AS DIRECTOR OF the raucous celebration of America’s best beer-drinking city, I’ve tried to show up at as many of Philly Beer Week’s 1,000 events as possible.
One afternoon, I even hired my nephew as a chauffeur to cart me around town – and disappointingly managed to hit only a dozen bars. (Use the gas pedal, kid! )
Nonetheless, here are my six favorite beers of the week. (And remember, Philly Beer Week continues through Sunday. )
Brotherly Suds 1. The Hammer of Glory – the symbol of Philly Beer Week – had completed its Olympic torchlike run across town, transported by dog wagon, stripper and bizarre, human-powered contraptions. It was now in Mayor Nutter’s paws.
He swung, and shanked the tap, breaching the fresh firkin of BS1, the event’s official collaboration beer.
The spigot bounced across the balcony floor and nearly fell 20 feet to the Opening Tap crowd below. Suds spewed forth as Sly Fox brewer Brian O’Reilly plugged the bung hole with his finger.
The spray caught my face, and that’s the only taste I got all week.
Holy Water. A beer supposedly brewed with church holy water and communion crackers was named the most inventive beer at the first annual Sierra Nevada Homebrew Challenge.
Completely sacrilegious yet as pure as a saint, the beer was a unique expression of brewing art and a fine example of how Beer Week has welcomed even do-it-yourselfers.
Kirschholzgeraraucherter. The dark, smoky wheat, aged on cherry wood, was served at Yards’ “Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em” festival. Aside from the most unpronounceable beer name of the week, it was yet another classic from perhaps the region’s most overlooked brewery, Stewart’s of Bear, Del. It was smoky as a Macanudo Robusto and rich as a Ben & Jerry’s banana split.
Exit 6. I’d tasted a hint of Flying Fish’s latest one-off during an WMMR on-air promo with Preston & Steve, and moaned that I couldn’t really get a good quaff out of the tiny sampling glasses.
I finally got my full taste last Saturday during the Haddon Pub Fest, where the beer was officially unveiled at Cork Restaurant.
Full-bodied and richly flavored, its rye malt gives it a tart finish that promotes unrepentant quaffability. And sharing this Cherry Hill ale with a bunch of South Jerseyans was a fun Garden State immersion for this Philly boy.
Bud. A friend handed me an ice-cold aluminum bottle Sunday night just as I climbed aboard the massive Budweiser beer wagon parked outside McGillin’s Old Ale House. Below me a team of Clydesdales – larger and more majestic than I ever imagined – stomped their hooves.
Joe Sixpack, who has spent the better part of two decades busting Anheuser-Busch’s chops, would not turn down an opportunity to board the most recognizable icon of American beer.
The wagon was here for McGillin’s quasi-black-tie 150th anniversary party, and its appearances were one of the marvels of Philly Beer Week. I hitched up my tux – the very same monkey suit that I was married in almost 15 years ago – and unartfully climbed aboard.
I raised the Bud and the Hammer of Glory . . . the ponies bucked in protest. Someone said it was hard to tell which was the horse’s ass.
Cantillon Classic Gueuze. Jean Van Roy, whose family runs Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels, made his first visit to the United States for Beer Week. As he was checking into his Center City hotel, the desk clerk noticed the brewery logo on Van Roy’s shirt and launched into unsolicited praise for the tiny brewery’s unusual, funky gueuze.
A couple of hours at Monk’s Café, where his beer was served alongside lambics from 3 Fonteinen and Boon breweries, Cantillon related the story with astonishment. “All of these years, no one in Brussels ever recognized me,” he said. “I come to Philadelphia, and they know me. I love this town.”