YOU KNOW those mixed cases that stuff a bunch of different flavors in one big box?
This is one of those columns. You’ll find something in here
you’ll like; give the rest to a friend.
Among other things, Friday the Firkinteenth, the quirky keg fest at Grey Lodge Pub (6235 Frankford Ave., Mayfair), is a maddeningly crowded beer blast featuring the hardest-working bartenders in the city.
Crowded, because the event – held each Friday the 13th – draws beer freaks from all over the East for its one-of-a-kind beers served in small, still-fermenting casks that are tapped without carbon dioxide (gravity does the trick). Hardest-working, because these guys have to hoist more than a dozen kegs onto the bar, hammer the bung themselves, then wait till the beer slowly fills each glass.
Today’s version looks to be a bit less manic. It starts at 2 p.m., which may thin out the crowd throughout the evening. And it’ll overflow into the pub’s new second-floor dining room.
Here’s the deal, though: Even with the crowd, if you’ve never made it to Friday the Firkinteenth, you’re missing one of the best beer-drinking fests in America.
In just a few hours of elbow-bending, you can sample the finest beers made in the region, served at traditional cellar temps to bring out their best flavor. It’s loud, it’s fun, and I guarantee the spilled beer will wash out of your Levis.
The lineup of 16 or 17 kegs was not complete at press time, but here’s what they’ll be pouring:
Brewers Art Proletary Ale, Flying Fish Vanilla Ice, General Lafayette Belgian-style Spring Ale, Heavyweight Stickenjab Alt, Iron Hill oak-aged Oud Bruin, Lancaster Milk Stout, Legacy oak-aged Hedonism Ale, Middle Ages Black Heart Stout, Sly Fox Ahtanum IPA, Troegs Pale Ale, Victory Hop Devil, and others from Weyerbacher, Yards and Nodding Head.
It’s pay as you go for 7-ounce glasses, so you can give these ales a run for their money.
OK, maybe you’re one of those healthy types who actually enjoys stepping into the sunshine.
So, wait till tomorrow, when Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (30 E. State St., Media) hosts the annual Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers Festival.
We’re talking beer from 25 local breweries, plus live music and food. And it’s all outside.
Tix are $30, with proceeds benefiting the Media Youth Center. Info, 610-627-9000.
Speaking of variety cases, Sam Adams and Magic Hat are in town with summertime mixers.
Dig past the obligatory bottles of Sam Adams Light (why do they bother?) and reach for Summer Ale, a thirst-quencher flavored with something called Grains of Paradise spice.
I won’t ask what kind of spices the brewers at Magic Hat are using (or smoking) up in Vermont. Let’s just say their HIPA (Highly Hopped India Pale Ale), Hocus Pocus (a wheat beer) and Mystery Batch 370 are suspiciously delicious.
Yet another Belgian-flavored beer bar is opening in town. Black Door (2nd and Bainbridge streets, South Street area) holds its grand opening today at 6 p.m. with half-priced drinks till 8 p.m.
The bar gets its name from Porte Noire, which was a classic beer haunt in Brussels for several years till it went Celtic some months back. Black Door promises a Belgian-heavy beer list of about 50 different bottles and five taps. Bar manager Charles Brodzinsci’s beer roots go back to Belgo, the Belgian bar chain in London and New York.
“Other than For Pete’s Sake and O’Neil’s, there’s really nothing else this end of town in the way of premium beer bars,” said owner Bill Schmidt, who runs Players Pub, a few doors down Bainbridge.
If we’re counting, though, that makes five Belgian bars in and around Center City: Bridgid’s (24th and Aspen, Fairmount); Monk’s (16th and Spruce, Center City); Eulogy (2nd & Chestnut, Old City) and Abbaye (3rd & Fairmount, Northern Liberties).
Not that I’m complaining, but how is it that a tiny country known mainly for, um, sprouts, has such a firm hold on Philly? After all, Center City has only one authentic German bar.
“Hey, the more the merrier,” said Monk’s Cafe owner Tom Peters. “Philadelphia is Brussels in America. “
Eulogy owner Michael Naessens added, “As a Belgian-American I’ve always said if there can be 5,000 Irish bars in Philadelphia, there should be room for at least a dozen Belgians. “
Indeed, Schmidt says his place is already a hit; he boasted he went through a keg of Chimay in just two nights after its soft opening last week.
And don’t worry about little Belgium supplying Philly with enough suds. It has about 120 breweries that produce about 500 different beers.
Beer freaks condemned to life in Jersey don’t have to cross the Ben Franklin for a decent Belgian. Cork (90 Haddon Ave., Westmont, N.J.) pours a nice selection of 15 drafts, including the hard-to-find Lindemans Framboise. Mix the raspberry-flavored lambic with Hoegaarden and you’ve got yourself a Dirty Hoe.
Sam Calagione, the creative genius behind Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, is out with a book on how he went from getting kicked out of prep school to operating the fastest-growing brewery in America at the age of 35. Though “Brewing Up a Business” (Wiley, $24.95) touches on Sam’s wide range of “off-centered ales for off-centered people,” this is more of a guide for energetic entrepreneurs, not us lazy beer-drinkers.
For Sam, Dogfish Head’s crazy publicity stunts and occasional scrapes with the law offer a chance for learning how to build a business.
A couple of years ago, for example, he was stopped by airport security in Philadelphia on the way to Chicago while carrying his infamous Randall the Enamel Animal. Randall, if you haven’t had the chance to meet him, is a 2-foot-long plastic contraption stuffed with fresh hops that’s designed to enhance the flavor and aroma of beer as it’s pulled from a keg.
The gun-toting security officers took one look at it and thought it was a bong stuffed with grass. Even the drug-sniffing dog was suspicious about the bag of sticky hop buds.
“Of the five people in the room,” Sam writes, “I definitely held the minority opinion on whether a full-scale cavity search was really necessary. “
Sam went into an impassioned speech on dry-hopping and “the need for more bitter beers in America. ” Eventually they waved him through, plastering Randall with Homeland Security stickers.
For him, the whole episode was just another opportunity to sway potential customers. “As craft brewers,” he writes, “we learn that educating people on the importance of fresh, quality ingredients isn’t always easy, but it really is important to do. “
You can meet Sam at 7 p.m. on Tuesday during a book-launching dinner at Monk’s Cafe. Call 215-545-7005 for info.
I got my hopes up when I paged through the LCB’s latest list of registered malt beverages. Among the newbies: labels from Colorado’s New Belgium and Oregon’s Deschutes, two highly regarded breweries that haven’t crossed the Mississippi. Turns out they were registered only for last month’s Craft Beer conference.
“You’ll be the first to know,” New Belgium spokesman Brian Simpson told me when I asked when his brewery’s classic Biere de Mars would show up at my corner deli.
Meanwhile, the shelves are still growing. Here’s new stuff: Russian River Sanctification, Reaper Ale Mortality Stout and Southampton Imperial Porter. Stone Brewing’s latest so-called “vertical epic,” a Belgian brown ale, should be in town by next week. The bottle is intended to be cellared for at least five years.
One of Philadelphia’s oldest brand names, Schmidt’s, moved out of town almost 20 years ago; it’s now produced in Milwaukee.
Locals who remember our One Beautiful Beer can take a sip down memory lane at Yards Brewery (2439 Amber St., Kensington) tomorrow when local beer historian Rich Wagner presents “The Rise and Fall of Schmidt’s of Philadelphia. ” His beer-flavored talk will start at 2 p.m. Info, 215-634-2600.