Thursday, June 24, 2010
Philly Beer Week 2010: Contemplations, Conversations, Ruminations, and an occasional Diatribe: Part 4
(This is the fourth in a series of ten installments documenting both my time during Philly Beer Week 2010 and insights provided to me by customers, importers/distributors/representatives, brewers, brewery owners, publicans, et cetera. All of whom wanted their comments to be aired, but very few who wanted their name associated with them. Some of you may not appreciate the anonymity, but that's the way it needs to be if we're going to talk about these things around here. You'll need to trust in me that I've gathered up all of these notes and opinions during PBW '10 and am sharing them with you in order to continue the conversation about what will make a better Philly Beer Week 2011.) Click back to see the third in the series. Click forward to see the fifth in the series. While this conversation is not a direct reflection upon Philly Beer Week, the topic certainly impacts the Philly Beer Landscape and how future Philly Beer Weeks might look if there is more locally-made beer and more of a true Philly Beer spin on The Week. "There's too much imported beer (from elsewhere in the country and the rest of the world) saturating the market in Southeastern PA...overshadowing and sometimes shutting out a lot of good local beer." Reading that statement reminds me of a gift horse's mouth. On one hand, I get the guy's point. A Yards event or a Dock Street event or a River Horse event...etc...can tend to be overshadowed (in some eyes) by, say, a Cantillon dinner, or a Chimay tasting, a Russian River unveiling, or a big Bell's boffo event. And, while they are all credible events, to some they take away from what they feel should be a primary focal point of Philly Beer Week...Philly Beer. I get that point and appreciate it. Though, on the other hand, I haven't decided exactly where I come down in the argument; y'know...back to the gift horse again. What makes Philly and its environs great for beer is not only the beer that is brewed here, but the beer that we have access to here, as well as the knowledgeable folks that distribute it and the establishments that serve it. So, if pushed, I'd probably come down more on the side of letting all play in Philly Beer Week and not trying to reign it in too tightly. However, I do agree to an extent that we do need a bit more of a focus on Philly Beer and that's where the argument for more Philly Beer comes in to the conversation. The city has seven establishments that make some very good beer. Plus almost 100 more within a 100 mile radius of the City. Much of it is very good beer that covers the diversity of the beer spectrum. Some of it is featured front and center during Philly Beer Week events such as: City Tavern's nightly beer dinner featuring Yards Ales of the Revolution; a collaboration between Yards and Percy Street BBQ; Dock Street's music festival, cocktail competition, and seminars both this year and last; Triumph's hosted events featuring their own beers as well as those from around the country on guest taps; last year's Yards beer dinner at The Four Seasons;...wow, I'm seeing a trend here. That is, there are a few handful of events prominently featuring some of the city beer (and then you get into some of the regionally-made beer from Sly Fox, Iron Hill, Flying Fish, Tröegs, etc.) and between all of these, are still accounting for less than 10% of the total PBW events. In addition, Philadelphia Brewing's beers, Nodding Head's, and Manayunk's pop on sampling and meet the brewer event schedules elsewhere but not with a strong focus on their beers and businesses. Earth, Bread, + Brewery has yet to officially participate in PBW...just a statement, not passing judgement. That being said, we need even more good local beer and more emphasis on it. Sitting at Dock Street, I commented to Carolyn Smagalski that this was such a perfect afternoon (save for just a touch of humidity and passing thunderstorms, right?!) What I meant was that at 50th and Baltimore of all places there is a community-minded establishment supporting local artists and causes and making their own art: award-winning beer and excellent food. There is really only one other establishment like this in the City Proper: Earth, Bread, + Brewery. Don't get me wrong, the other five brewing establishments all have strong merits of their own both in what they produce as well as how they operate their businesses in their respective communities. But, why not a neighborhood brewpub in Lawncrest? in Overbrook, in Powelton Village, or Spring Garden? or East Falls, or Bustleton, or Queen Village, or Mayfair, or Elmwood, or Point Breeze....etc. Is my point clear? There are so many neighborhoods with (I'm making a wild leap here) a lot of people who drink beer. Okay, listen, I'm not naive--I realize that some of these neighborhoods may not be the most economically viable locations for a brewpub. But, I'm also not talking about 30 bbl systems, or even 7 bbl for that matter, cranking out world-class beer. Let's start by putting good locally-made beer in everyone's mug within a city mile of their house. Keep it local, keep it real, make it great. Then, let's have a Philly Beer Week that truly focuses as much on the local beer that's produced as the local pubs that serve it next to some of the best beers from the rest of the world. Intriguing conversation, don't you think? Your thoughts, if you will? Coming tomorrow...we'll get a bit lighter again and discuss the Hammer of Glory.