. This is one of the better bar experiences in a city ripe with them. A quick seat, solid beer, great food and a massive chalkboard in the bathroom will give your night everything it needs.
ISOB Top Three:
Angus Burger: Simply put, one of the best burgers in town. It’s juicy and messy, cooked perfectly, and topped with what might be the perfect selection of accoutrement: bacon, caramelized onions, smoked gouda, pickled longhots, and chili mayonnaise. It’s a smoky, spicy, savory umami bomb that is hard to ever pass up.
Fish & Chips: I’ve spent way too much of my time combing the city for a really great fish and chips, and Royal Tavern’s is near the top. It may be the malt vinegar (which you don’t see enough of in the city) or the excellent batter-to-fish ratio, but my money is on the smoked jalapeno tartar sauce. If you’re looking for a positive experience with a dish so many places fall flat on, check it out here.
Meatloaf Sandwich: This badboy is a dense, delicious full meal in sandwich form. A slab of meatloaf, topped with fried onions and smothered in melted gruyere with bacon marmalade and smoked tomato ketchup. It’s like mom used to make, except your mom isn’t nearly awesome enough. This one isn’t for a time when you’re just feeling a bit peckish—you need to be ready for a stomach bomb to take on this sandwich.
Photo borrowed from Or Until Golden Brown.
We get a lot of info about events and happenings that don’t necessarily merit their own 500-word post, so we’ve decided we’ll try to start collecting them in a weekly (or so) posting that will touch on some of the fun-sounding things going on in the city over the next few days.
Devil’s Den Olympic Tappings – In honor of the Olympics, Devil’s Den will not only be showing the games at the bar, but will also be featuring a GABF medal-winning beer each of the games’ 17 days (beginning Friday, 2/7). Highlights include: 2/8: Oskar Blues Old Chub (Bronze, 2013); 2/11: Terrapin Tree Hugger (Gold, 2013); 2/13: Firestone Walker Union Jack (Silver, 2013); 2/15: Speakeasy Prohibition Ale (Gold, 2013); 2/16: Two Brothers Ebel Weiss (Silver, 2013); 2/20: Neshaminy Creek Churchville Lager (Gold, 2013); 2/23: Lavery Liopard Oir (Gold, 2013). Devil’s Den’s new winter menu will also be available.
Berber Brewing at Jose Pistolas – For a late happy hour on Sunday, February 9 (10pm – ?), Jose Pistolas will be offering beer from Berber Brewing Company, the first (and probably only) Mexican craft beer in Philly. You’ll be able to drink $4 cans of their Pilsner, Vienna Lager, Porter, and Stout. David Suro and Oscar Serrano of Siembra Azul Tequila will also be present, sampling a variety of their tequilas, including the Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, and Suro Super Anejo. The Sancho, a cocktail using the Blanco, will be $6 and you can purchase $3 antojitos to snack on, as well as a variety of Mexican street food.
Shuck Buddies at Oyster House – On Wednesday, Feb 12 from 5-7pm, Oyster House will be offering their Shuck Buddies happy hour. This will include their regular happy hour offerings (including $1 oysters and clams) but will also feature four different kinds of Yards Love Stout (which happens to be an oyster stout): the regular version on nitro, a cask of Vanilla Love Stout, and Chocolate and Coffee Love Stouts on tap. Yards’ brewer Doug Mashington will also be on hand to chat with guests and suggest pairings.
Russian River Beer Dinner at City Tap House – If you love your significant other and you love beer, be sure to join City Tap House for their Valentine’s Russian River beer dinner (two days after Valentine’s Day on Sunday, Feb 16 at 6pm). The dinner is $90/person and includes tax & gratuity. Reservations are a must. It will be: Ceviche paired with Blind Pig IPA, “Waldorf” Salad paired with Damnation, Duck Steamed Buns paired with Supplication, Roast Lamb Rib paired with Consecration, and a Neapolitan paired with Temptation. More info here.
We would also like to end by congratulating the Philly Homebrew Club for raising $1,500 for the Fire Fighter and Paramedics Union’s survivors fund for families of fallen fire fighters with their Winter’s Warmers event. With volunteers and competitors, about 325 people attended the event. Stay tuned here, as always, for more information on next year’s event—hopefully even more can be raised for such a good cause.
Though Saturday was one of the nicest days we’ve had thus far this winter, the first day of February still required some warming up. The Philly Homebrew Club realized this, and did their damnedest to help out with their Winter’s Warmers event, filling everyone present with a bevy of homebrewed beer and gallon after gallon of any kind of chili you could imagine.
The event, which kicked off at 1pm, was immediately better than the previous year’s thanks to the new venue at the Fire Fighters and Paramedics Union, which was able to fit more people comfortably. It also had space to fill two walls with lines of chili cookoff contestants—nearly 40 of them—with their chafing dishes full of delicious chili. The organization was leaps and bounds ahead of the first annual event, and being able to talk to people about their chili rather than just walk up to a table full of crock pots made the event a much better and more personalized experience.
Chili cooks were also able to add personalized touches as they thought necessary, with many offering extras like cheese, chives, and sour cream to go along with their chili. One of the best, though, was from Sum Pig Food Truck, who inexplicably did a vegetarian chili. It included a homemade tortilla chip and a chipotle aioli that brightened the chili and made it oh-so-memorable. Other standouts were the Philly Homebrew Outlet’s chili, which was thoughtfully layered with cornbread, cream, and cheese, and a blackberry habanero chili that didn’t seem like it could work, but a balanced shot of heat and sweet really brought it together.
The beer was also much more easily accessible, which was a relief. Last year, the event space allowed for one stand where all the beer was being poured, which caused quite a line-up for anyone who wanted a quick drink. This year, however, there was space to spread out and multiple places to go to get something to wash the chili down. In addition to the homebrew setup, there was also the union hall’s bar, which was serving Philly Brewing Co. beers as well as selling other libations.
The homebrew, as one might expect, was predominantly winteresque, with plenty of porters to go around. There were enough lighter beers, however, to lighten up the event and counteract all the chili being eaten. Some standouts included a very well-made kolsch, as well as an IPA made with a new hop from Australia that tasted overwhelmingly citrusy and smelled much like hops’ distant cousin.
All in all, it was a great way to spend a few hours on a sunny February day. With as dreary a winter as we’ve had in Philadelphia, Winter’s Warmers was a great way to make everything much, much better. While I’m not sure if they can grow much more—I could hardly get through a quarter of the chili that was being offered—the event is perfect as-is. If you missed it last year, I wouldn’t bat an eye, but if you missed it this year, with all the improvements, I would say you really missed out. If you miss it next year, well…I don’t know if we can continue being friends.
Most people assume summertime is when all the beer festivals happen, but the winter always brings event after event to Philly—none of which are more anticipated than Brewer’s Plate. The event will be celebrating its 10th anniversary at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts this year, and will feature more than 40 restaurants and breweries teaming up to continue to make it the premier food and beer pairing event in the area.
New this year will be a tiered ticket program, with the first 300 general admission tickets going for $55 (sorry, they’ve sold out already), and the next 300 going for $65. The final 300 will be sold at $75, so be sure to get yours early. The VIP tickets are functioning the same way, with the first 100 at $115 (also already sold out), the second 100 at $125, and the final 100 at $135. The event will start at 6:30pm for general admission ticket holders and 5:30 for VIPs and will end at 9:30.
The VIP experience has been revamped and improved this year. With many complaints stemming from the only getting 30 minutes of VIP access last year, the extra VIP time is back to an entire hour. The exclusive VIP section will once again feature Jose Garces, as well as a bevy of Garces restaurant food and VIP-exclusive selections of cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate. There will also, of course, be VIP-exclusive craft beer, which you can drink in your VIP-only keepsake glass, which for the first time will be different (and nicer) than the general admission glasses. You’ll also be treated to the yearly swag bag – though hopefully they’re just a bit sturdier this year.
Brewer’s Plate is one of the first events to introduce people to not only the wonders of beer and food pairing, but also to focusing on locally produced foods. For this reason, as always, any participants will be local to Philadelphia and the surrounding area—an impressive feat considering the event keeps getting larger and larger and could easily let in purveyors from around the area. This, perhaps, is also a nod to how much the local food and beer scenes continue to grow in the area.
Some of the bars and restaurants that will be contributing food to the event are Alla Spina, Barren Hill Tavern, Brauhaus Schmitz, Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen (who easily had last year’s best dish), Fette Sau, Khyber Pass Pub, Russet, SPTR, Southwark, The Belgian Café, Tria, Varga, and the entire Jose Garces empire. As far as beer is concerned, attendees can look forward to local favorites like Dock Street, Earth Bread + Brewery, Forest & Main, Nodding Head, Sly Fox, Troegs, Victory, Weyerbacher, and Yards. The event will also welcome newcomers in Barren Hill, Frecon’s Cidery, Other Farm Brewing Co., and others. The lists go on, and they are sure to grow in the coming weeks.
Philadelphia is home to a lot of great beer events and a lot of great food events, but none come close to Brewer’s Plate. This is the best you’ll find and, while the cost may seem prohibitive, you will get your money’s worth and then some—especially if you go the extra mile for VIP tickets. Everything is selling quickly, and now that more and more participants are being announced, tickets are sure to sell even more quickly. Get them in the second tier while you still can by ordering online. I will certainly see you there, because this is one that is not to be missed.
Super Bowl Sunday is always a big day for eaters: everyone has parties with tons of unhealthy (but delicious) food and rivers of beer. While there is nothing wrong with the first part, your average Super Bowl party is probably going to feature a whole lot of crap on the beer front: cases upon cases of Bud Light, Miller, or Coors. If you can’t handle that kind of swill—and you just can’t wait all the way until Sunday to overeat—the Philly Homebrew Club has just the event for you.
For a scant $33 in advance (plus fees)—or $38 at the door—you’ll be treated to unlimited samples of some of the area’s finest homebrew (15 different kinds) on top of beer donated by Philadelphia Brewing Company, as well as over 40 chilis that have been entered into the annual competition that is Winter’s Warmers. And if the bottomless glass of homebrewed beer doesn’t appeal to you (you’re driving, pregnant, or weird), there is also the option of a $22 chili-only ticket.
In addition to regular home cooks like you and I entering the chili cookoff, there will be plenty of professional entries to make your ticket price even more of bargain. Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen, the Sum Pig food truck, Chewy’s Philly, Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar, and Sancho Pistola’s (which opens tonight) will be donating chili to the event, along with Timmy D’s Deli/Catering, all the way from the Northeast, who is said to have some of the best chili in Philadelphia. Jose Pistola’s and Cedar Point will also be providing the oh-so-important cornbread.
Winter’s Warmers, which is sponsored by Philly Homebrew Club, Philly Homebrew Outlet, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Jose Pistola’s, and Threadzone Custom Screen Printing, will be held at the Fire Fighters & Paramedics Union at 415 N. 5th Street on Saturday, Feb 1 from 1 – 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online, and part of the proceeds will benefit the Union’s Widow’s Fund.
After attending last year, I can speak from experience that the chili is top-notch, whether amateur or professionally made. The beer from the homebrew club is always great, as well, and the larger space at the Union hall should be a huge improvement over last year. If you’re looking for a way to warm up for a few hours and stuff yourself silly before you stuff yourself silly on Sunday, this is the place to do it, and the price is perfect. The way this winter has been going, you’re going to want to bulk up over the weekend so you can hibernate until March.
Restaurant Week is supposed to give diners and easy way to try new places and decide which ones they like before dropping possibly hundreds of dollars on a meal there. But like a gym in January, your favorite places fill up with people who have never been there and will likely never be back. Chefs cook up bulk portions of the food they’re offering at lesser quality, servers rush to turn over tables, and almost everyone who knows better is bitter and unhappy.
So how do you counteract this? As Public Enemy said, don’t believe the hype. There are plenty of places that will offer you a great deal with half the crowd of Restaurant Week—not only during the week, but all year round. These are the places you should be supporting, and we’ve made a quick list of our favorites. It should be noted that almost no bars are participating. Since Philly’s gastropub landscape is so fertile, there are endless choices here: Jose Pistolas, Memphis Taproom, Kennett, Khyber Pass Pub, Loco Pez—the list goes on. We, however, are trying to focus on more traditional ‘restaurants’ rather than bars or pubs.
Alla Spina: It is no secret that Marc Vetri doesn’t like Restaurant Week, and we support him in that sentiment. While none of his places will be participating, Alla Spina is probably where you’ll get the best bang for your buck (and the best beer). If you want to continue to stick it to the man, you can also check out Osteria and Amis, though I wouldn’t count on getting a reservation at Vetri at this juncture. Be sure to try all the Italian beers you can, the wine on tap, and especially the poutine.
Tria: While Tria is more of a bar than a restaurant, they have plenty of outposts and you’ll be able to get a wider variety of food while still staying under the $35 per person “deal” that you’re getting elsewhere. They’ve also got top-notch beer, wine, and cheese lists—as well as salads, sandwiches, and desserts. You really can’t go wrong just closing your eyes and pointing at the menu, but if you need some guidance try their three cheese and tomato panino, the figs with gorgonzola and prosciutto, or the Valdeon blue cheese.
Han Dynasty: One of our favorite restaurants in the city has a new massive space and a bar twice the size of most Philly rowhomes. Their beer list has been improved tenfold, and their cocktails are solid as well. The food is what you really need to show up for, though. Try anything on the menu (we prefer the spicier options) and you won’t be disappointed. However, the Dan Dan Noodles are a must, as are the spicy cucumber and the wonton in chili oil. We also like the beef tendon in chili oil, and a new favorite in the seafood tofu soup.
Ekta: As far as Indian restaurants go, this is the best we’ve been able to find in the city. Takeout and delivery are great, but eating in is BYOB so you can bring what you like. The food can get spicy, so be sure to plan accordingly. The baigan bharta is a must when we order, and we are also partial to the kadai chicken and any one of their delicious naan offerings.
Avance: It’s hard to tell if there is no Restaurant Week menu because Avance is above it all or because they’re too new to the area, but regardless there will be no Restaurant Weekers here. If you’d like to go out for a nicer dinner during the week, this is your place—a beautiful menu paired with a ridiculously stocked bar in the old Le Bec Fin space will be sure to kick your Restaurant Week up a notch. Now, whether or not you can get a reservation on short notice remains to be seen, but it’s worth a try.
The moral of the story? Support restaurants you would be at anyway, and don’t try to get over on any of them because you think you’re getting a deal. If you like a place and want it to continue to thrive, go there when their service is normal and their food is as good as they can make it—none of which happens during Restaurant Week.