Celebrating our 10th anniversary – many hop-py returns

TEN YEARS AGO this week, Joe Sixpack made his first appearance in the Daily News. That’s a lotta beer and a lotta words.

Getting a beer column into the People Paper was a tough sell at first. At least one editor wondered whether there’d be enough material to justify a beer reporter. I bought him off with two cases of Yuengling and never heard from him again.

The fact is, no self-respecting newspaperman who spends his best hours in the barrooms of Philadelphia could fail to come up with a ton of great columns. There is no better place in the city to meet people and hear their stories.

Still, looking back, there’s plenty I never saw coming.

6 that astound me

  1. Brussels, USA. Today, quirky, expensive ales made by Trappist monks and Flemish farmers are served at no fewer than five Belgian-themed bars in Philadelphia. And $7-a-glass Chimay is on tap in at least 50 more.
  2. Citizens Bank Park is brewtopia. Just seven years ago, the Phillies’ beer vendor was ripping off fans with short pours of crud lager. Today, you get honest pours of a dozen different craft-brewed ales.
  3. The $20 bottle of beer. And cases. You need a bank loan to afford some imports.
  4. Imperial India Pale Ale. Bland, low-hopped lager still rules, but the hottest new style among beer freaks is over-hopped ales that take bitterness to new, mouth-puckering levels.
  5. Expensive beer in blue-collar neighborhoods. It’s not unusual to find trendy beers in Fishtown and South Philly, pouring side-by-side with Schmidt’s and PBR.
  6. A wealth of exceptional flavors. Try this killer sixpack, unheard of 10 years ago:
    • Victory Golden Monkey.
    • Yards Philly Pale Ale.
    • Sly Fox Incubus.
    • Dogfish Head Raison d’Etre.
    • Weyerbacher Insanity.
    • Troegs Mad Elf.

6 I could’ve done without

  1. The implosion of Independence and Red Bell breweries, which, despite the well-deserved criticism of their financial planning, still managed to brew a few decent beers.
  2. Light beer. Also, low-carb beer.
  3. The demolition of the old Schmidt’s brewery. I miss that huge old sign up on Girard Avenue.
  4. The impending no-smoking ban. Sorry, but a bar is the last refuge of non-conformist behavior. You want a healthy, smoke-free environment, go to a gym.
  5. Eagles president Joe Banner reaming me on live TV when I dared ask him to justify the infamous hoagie ban at the Linc. Wait. I actually loved that – especially when he backed down a week later.
  6. Those sugary malternatives, like Mike’s Hard Lemonade. They give malt beverages a bad name.

6 favorites

  1. Visiting the guys at Yards Brewing one morning when they were first starting out, making a batch in their tiny garage in Manayunk. They were talented young enthusiasts in love with their craft, and that beer was good.
  2. The standing ovation I got at Veterans Stadium when the Phillies beer vendor dropped its prices following my expose of its notorious beer-skimming scam.
  3. Meeting Vince Rapinesi, the 80-something guy who fixes the kegs and taplines for nearly every bar in town.
  4. The hate mail I got from the city of St. Louis before the Birds’ loss to the Rams in the NFC championship. The yokels were upset when I dissed Anheuser-Busch.
  5. Exploring the mammoth, now-abandoned Schwechat beer cellar near Vienna, Austria, with Victory Brewing’s Bill Covaleski. The place was creepy and dark and dirty. Then, over cold mugs of Zwickl, I learned how an old-world lager influenced new-world micros.
  6. The afternoon that guys from Budweiser pulled up in front of the Daily News in their bar-on-wheels and invited me for a brew that had been bottled that morning. Sure beat lunch in the company cafeteria.

6 for the next 10 years

  1. Straighten out the stupid state beer-sales laws, especially the ones making it nearly impossible to buy single bottles and sixpacks.
  2. Open up Internet sales. You can buy wine online in Pennsylvania, but not beer. That’s gotta change.
  3. Build more brewpubs. Philly has three; two more are on the horizon. Compare that to Portland, Ore., (with one-third the population), where there are 40.
  4. Legalize beer sales in movie theaters. We’re civilized enough to enjoy a cold draft while watching a film, aren’t we?
  5. Re-open A Man Full of Trouble, the city’s oldest standing tavern, now owned (and ignored) by the University of Pennsylvania.
  6. Drink more beer. C’mon, Philly, don’t slow down now!


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