Monday, May 21, 2012

Philly Beer Week 2012: What's On Tap

Last week, The Four Seasons Philadelphia hosted a Philly Beer Week press conference for the local media, assorted beer bloggers and a handful of industry folks. With less than two weeks to go it is time to start getting both excited and prepared for this year's festivities because, as Beer Week veterans know, PBW is no joke.

Joe Sixpack & the legendary Hammer of Glory
Philly Beer Week Executive Director Don Russel, aka Joe Sixpack, gave us all a preview of what we can expect for this 5th annual affair, the first and largest Beer Week in the country. Seeing how the event was held in the With Love Beer Garden, they were the main focus of discussion. I never made it down to the Four Seasons last year but wouldn't rule it out this year. Given all the hustle and bustle that Beer Week brings this could provide some much needed refuge...and of course beer, a different area brewery will be featured each night with the brewers making appearances as well. It seems like a good spot to meet up with people or even to end your day of Beer Week activities, get all the details over here.
Pretty certain that Sommelier Scott Turnbull got sick of posing.
The highlight of the event, for me, was getting the first sips of this year's Philly Beer Week collaboration beer, Dupont Spéciale Belge. A group of lucky Philadelphians including Tom Peters of Monk's and Chris LapPierre from Iron Hill Maple Shade ventured over to Belgium to brew this exclusive ale at the almighty Brasserie Dupont.

The amber ale really hit the spot standing around under the sun, some great fruitiness mixed with earthy malt flavors and a refreshingly dry finish, I might even venture to say tart but don't want to get you thinking this is sour by any means. There was a lot of discussion of the addition of smoked malts but I couldn't find any trace of them in there. Spéciale Belge will make its official debut at Opening Tap and will be featured throughout the area during the week. A bit of Philly, a bit of Belgium, a whole lot of goodness.
Proud brewer, Chris LaPierre
Despite the fact that Philly Beer Week has become a daunting part of my job at work, I'm still pretty excited. I'm quickly learning just how much work and effort goes into the whole thing, it is quite impressive. Let's all be thankful that we have a city that takes beer so seriously and has such an impressive community of publicans, wholesalers, retailers, publicans and drinkers. 
There a ton of great events lined up with still more being added so get your schedule in order!

June 1 - 10

Also, I have the great pleasure of having a birthday during Beer Week so if happen to run into me, forget the can just get the tab.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dogfish Head - An Off-Centered Jaunt

For many craft beer enthusiasts, heading to Delaware to visit those crazy kids at Dogfish Head is quite similar to a pilgrimage to Mecca. Given their growing popularity they are often one of the first breweries embraced by people just entering the wonderful world of real beer. Of course that kind of popularity, i.e. success, has brought some backlash from those who consider themselves to be real "hardcore" and what not. These are the types of people who turn against something they once loved only because too many people now share that same affection.

This happens with music, movies and sports but what the hell is this attitude doing in our fun-loving craft beer world? No matter how over-saturated, popular or gimmicky the disenchanted folks find Dogfish Head, they are still innovating, still brewing stellar beers and still know how to show a beer lover a damn good time.

I had been down to the brewery once before with college friends but more recently I headed down to Rehoboth Beach with the girlfriend for the weekend. Actually, we first stopped in Milton to tour the actual brewery which is undergoing some renovation and expansion. As expected, the tasting room was packed this Saturday morning with fellow beer geeks and  of course some people who just wanted something free to do.

We milled about the extensive gift shop while waiting for the tour and I quickly realized that I have no will power when it comes to badass brewery merch, sue me. The tour group gathered to get our first of four samples the first of which was Sah'tea, one of the most unique beers out there in my opinion. We got a sample of My Antonia before going into the brewery and I got that same "Willy Wonka" feeling that I did  the first time I visited. The tours have gotten a bit bigger and the guides use a mobile speaker but they still manage to keep the intimate and off-centered charm that makes Dogfish so appealing.

We ended up in their large cellar where there are pallets of fresh beer awaiting their departure but the real intriguing part of the room is locked up in a massive cage which houses founder/president/mad-man Sam Calagione's stash of vintage Dogfish Head bottles. They have quite a collection here and I was drooling at the thought of what treasures might be sitting patiently in there. I asked our guide what the most interesting vintage he had tasted, he said that a 2-3 year old Sah'tea really surprised him and was definitely his most memorable. The tour wrapped up and we all wandered back to the gift shop where the samples continued with the brand spanking new Urkontinent. Meridith was most fond of this one and I was equally impressed with its complex individuality. While I debated what I would take home with me the samples ended with some good old Indian Brown which finished things up quite nicely.

The brewery is truly something to see for those of us who enjoy looking at shiny steel or get a little thrill at the sight of barrels sitting in a room. The east coast doesn't have too many of these destination-type breweries so it's just cool to see something on this scale. The creative environment that they've established there seems genuinely ingrained in the people that work there and the laid-back yet passionate attitude is infectious.
For those of you just getting into craft beer Dogfish Head lives up to the reputation that you've built up in your mind. For those of you that have lost that loving feeling I would give them a visit, forget about how pissed you were that you couldn't get a bottle of 120 last year, give the guys another chance to court your tastebuds and focus on the thing that brought you there in the first place...the damn beer.

The weekend continued at the brewpub a short drive away but you're not interested in that, are you?

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
6 Cannery Village Blvd.
Milton, DE 19968