Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Institute's 3rd Annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival Recap

I've made my love of pumpkin beers known before on this blog. The hatred that some people have for the style is beyond me because despite whatever hype may surround certain pumpkins there are some that are just good beers. Period.
This is why I made sure to hit up The Institute's 3rd Annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival this past Saturday. I was at the first event a couple years with some friends from Temple and we had a great time sampling all sorts of different pumpkin brews. I missed last year's but since my girlfriend and I both had a free afternoon we headed down to check it out. Little did we know that the place was going to be mobbed, not at all the experience I had two years ago. We pulled up to the bar to find the street blocked off to accomodate a block's worth of outdoor seating and a line out the door. Not ideal for the relaxed afternoon of imbibement I had in mind.

After finally making my way to the bar I got the lady, who wasn't in the mood to experiment, a glass of Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin Ale (both of ours favorite pumpkin beer) and myself a bourbon-barrel aged version of Fegley's Devious Pumpkin Ale. I had never before seen a barrel aged pumpkin beer and knew I likely wouldn't again soon so that was a pretty easy decision despite the other 18 options that were on tap. This was a good looking brew, a deep and cloudy copper orange color with a thin tan head. You definitely got the bourbon on the nose with a bit of fall spices in there. I quickly realized this was a sipper as well, real boozey character but not totally consumed by the whiskey flavors. The pumpkin still had a presence with a mellow vanilla flavor that helped undercut the alcohol that became stronger as it warmed up. I could see loving this one on a cold Autumn night on the porch if only they would bottle this sucker, definitely something to seek out but I'm not sure how much is available since the only other place I've seen it on tap is at the Allentown Brew Works brewpub.

Seeing how the downstairs bar was unbearably crowded we headed upstairs and were shocked to find two spots at the bar. After about 10 seconds we realized why no one had taken the stools, there was a constant leak from the roof dripping water right at the corner of the bar. Oh well, I took one for the team and got a light shower while we enjoyed our beers. I took precaution though and kept a coaster on my glass in between sips.

Next up was Bavarian Barbarian's Grumpy Pumpkin Imperial Porter out of Williamsport, PA. I have to admit that this is not the most appetizing looking pour, it basically looked like muddy pond sludge with little to no head.. Luckily it smelled like heaven, deep roasted malts, coffee, cinnamon, and sweet pumpkin pie. The beer was full bodied and tasted like a rich pumpkin coffee. The pumpkin worked wonders with the darker malts and didn't lend too much of sweetness that often turns me off of some pumpkin beers. I loved this beer and was not satisfied with my small pout but what are you gonna do? This was definitely the most surprising and my favorite of the afternoon.
Despite the tasty brews, the crowd and the leaking roof made for an uncomfortable visit so we decided to get somewhere a little more relaxed. I felt really bad for our incredibly patient bartender who was dealing with some outlandish hipster characters all day long but managed to stay relatively friendly. I couldn't believe how many people came up to him after waiting in line and had no idea what they wanted. I did regret missing the crew from Yards who was going to be filling a giant pumpkin with their General Washington's Tavern Porter but I managed to live without it.

I gotta say that I think the event is pretty cool in theory but needs work on the execution now that it has gotten so popular. Setting up a couple jockey boxes outside to cut back on the lines inside would help a lot. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to buy tickets for beers outside so people aren't fumbling around at the bar. These are just my grumpy old man suggestions for what was an otherwise enjoyable event.

We skipped over Broad Street and posted up at the Kite & Key for some dinner and yes, a few more beers. This is one of my favorite spots in the city but for some reason I had never ordered the pulled pork sandwich, I will never make that mistake again. The aged provolone and roasted long hot peppers made for quite possibly the greatest pulled pork sandwich I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. With Bell's Two Hearted AND Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour both on tap I could have stayed there all night but all things must pass and it was time to head home.
Now that I'm living back home in the burbs it's even more of a treat to hit up two underrated bars down in the city love the fact that there are so many options for the thirsty masses in the City of Brotherly Love.

549 North 12th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
1836 Callowhill Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130


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