Often described as “America’s Best Beer Drinking City,” Philadelphia has more than earned the moniker. Its beer-guzzling history goes way back; 200-odd years ago, when Philly was the first capital of the United States, many of the city’s Founding Fathers even tried their hands at brewing (Benjamin Franklin was said to brew a delicious spruce beer, while George Washington himself supposedly preferred his porter with a touch of molasses).
Philadelphia may no longer be the nation’s capital, but the beer affinity has stuck: the city is now home to dozens of breweries, untold taphouses, dive bars, and neighbourhood pubs, and legions of beer geeks to go with. And best of all? It’s also host to Philly Beer Week – the largest festival of its kind in the United States.
Founded by local beer writer Joe Sixpack back in 2008, Philly Beer Week has grown exponentially in the ensuing eight years. Spanning from 3rd-12th June this year (with a series of events leading up to the official festival dates), it goes well beyond a local event, drawing boozehounds, brewers, and other industry folk from across the US (and overseas). Last year, the festival was attended by an estimated 150,000 beer lovers, and comprised more than 1,000 events, ranging from street parties and meet-the-brewer nights to beer pairing dinners, homebrewing competitions, tastings, and other opportunities to sample and celebrate. Fourth of July and the Mummers Parade aside, it’d be fair to label Philly Beer Week the city’s biggest party of the year.
Wondering what’s in store for Philly Beer Week 2016 – and, more importantly, which beers you should be looking to try? Read on for this year’s festival highlights (and try to reconcile yourself to the FOMO now – it’s almost certainly impossible to attend every event on the calendar, so choose wisely).
First things first: one of Philly Beer Week’s biggest parties is Opening Tap, which officially kicks off the festival proceedings (tickets available now). This year, the event will be held on 3rd June at The Fillmore, in the city’s hip Fishtown neighbourhood. It’s an excellent chance to sample suds from the area’s finest breweries; only those located within a 100-mile radius will be showcased in this local celebration. Attendees who are new to the Philadelphia beer scene should look for area favourites like Sly Fox, Yards, Stoudts and Dock Street, which will be among the 30-plus breweries in attendance.
Opening Tap is also the perfect time to sample two of the most anticipated beers of Philly Beer Week 2016. The first is Brotherly Suds 7: a collaboration brew made by seven of the top breweries in the Philadelphia area (Flying Fish, Iron Hill, Sly Fox, Stoudts, Tröegs, Victory, and Yards), this year’s batch will be a ryebock lager. Look for the ceremonial tapping of the first keg, which is done courtesy of the “Hammer of Glory,” or HOG – one of Philly Beer Week’s most enduring symbols.
Opening Tap will also see the debut of a second collaboration brew – this one even funkier in flavour. As testament to Philly Beer Week’s international cred, “Fire, Flood & Plague” was jointly created by Philly’s Yards Brewing and the Netherland’s acclaimed Brouwerij De Molen, and is a sea salt and black liquorice porter brewed with Galena and Amarillo hops. Clocking in at a hefty 9.9% ABV, it’ll be one to sip slowly.
And for those who are after an extra-early start on June 3rd, there’s the Hammer of Glory relay. Kicking off from 7AM, the playful annual tradition sees the HOG journey from bar to bar across the city, like an Olympic torch for the beer swilling (and less athletically gifted) set. Visitors can follow it on its way to the Opening Tap as it’s transported via relays, floats, and other quirky vehicles.
And these are just the start for what’s promised all week long. Hobnob with talented homebrewers – and vote for your favourite homemade batch – at the Philly Homebrew Championship on 5th June. If beer is your preferred dessert, stop by for a Cupcakes and Beer pairing on 6th June. Get acquainted with sour-salty gose, a recently revived German beer style that’s the current toast of the craft world, at Brauhaus Schmitz, where 10 different examples of the style will be showcased on 3rd June. Head to Memphis Taproom, one of Philly’s very best neighbourhood bars, for a celebration of the craft beer world’s “O.G.s” – think Sierra Nevada, Anchor, New Belgium, and Harpoon – on 4th June. And keep checking the diary as the festival draws near, as hundreds more events will soon be added to the schedule.
Beyond one-off events, Philly Beer Week 2016 also provides the ultimate opportunity to visit this beer-loving city’s breweries, pubs, and beer-friendly restaurants on your own terms. Located in suburban Philadelphia, Tired Hands is one of the city’s most exciting and experimental breweries (and serves up killer eats besides). Craft beer stalwarts like Jose Pistola’s, Monk’s Café and Standard Tap offer dozens of world-class beers on draught and in bottle, no matter when you visit. And if you want to take bottles of top local brews home with you (and who wouldn’t?), The Foodery is home to one of Philly’s widest selections.
Is Philadelphia really America’s Best Beer-Drinking City? Come to Philly Beer Week and it’d be practically impossible not to agree.
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Have you experienced Philadelphia’s beer scene? Which Philly Beer Week 2016 events are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below.