Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Philadelphia Beer Region; The Fertile Crescent defined
Over time, there's been quite a bit of dialog about best beer cities/regions in the country. Best for brewpubs, best for beer bars, best for festivals, and on and on. Lately, Jack Curtin has suggested that the Philadelphia region is the best region for beer not just in this country, but perhaps in the world. I'll stand next to him and argue this position as well. We're not just talking about a city here, nor a particular facet of the industry, but rather the whole region for a total beer experience. Consider that "this whole region" spans from Delaware north through the NJ border counties of PA, west into the Lehigh Valley (Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown/Emmaus), southwest out to Reading, Lancaster, and Harrisburg. Across these areas, you will find acclaimed breweries and brewpubs, festivals and events, retail beer stores and great beer bars, and homebrew clubs showcasing beer styles across the spectrum to rival any region. The names of the makers and the sellers are way too numerous to mention here. Want a list? Drop me a note. At the epicenter (at least figuratively speaking) lies the city of Philadelphia, which has more beer history than any other city in the country, hands down. (Consult Rich Wagner if you need further proof.) Philadelphia also has the proud distinction of being affectionately called the 'Brussels of the U.S.', due to its role in introducing Belgian beer to the States (more specifically, thank you Tom Peters). Coming in 2008, Philadelphia will be adding a world-class event to its resume in the form of a 10-day festival of beer called Philly Beer Week. I'd also go out on a limb and say that we are blessed with the richest talent of beer writers and cognoscenti. I've been thinking of this lately as I've read some of the most excellent coverage of all stuff beer in the Delaware Valley ranging from the city's Don Russell (aka Joe Sixpack in the Philadelphia Daily News), the western suburb's Jack Curtin (with his now interactive not-a-blog), and the northern suburb's Lew Bryson (exclamation points required!!). They are listed in no particular order and I won't try to tell you who's "the best"; that's up for you to decide based on your reading preferences. Suffice to say they all do an amazing job covering the rich Philadelphia beer scene and beyond. And, this summer certainly has not slowed them down. Something about the past few months has brought out the best in all of them. From Don's packed column last Friday, to Jack's practically daily updates at both his site and Beer Yard's, and Lew's thought-provoking (sometimes controversial?) editorials and travel news bits, it's certainly easy to get your fill of beer info just here in the Delaware Valley. Then, consider that between the three of them, the periodicals of Draft, Beer Advocate, Celebrator, Ale Street News, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, American Brewer, and Beverage (I'm sure I've missed a few more) all benefit from their collective expertise. You want more? How about Gary Monterosso & Mark Haynie further to the east in New Jersey, Woody Chandler out in Amish country, and a writer/BJCP judge (Chester County's David Hauseman) in between. Then, all of the fine folks who are standing up for better beer at Beer Advocate and Rate Beer. Each of these sites boasts a user population from the State of Pennsylvania above just about every other state in the country. (I've reluctantly started listing names, and fear that I may have dug myself into a hole by potentially leaving some out. Please feel free to correct this in the comments below.) So, between those who are making beer, those who are selling it, those who are buying it, and those who are writing and talking about it here in the Philadelphia region, I ask you: Does it get any better than this?