Philly Beer Week kicked off its 11thanniversary recently (June 1st) with its signature event, Opening Tap, headed up by Philly Loves Beer, an organization whose mantra is “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that Philadelphia is America’s best beer-drinking city.” This year, the venue was the fabled Fillmore Philadelphia, which had plenty of room for the thousands of thirsty attendees looking to have their fill of sips from the more than 60 breweries on hand. Wandering from table to table inside the Fillmore was a relaxing way to begin the week dedicated to all things hoppy that has become a tradition in this city.
One of the anticipated highlights of Opening Tap is always the appearance of the Hammer of Glory (or “HOG”), which made its way ceremoniously through about four breweries and 20 taverns in Philadelphia that day before arriving at the Fillmore with much fanfare. The HOG has become an official symbol of Philly Beer Week, and its annual relay to the Opening Tap celebration even has its own Facebook page. At last, it arrived at the event with much fanfare, and was used to ceremoniously open the keg of the official beer of Philly Beer Week, a flavorful Saison de Pale collaboration from Rehoboth, Delaware’s Dogfish Head and Belgian brewer Brouwerji De Brabandere.
Every year, the list of locally based breweries at Opening Tap gets longer, to keep up with the growing number of Philly beer afcionados. In addition to older players in the brewery game such as Yards, Yuengling, and Philadelphia, we are loving the influx of newer local players including Manayunk Brewing, Media-based Sterling Pig, Berwyn’s La Cabra Brewing, and Delco’s 2SP Brewing Company.
A group of Bucks County brewers are taking advantage of their geographically close locations, joining together as stops along what has come to be called the Bucks County Ale Trail. From established brewpubs to start-up brewers that concoct craft beers with more unique ingredients, innovative and delicious beers can be found just north of the city. Bucks establishments pouring at Opening Tap included Doylestown Brewing, Free Will Brewing, Broken Goblet, and Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company, to name a few.
A number of out-of-state craft brewers were also represented at Opening Tap. The Larimer Brewing bridges the distance between Pennsylvania and its base of operations in Denver, Colorado. It was named in honor of General William Larimer, a Pennsylvania native who pioneered westward and founded the city of Denver! Larimer was pouring a number of its flavorful creations, but one of the most popular beers (or, at least one with the most punny name) was a sour ale dubbed 99 Problems But A Peach Ain’t One, a “sessionable ale” with notes of peach and hints of ginger that packed a nice pucker.
Track 7 Brewing chugged to Opening Tap all the way from Sacramento, California. We enjoyed their Left Eye/Right Eye Double IPA (made with an intense blend of five hops, hoppy but with heady aromas of tangerine and grapefruit). Track 7 offers a wide range of other less hoppy brews including Nukin’ Futz Imperial Peanut Butter Chocolate Cream Porter; Blood Transfusion IPA, with Blood Orange; and Bee Line Honey Blonde Ale (flowery, with a tolerable IBU rating of just 26). They also brought their West Coast interpretation of Northeast-style IPA, Azekuanot (a mash-up of the names of the two types of hops used in its brewing – Azacca and Ekuanot), a piney IPA with hints of citrus and tropical fruit that become richer as each sip is savored. Sierra Nevada was also representing the northern regions of the Golden State. Once a small craft brewery known only to Northern Californians, Sierra Nevada pioneered a good has expanded from its original brew, Pale Ale.
We were glad to see Lakewood, New York’s Southern Tier Brewing Company. They were pouring some of the more traditional selections, such as Blonde Ale and West Coast IPA, as well as flavor-forward brews that intrigued Opening Tappers. We enjoyed the pleasantly sweet but delightfully tart Mango Gose, but it was the dessert beer Samoa This Imperial Stout that got our attention, with its chocolaty-coconut-caramel fusion.
Although Opening Tap provided a huge array of fruit-based beer recipes and dessert offerings, let me just say that 2018 is turning out to be the year of the hops! Many brewers now offer not just one hoppy IPA standard in their wheelhouses, but several carefully crafted mixtures to bring out the flavor of individual types of hops. Hop heavy doesn’t necessarily mean extra bitterness, although there are many beer drinkers who are becoming more adventurous in their exploration of IBU (international bittering unit) ratings.
Today’s beer labeling often includes detailed information about which varieties and percentages of specific hops are being used, appealing to savvy imbibers who are interested in the recipes of what they are drinking. Different varieties of hops provide very different tastes: Noble hops are generally low in bitterness and high in aroma, often used in German and other European brews. Brewers who aim for an orange or grapefruit tang often gravitate toward Citra hops. Intensely flowery, Centennial is among the most popular in the US, and can be found in lagers and wheat beers as well as IPAs. Mosaic, released just six years ago and named for its complex and broad aroma, has taken hold of the palates of many who appreciate its mild, fruity notes.
The evening ended with a live performance by local DJ Chill Moody, whose energetic tunes got the crowd up and moving. No matter what your IBU tolerance level might be, or how many award winning homebrews you can down, be sure to mark your calendar now for June 1, 2019 so you can “hop” to the 12thannual Philly Beer Week!
Nancy Burlan, Harris Fogel, and Ken Kramar, posted 6/10/2018
All photographs © Harris Fogel 2018
For more information on Philly Loves Beer visit: https://www.phillylovesbeer.org
For more information on Bucks County Ale Trail visit: http://www.visitbuckscounty.com/things-to-do/planning-ideas/follow-bucks-countys-ale-trail/