As another Philly Beer Week fades into vague but happy memories, for me there were some outstanding events well worth noting.
Oakmont Cup VI, our annual local home brewers competition, was bigger and more fun than ever. When I came up with the idea, kicking it around with Brendan Goggin of the Oakmont Pub in 2009, it was a Philly Beer Week event. After the second year or so it became pretty clear that PBW is not so much a suburban thing, as it didn’t really bring much additional to bars and other venues outside of the city. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” as they say – and there are still some stalwarts like Uno’s and Whole Foods that have a number of Delco and NJ events – but these are rarities, and to really do PBW, to the city you go.
Meanwhile, in Havertown we thoroughly enjoyed Oakmont VI, and so did the co-winners (both first time in the top 3) Jason Zambriczki and Matt Dillon – who didn’t mind a bit that American Pharoah interrupted the final leg of the tasting with a triple crown victory. Fortunately with wristbands held high, we could all take a break at the Oakmont Pub to watch the historic race.
Congrats to brewers Jason and Matt, and thanks to Brendan and Eric Hartline – new owner of Brew Your Own Beer. Eric has picked up the mash staff left by John Reynolds retirement, and shouldered a lot of the burden for this years successful event. Can’t wait until next year!
Back to PBW in the city, I had the immense pleasure of meeting up with Firestone Walker’s Jeffers Richardson – manager of the Barrelworks (the wildly popular sour beer program for FW) – and long time craft brewer. I invited Jeffers to join me at Yards with brewer Franklin Winslow – to have some good beer dialog, and taste some of the Yards sour barrels we have been working with. Needless to say, Jeffers (with his rep Jenny Hobbs in tow) was a blast to have there, and at one point Tom Peters and Tony Forder of Ale Street News joined in the conversation.
We tasted a number of the wild Yards beers, with Jeffers offering some suggestions and reflections on his efforts that led to the creation of the amazing sour program at Firestone Walker. When he raised one tasting cup and exclaimed with a grin “Mmm…tastes like cheese!!” we knew we were doing something special.
Finished off the night with a visit to the “Good Dog Bar” in center city, where Jeffers and Firestone were having a “sour happy hour” with some of their fine wild saisons and other ales. As Jeffers and I discussed Dick Cantwell’s reasoning behind his sale of Elysian Brewing to InBev, I came to understand that for beer appreciators – Philly Beer Week is more than a drinking event. It’s also a time for people in the beer world to get together and share their thoughts, and marvel at how craft beer has taken the country by storm.
As far as the ethics of one of craft brewing’s leaders selling his brewery to AB Inbev, as Jeffers put it “What was he supposed to do when he retired, mothball the brewery? I like good beer, and if Elysian can make it as part of InBev so be it.”
I like good beer and good people, and Philly Beer Week brings them together!