Josh the freelance journalist sent out the first email. "Yo. Goin' to Philly for their Beer Fest. Who wants to come along? Wheee!" Josh has a preternatural tendency to tap into excellent food and drink adventures, which makes him a natural when exploring the outer boroughs of our own city. The deal only got sweeter when Josh scored a free hotel room as well as a 2 free passes for the opening night's event. One for him and one for me! Wheee! Off to Philly for me! I invited Jonah for the beertivities.
Josh and Aaron Wilson (known as Wilson) had bused down earlier that Friday, so when Jonah and I arrived at 4pm sharp, Wilson and Josh had been wandering and drinking. We parked the Eggplant Xpress, made our way to the bar, and gulped down the first of many a beer. I started with a Marzen, a heavy, malty 6.8% whopper of a beer, auspiciously heralding my arrival in this beer-mad city.
Countless dorm rooms are plastered with the wonderful Benjy Franklin (mis)quote "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." How trite, yet how true. Just like Brooklyn's Brewers Row in today's East Williamsburg / Bushwick, Philadelphia had its own hood, Brewerytown, in the northwestern part of the city. Throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, Philly boasted more than 90s breweries in the city itself, with another 100+ in the metropolitan region. However, the one-two punch of post WWI anti-German sentiment, followed by Prohibition shuttered most of these industries for good, in both Philly and BK.
But just like Brooklyn, Philly has seen a beer resurgence, with dozens of breweries and brewpubs reopening and jumpstarting the microbrew revolution with delicious results. The Philly Beer Week, now celebrating its 2nd year, is a 10-day festival spread out over over 50 bars with hundreds of events and thousands of pints poured into thirsty maws. None of us could spend more than 24 hours celebrating, so we got straight to liquid business.
After the first pub, after the hotel check-in, we set off on a bar bounce. But its not all booze and blues - many bars and breweries offer feel-good reasons to drink. Our next bar gimmick, called "Save a kitten, drink a fish!" was in donating all dollars spent on Flying Fish beer to an animal rescue fund. Following bar #2 was Bob & Barbara's Lounge, where every square inch was dedicated to PBR paraphernalia and ads from as far back as the 40s.
Then, it was a quick cab ride to the Comcast center and the Opening Tap event. Over 50 brewers offering 2 to 3 different samples of their luscious, liquidy wares. Each participant was handed a 6 ounce plastic tumbler in which to taste the beers, but with one entry ticket each, we could sample as many beers as we wanted. And lord, did we sample!
Following the opening tap, two more Brooklyn Boys - Aaron #2 and Ben Haas were waiting to meet. We found them, surprise surprise, in another bar. So we joined them for beers (hoppy, spicy) and charged onwards, to more bars for more beers. At some point a cheesesteak was devoured. At another point, a strip club was entered. Sadly, Philly shuts down for the night at 2am and our gang all passed out, a day well drunk.
The next morning was a little painful, so we decided, rather spectacularly, to head to Johnny Brenda's in the north end of Philly, for an authentic Port Brunch, in which we had over a dozen microbrewed ports to choose from.
Naturally, we tried them all. A wise decision.
Following our port brunch, we marauded our way across town in the brilliant Philly haze and sunshiney smog, enjoying the resurgent industrial neighborhoods.
Somehow, through blind, drunk historical luck, we stumbled upon a historical marker declaring the very first Lager brewed in America! To celebrate, we went to the bar.
And then another one. And then . . . it was time to leave this magical world of hefeweisens and hopbacks, of IPAs and Bells for Boobs (Bells Brewery which donated proceeds to breast cancer research) in which our drinking would certainly save the world. Maybe not our livers . . . but who needs them?!? Philly, we love you and we'll be back! As soon as our throbbing headache goes away . . . More than enough pictures of our adventures can be found here, here, and here!