We always count on Opening Tap to kick off Philly Beer Week with good fun, and this year’s festivities were no different. As in previous years, the evening was presented by Philly Loves Beer, a Philadelphia-based organization whose mantra is “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that Philadelphia is America’s best beer-drinking city.” The weeklong festival features hundreds of events plus happy hour specials, tastings, and more.
This time around, Opening Tap was held at the historic 2300 Arena, a venue tucked among the warehouse district in South Philly, under the pylons of I-95. “From freight to Mummers, to Extreme Wrestling, the building at 2300 Arena has seen it all,” commented Philly Loves Beer Executive Director Christina Dowd. “If these walls could talk, we know they’d enjoy sharing a beer with our ever-growing beer community.”
Perhaps the most anticipated highlight of Opening Tap is the appearance of the Hammer of Glory (or “HOG”), the giant mallet that makes its way ceremoniously through breweries and taverns in the Philly area each year before arriving at Opening Tap with much fanfare. And how could the HOG promenade through South Philly without a Mummers string band leading the way? Mummers always bring the party to wherever they go, playing crowd-pleasing favorite tunes like “Roll Out the Barrel” and “Fly, Eagles, Fly!” The HOG has become an official symbol of Philly Beer Week, and its annual relay to the Opening Tap celebration can be found on Philly Loves Beer’s Facebook page. This year, the HOG was used to ceremoniously open a keg of an exclusive blond ale, a special European collaboration from La Cabra Brewing in Chester County and Belgium-based Duvel Moortgat dubbed “Duvedelphia.”
Thousands of thirsty attendees had their fill of unlimited sample sips from the more than 65 local breweries and cideries on hand. Inside the arena were rows upon rows of local southeastern Pennsylvania breweries (think Yards, Conshohocken, Philadelphia, Dock Street, Imprint, Fishtown, 2SP and Iron Hill), beers from nearby states (including River Horse, Cape May, Flying Fish, Dogfish Head) and even a few breweries from across the country (Ohio’s Great Lakes, California’s Russian River, Oxbow from Maine) and beyond (Japan’s Hokkaido Brewing). Most featured at least two or three varieties for sampling at various IBU and ABV levels. Once again, IPAs maintained their popularity and were flowing freely, but this year, sours and fruity wheat brews were in abundance, as the beer lovers’ palates keep expanding outward from traditional lagers and ales.
If the variety of flavors weren’t enough to keep your senses occupied, many breweries offered beers with creative names to tickle your sense of humor: You’re Killin’ Me, Smalls, and Weird Flex But OK, by Evil Genius; Existential Fog Earl Grey Tea Shake IPA from Levante; Fool’s Gold Imperial Peanut Butter Hefeweizen from Rusty Rail; This Little Piggy Simcoe from Sterling Pig; and Bean Me Up, a coffee stout from Fatheads. It wouldn’t be a true Philly event without a little J.A.W.N. from Neshaminy Creek; Fleur de Lehigh from Philadelphia Brewing; and Yards’ Brotherly Suds. While many brewers delight in creating the wittiest names possible for their concoctions, we also appreciated those brewers who took the risk and let their beers’ straightforward names speak for themselves: Session IPA from Weyerbacher; Pilsner and IPA from Lyon; and Kolsch from Locust Lane. The bottom line is that whatever you call them, great beer recipes will find a dedicated audience whether their names are generic or full of flowery prose!
As a diversion from the liquid refreshments, there were a few vendors tucked among the breweries’ tables in the 2300 Arena as well as adjoining scene outdoors, in the adjacent space under the freeway. University of the Sciences had a booth staffed by students in their Brewery Science Certificate program with examples of hops and barleys. Axecessive Force, a “mobile axe throwing experience,” was set up outside (thank goodness!), providing a little arm exercise at an additional charge. TerraVida Holistic Center’s medical marijuana information table attracted the attention of many passersby, providing facts about that growing industry. And once again, representatives from the 15 or so breweries that make up the Bucks County Ale Trail were on hand, encouraging beer lovers to take a side trip up to Bucks for a thirst-quenching crawl. Extra entertainment was provided by a DJ as well as live band karaoke.
Once again, Opening Tap offered an evening of delicious sampling, energetic music, interesting people, and the perfect way to open the door to the hundreds of events, and thousands of opened kegs, that make up Philly Beer Week. Mark your calendars now for next year – May 29, 2020!
Nancy Burlan and Harris Fogel, posted 6/1/2019
For more information on Philly Loves Beer visit: https://phillylovesbeer.org