Being the great city for beer variety that Philadelphia has become, sometimes it’s hard to track down a beer that hasn’t been on multiple taplists throughout the city, something that is worth your time to leave work early, trek across the city, and crowd into a bar with 100 other beer drinkers that want the same beer you do. Luckily for you, Philly Beer Week specializes in getting beer that most Philadelphians are out of luck on unless they travel out of state, and this year has some big ones. Here are some breweries that you will only be seeing in the city for Beer Week, or that don’t have a large presence in the city otherwise.
Maybe the most looked-forward-to brewery stopping by during the week, Surly only has two events scheduled throughout the week and only one in the city. On Monday, June 3, they’ll be making their Philly debut at Pub on Passyunk East at 7:00pm. Philly Tap Finder has the taplist, and it is impressive—impressive enough to cram into the POPE late on a school night to try to get some beer. Your other option for Surly is to shoot out to Iron Abbey in Horsham on Tuesday, June 4 at 7pm for the same line-up, as well as cans of Furious, Overrated, and Coffee Bender to go.
New Belgium Brewing
New Belgium is another brewery many people are looking forward to having in Philly, if only for a short time. While they will also only be in town for two days, there are a few more events to get to, including tap takeovers at City Tap House (May 30, 8:00pm), Varga Bar (May 30, 11:00pm), Bishop’s Collar (May 31, 5:00pm), and Strangelove’s (May 31, 8:00pm). City Tap House’s should be the best, since they have a lot of space and a ridiculous amount of taps. But really, and chance to get this beer will be worthwhile.
Craft beer darlings Funky Buddha are bringing some kegs up from Florida once again for a Beer Week-only visit. They’ll have three events over three days, so plan your nights correctly in order to grab some of their odd-sounding but delicious beer. They’ll debut at the Churchville Inn (June 4, 7:00pm), followed by Local 44 (June 5, 7:00pm), and then wrap up their stay with Brü (June 6, 1:00pm-4:00pm) with fellow Floridian brewery Saltwater. These will be the only bars to get their beer until next Beer Week, or your next trip to Florida.
Cleveland hometown heroes (for us, anyway) will make it into town for one event and one event only, so be sure not to miss it. Brewer Matt Cole will be at Nodding Head on June 7 from 3:00pm – 6:00pm sampling some of their beers (Double IPA gold medal winner Hop Juju? Two-time American IPA silver medal winner HeadHunter IPA? Stop in and see) as well as a collaboration beer Matt did with Gordon Grubb at Nodding Head just for Philly Beer Week.
Tom Peters of Monk’s Café once again breaks out a collection of beers he helped to brew that don’t see the light of day much outside of Beer Week. The event last year had some amazing beers, and this year looks about the same. Past and current Philly/Belgium collaborations for Philly Beer week will be available (including Brotherly Love, Special Belge, and Philly Tripel) as well as Firestone Walker’s PNC Imperial Buckwheat Stout, Dock Street’s Trappiste Pale, Allagash PNC Broken Elevator, and the delightful Rook & Leer imperial smoked stout aged with brettanomyces for 12 months in a Lagavulin barrel. Get them while you can, which is June 7 at Monk’s from noon to 5:00pm.
Photo of Tom Peters courtesy of Stephen Lyford.
Everyone wants to do as much as they can during Philly Beer Week, and there is plenty to choose from. Last year, Bryan Kolesar at the Brew Lounge counted 896 unique events—that’s 90 events per day. How are you supposed to wade through it all? Hell, how is your liver supposed to make it past Tuesday? You won’t be able to make it to all the events, of course—that would be physically, emotionally, and financially impossible. But, if you pace yourself, you may be able to hit all the best ones and not burn out by mid-week. And since we always like to help, here is a list of what we think of as the best event for each day of the week. If you only do one event per day, you can’t go wrong with these.
Friday, May 30
Hammer of Glory Relay | Various Locations | 9:45am – 7:00pm | PAYG
The H.O.G. Relay is the most fun you’ll have all week. Follow the beloved symbol of Beer Week as it goes from bar to bar throughout the city to inaugurate the festivities. There will be plenty of goofy modes of transportation and the bars are all sure to have beer specials throughout the day—and most especially while the Hammer is in house. Everyone comes up with great transit each year, but not to be missed are the Hopangel/Grey Lodge legs, Standard Tap, and Kite and Key. Definitely worth a day off work.
Saturday, May 31
It’s a Firkin Riot | Johnny Brenda’s | 11:00am – 10:00pm | PAYG
The all-day celebration of local cask beer is one of our highlights of Beer Week every year. The event will feature JB’s custom-welded rack that can hold six firkins atop the bar at once, and as with past year the DJ will be playing British rock and there will be fish and chips and meat pies on special. You can get full or half pours from the firkins, so come in ready to try a little bit of everything. Philly Tap Finder has the taplist.
Sunday, June 1
Throwdown in Franklintown V | Kite and Key | 2:00pm – 6:00pm | PAYG
If you’ve ever wanted to see brewers, reps, and bar owners battle it out in the middle of the street in such events as boxing, sumo wrestling, chariot racing, and skills competitions, the Throwdown is as good as it’s going to get for you. This year will feature, as always, Tom Kehoe of Yards vs Jim Kirk of Kite and Key, Wendy Domurat of Dogfish Head and Suze Woods of Allagash, and now Greg Lehman of Victory and Nick Johnson of Troegs. Watch them make their grand entrances and then battle it out as you drink it all in—literally.
Monday, June 2
Surly Brewing “Pleased to Meet Me” | Pub on Passyunk East | 7:00pm – 12:00am | PAYG
This is it: the long-awaited Philly debut of Surly Brewing, and one of only two events they’ll be at this year (and the only one in the city). This one should be packed, so get there early and stake your claim at the bar—or wherever you can fit. Philly Tap Finder has the taplist, and you’re not going to want to miss these gems. One can only hope that there will be flights and tasting-sized pours so you can try a little of everything.
Tuesday, June 3
Dunk Tank | London Grill | 3:00pm – 7:00pm | PAYG
The Dunk Tank is a Philly Beer Week institution, and rightfully so. Dunk your favorite (or least favorite) beer or food personality in the city, and PAWS reaps the benefits. The street is shut down for live music and beer and food tents, so bring your family (and your pup) to this festival for a great afternoon. Throws at the dunk tank will cost you $5 for three, $12 for nine, or $20 for 15—and they can be shared amongst your friends. Pick out who you’d like to dunk (Yards’ Tom Kehoe, Chef Evan Steplow of Belgian Café, Bill Manley of Sierra Nevada, Sparks the Philly Beer Week web guy, and many more) and throw early and throw often—you benefit, and the animals of PAWS benefit.
Check out part 2 here!
While I am by no means an expert, I have been through a few Philly Beer Weeks at this point, and have learned a few lessons along the way. And while some of these items may seem obvious to the seasoned drinker—or to anyone else—keep in mind that sometimes this stuff goes out the window when you’re on your fourth event in one day during the week. Try to keep all of this in the back of your mind during the greatest 10 days of the year in Philadelphia, and you’ll do a lot better than I did on multiple occasions.
Budget: Definitely set aside a budget for the week, and try to stick to it as much as possible. It’s very easy to lose track of things and end up event-hopping and spending $200 in a day. The best way to do this is to use cash, so you can physically see your supplies dwindling. Also, don’t underestimate what you’ll need. One year, I thought $80 was going to be enough to get me through the week for an event here and there. I ended up spending it all the first Saturday. Whoops! It also helps to plan a few ticketed events—you spend the money in advance, and you don’t have to spend any more once you’re there.
Pace Yourself: Once again, this is Drinking 101. There are going to be amazing events every hour of every day, and you’re not going to want to miss any of them. Well, miss some. Some days will be fuller than others, but try to plan a few days with only one—or maybe even none. Give your body a chance to recoup in between bouts of intense drinking. This goes hand-in-hand with the next piece of advice.
Drink Lots of Water and Eat Plenty of Food: Here’s another one seasoned drinkers will think is probably too obvious, but it’s easy to get carried away during PBW, especially if you’re going from place to place or trying to get as many beers in that rare tap takeover as possible. You’ve got time for three or four, and no time for water. Make time. And be sure to eat plenty of food to keep your stomach full and help stave off wobbly drunkenness. There are awesome food events every day of Beer Week, so there’s no reason not to eat your fill while you drink.
Mix Up Events: The events of Beer Week are myriad, so there’s no reason not to get the most of them. Check out a tap takeover, a beer dinner, meet a brewer, the London Grill dunk tank, Dunkel Dare—the possibilities are endless. While we all have our favorite local bar, don’t just sit there and wait for events to come to you. Get out and experience what you can while you can. Make the most of it.
Pay Attention While Walking: This one may be the most important. Case in point, this text I sent my wife two years ago:
Be safe, have fun, and drink lots of beer. But do it intelligently and you’ll have the best 10 days of the year.
Almost every culture, in one form or another, has a sandwich. Some kind of bread, some kind of meat, and some kind of veg slapped together in an easily transportable package. And while all the sandwiches and fillings differ, one thing these cultures have in common is they all have their favorite, and they’ll all argue over which is better. Even here in Philadelphia, the battle between roast pork and cheesesteak rages on—but luckily for you, you won’t have to argue, because on May 28 at Union Transfer from 6:00pm – 9:00pm, all the sandwiches will be great.
So goes the Great Sandwiches Event, hosted by City Paper as the inaugural release party for their yearly Meal Ticket Magazine. The event is a mere $35, and will pack over 25 sandwiches from area restaurants, as well as a variety of snacks, desserts, and (of course) alcohol. In addition to stuffing yourself full of bread and meat, Chopped-style showdown between Scott Schroeder (American Sardine Bar & South Philadelphia Tap Room), Brad Spence (Amis), and Eli Kulp (Fork, High Street on Market, a.kitchen). Judging the sandwiches will be food writer Drew Lazor, Meal Ticket editor Caroline Russock, and local illustrator Hawk Krall.
Some of the sandwich samplers to be in attendance are American Sardine Bar, Garces Trading Company, Hot Diggity, Pub & Kitchen, Rotisseur, Schlesinger’s, Shank’s, Taqueria Feliz, the Avenue Delicatessen, and Winnie’s LeBus amongst others. Snacks and sweets will be provided by the likes of Insomnia Cookies, Kind Snacks, Sweet Salvation Truffles, and Termini Brothers. Most importantly, though, is the booze, which will be brought by Art in the Age, Coronado Brewing, Dad’s Hat, Lancaster Brewing, Philly Brewing, Tito’s Vodka, and Yards. Check out the official page for the event for a full list of participants.
If all this still isn’t enough for you, DJ Holly Sue Allen will be spinning for the night, you’ll be able to vote for your favorite sandwiches, and take pictures in a photo booth with food-themed props. Prizes can be won for best picture, as well as a raffle being held with tickets given to anyone who brings a non-perishable food item for donation. $35 for all of this is a bargain, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Philabundance—so not only will you be having a great time, stuffing yourself and drinking as much as you want, but you’ll be helping out a good cause.
I’m not sure how you could possibly justify not going, so be sure to get your ticket as soon as possible, because space is limited and tickets are sure to go fast. Tickets can be purchased here, and there is no excuse not to go. They’ve even teamed up with Uber to give first-time riders a free ride up to $20 if you use the code GREATSANDWICHES for you ride—so you can either use it to get to the event more quickly, or get home when you eat so much you can’t move. Either way, you’ll have made it to the Great Sandwiches Event, which is the important part. I’ll see you there, but don’t expect much chit-chat as my mouth will be full the entire time.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company will be embarking on an epic traveling beer festival this summer, Beer Camp Across America, which will hit seven American cities with thriving craft beer cultures—so of course Philadelphia will be included. The brewery is inviting ever craft brewery in the country to chip in and pour their beer at one of the seven stops, so attendees should get quite the selection if they go to every stop. The important one, though, will be at Penn Treaty Park on Saturday, August 2 from noon to 5pm.
To accompany the Beer Camp adventure, Sierra Nevada has collaborated with 12 breweries to put out a special 12-pack to honor the festival. The pack will feature 10 bottles and two cans, and will have collaboration beers from Sierra Nevada partnered with Allagash, Ballast Point, Bell’s, Cigar City, Firestone Walker, New Glarus, Ninkasi, Oskar Blues, Russian River, 3 Floyds, Victory, and a beer from the Asheville Brewers Alliance. Each of the brewers and their beers will join selective legs of the tour, and we would hazard that Allagash and Victory, at the very least, will be in Philadelphia.
Each city’s event will only sell 5,000 tickets, which will go for $65 (available at sierranevada.com/beercamp) and include a tasting glass to sample two beers from each brewery in attendance. In addition to the beer, there will be food vendors and live music. Designated driver tickets can be purchased for $30. If all the beer available wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for a ticket, know also that proceeds will go to state brewers guilds in the festival host states, as well as hop and barley research to foster the development of new hop varieties and barley crops.
While the mixed 12-pack will be a great way to experience some of the festival, be sure to buy a ticket and stop by your local iteration. There will be plenty more breweries in attendance in addition to the ones featured in the pack, and hopefully Sierra Nevada will have the pull to bring in some that you maybe haven’t tried before. A growing list of breweries slated to attend can be found here, and we’re happy to see our friends at 2nd Story Brewing on the list.
August 2nd is sure to be a beautiful day ripe for drinking beer at Penn Treaty. We’ll bring you more information as it comes in, but until then check the Beer Camp website for updates (and explanations of the collaborative brews) and secure your ticket before they sell out—any beer fan in the country won’t want to miss this epic sudsy road trip. And if you can’t make it to the Philadelphia date, check out one of the other stops on the tour: Chico, CA on July 19; San Diego, CA on July 20; Denver, CO on July 25; Chicago, IL on July 27; Portland, ME on August 1; and Mills River, NC on August 3.
It’s time again for Philadelphia to support its favorite mobile food producers by way of the Philadelphia Vendy Awards, the annual festival held to promote and reward the city’s best food trucks. Now in its fourth year, the event will feature over 20 trucks and carts sampling their wares, as well as an array of alcoholic beverages. The Vendy’s take place on Saturday, June 14 (thankfully after Beer Week this year) at Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown from 2pm-6pm and tickets are a scant $45 for early-birds.
For the first year, there will be an all-female judging panel made up of some of the area’s brightest food writers and industry stars. The panel will include Felicia D’Ambrosio, founding partner of Federal Donuts and Communications Chief for CookNSolo Restaurants; Lily Fischer, Food Network Cupcake Wars winner and co-founder of Café Life Bake Shop opening in Fishtown this fall; Danya Henninger, local editor for Zagat and contributor to a variety of Philly-area publications; Ann Karlen, Founding Director of Fair Food; and Nicole Woon, blog editor for Penn Appetit, the University of Pennsylvania’s premier food publication. Clearly, if anyone is going to be able to accurately judge food, it will be these five.
And who will they be judging? That’s up to you. Nominations are open until May 12, and the top-voted trucks will all be invited to the party, so make sure you nominate your favorite truck in the city. Attendees will also be able to take part in the final voting, as in addition to the Vendy Cup, a Peoples’ Choice award will be given to the crowd’s favorite truck. Last year, King of Falafel won the Cup and Cow and the Curd won Peoples’ Choice, and Best Dessert went to Lil’ Pop Shop.
In Philadelphia, the Vendy’s serve as a fundraiser for the Food Trust, so be sure to get your ticket and support a great cause (all while getting unlimited excellent food and drink for four hours). Early bird tickets (act now!) are $45, but will go up to $55 soon. Children can get in for $30. Having gone two years ago, we can attest that it’s a great time, and well worth the price of admission. Tickets can be found here, and vendor nominations are here. If you’re unfamiliar with the food truck scene in Philly, now is the time to try it out, so come hungry so you can eat as much as possible. Not to mention this would make an excellent tailgate before the DMB show in Camden later that night!
Taste of the Nation, the fundraiser for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, had a lot of potential disappointments: it is a high-priced event, there is a lot of hype behind the restaurants in attendance, and the idea of a fundraiser at Hotel Monaco could bring to mind a snooty, upper-crusty crowd that wouldn’t be much fun to hang out with. Luckily, though, all those potential disappointments proved not to be disappointing at all. The crowd was great, the multiple rooms of the event were used perfectly, and the restaurants really put their best foot forward, making the ticket well worth the cost.
While there wasn’t much beer (Cisco Brewers from Nantucket had the monopoly on offerings with four from their lineup), the cocktails more than made up for it—especially the Laxness, made with Tito’s Vodka, cucumber dill shrub, Lillet Blanc, orange bitters, and club soda, served by Jesse Cornell of Sbraga and the brainchild of Christian Gaal of Emmanuelle. The slight sourness of the shrub made the cocktail non-stop drinkable, and I went back for it more times than I care to admit. Other mixologists—including Vincent Stipo of Vernick and Phoebe Esmon of Emmanuelle—served up delicious concoctions featuring Hendrick’s Gin, Dad’s Hat Rye, and Buffalo Trace bourbon.
The food, however, was the real highlight of the event. And while not everything was amazing, it was hard to find anything to really complain about—not surprising, as the list of chefs in attendance read like a Who’s Who of Philly dining. Local stalwarts like Scott Schroeder, Christopher Kearse, Eli Kulp, and Nick Macri shared space with relative newcomers like Peter Serpico, Townsend Wentz, Justin Bogle, and Mike Sultan.
The standout dishes were myriad, but a few rose above the rest to really wow. High Street on Market—where my wife and I had previously had a just okay dinner—had a shaved pork belly in a tehina sauce with rye crumbles that has us considering going back immediately. The pork was shaved to mimic noodled and the rich, thick sauce was perfectly paired with the crunchy little rye crumbles. The Taco Mondo food truck, as well, had a brilliant little taco that we went back for seconds (to get good pictures, of course) made of smoked pork cheek, house-made kimchi, ginger cabbage slaw, and crispy shallots—the tender pork and crispy shallots played off of each other well while the kimchi and slaw added a wonderful zip to the dish.
The only minor complaint I had would be with the Celebrity Cruises “relaxation lounge.” It had all the makings of a relaxing spot—soft lights, two stations for drink making, and nice comfy couches—but the music was more dance club than lounge, so I think the message was a bit confused. Otherwise, the spaces were laid out well and never felt overcrowded, even when the VIP hour ended and general admission came in. And other than Jesse Cornell running out of his cocktail near the end of the night and Cisco running out of beer, almost every table was still pushing their wares at the end of the night – an impressive feat for having such great food. Not to mention the plethora of great silent auction items, all donated to raise money for No Kid Hungry.
If you have the opportunity, make it a priority to go next year. Not only does it help a great cause, but it puts on display the best of the best in Philly food. If you want to get a sneak preview of a restaurant before you go, the ticket price of Taste of the Nation will allow you to see the talent and flavors of most of the area’s best chefs, and that is well worth the $95 admission. While you may not be technically getting a full taste of our nation, you’ll definitely be getting a robust and comprehensive taste of Philadelphia.