Sunday, June 20, 2010

Philly Beer Week 2010: Contemplations, Conversations, Ruminations, and an occasional Diatribe: Part 1

Click forward to see the second in the series

After a slow week (except for The Drafting Room's 16th anniversary party) and a chance to breathe, reflect, and gather/organize my and others thoughts, it's finally time for a critical review of Philly Beer Week 2010. When I say critical, I mean both positive and negative. And, to be sure, there's some negative to go around this year.

If you feel like Philly Beer Fatigue is setting in, please bear with me. I think that you'll find a good bit of these next 10 days to be engaging and thought-provoking. I do hope you'll chime in--even if anonymously--to have your thoughts heard as well.

Now after five years of talking with each other, you know that more than 95% of what I do focuses on the positive in the world of craft brewing. I leave most of the exposés, rabble-rousing, and the dirt-dishing to the guys and ladies who get paid for it. However, as I've been reminded this year during PBW by folks in the industry (brewers, owners, reps, publicans, etc.), I have an important voice. The voice of the consumer. A voice that is often either not heard loudly enough or not listened to...closely enough.

As, then, a consumer beer blogger if you will, I can report to you what I did, saw, and heard during PBW '10. Better yet, if I am indeed a trusted consumer beer blogger, than I should be able to report upon the many conversations that I had with numerous industry players at various levels and coming from different perspectives.

Almost every conversation was begun with something along the lines of: "Please write about this conversation...but, please don't include my name...the potential repercussions from 'the organization' and 'the industry' are too great. But, these stories and opinions need to be aired and addressed."

So, over the coming 10 days, I will recount both favorable and unfavorable stories heard and experienced during Philly Beer Week 2010. A conversation with Don Russell was recounted in this week's City Paper in Philadelphia where he eluded to there being no need to revisit PBW specifics like the calendar scheduling or number of events. I hope that between the City Paper's account of PBW and notes like I and others continue to tell, that there will in fact be much more conversation and reconsidering to come about what comprises a successful Philly Beer Week.

I've posed this question before, to very little satisfactory response: What constitutes a successful event and how do we measure the impact of Philly Beer Week on local beer, bars, and organizations? With each upcoming day's posting, I hope to peel back some layers of the onion as we attempt to answer these tricky questions.

Let's begin with a bit of background of my personal PBW '10. I will try to keep this brief and tomorrow will return with the beginning of short stories related to the good and the bad of PBW '10.

~ My records show that... ... there was a 50% increase in total number of events in 2010 over 2009 ... there was a 40% increase in number of participating establishments in 2010 over 2009 ... 26 establishments from 2009 dropped out of participation in 2010 (two as a result of closing up shop) and 66 establishments joined for the first time (counting roughly 22 "barely new" establishments)

~ From my own personal angle, of the 10 PBW days from June 4th-June 13th, I... ... spent 5 in the city, 4 in the suburbs, and 1 day off (though, enough very good and rare Belgian beer was consumed to make a good beer event, nonetheless) ... took 3 train trips and 4 cab rides ... took 75% less time off from work than during last year's PBW ... went to 36% less events than last year (33 last year was a bit much, but even 21 this year was still a healthy sampling for someone with a "day job," I'd say) ... spent 20% less dollars on PBW as a whole than last year (but, lest you think I was "taken care of", I was only comp'ed at one event this year versus five in 2009) ... spent approximately 73% of my PBW dollars in the City and 27% in the suburbs (what this really means is that most of the bigger ticket items were in the City)

~ My favorite events included... ...
Johnny Brenda's/Tröegs music event - with 15 Tröegs beers available, including the firkin of Scratch 31 (one of PBW's best this year, imo), and great live music in a wonderful venue, this was a no-brainer as one of my favorite events of the year. Crowded, it wasn't, but then again, not much during the 10 days was (of course, more on that to come) ...
BrewDog and Stone at TJs - the only thing to make this event better would have been if Greg Koch had joined James Watt (BrewDog) at TJs--no offense intended for Lee Marren, Stone rep. The bar room at TJs was as full and lively as I've seen it in the middle of a Saturday afternoon in quite some time and between the beer and company, it couldn't have been any better way to wind down PBW ...
the Lambic Guys - first a meetup with Armand Debelder (Drie Fonteinen) at Teresa's Next Door and then with him, Jean Van Roy (Cantillon), and Frank Boon (Boon) at Monk's Café the following night for dinner, engaging conversation and their great Lambic beers made for a couple of special events ...
My Dock Street Run and Music Festival - I'm not saying this just because it was my event. As I emphasized last week, I never felt better about the state of Philly Beer than I did hanging out with the good people of Dock Street, industry folk that stopped by, other familiar faces, runners, and musicians. No one dwelled on the politics of PBW '10. Good music filled the air, ten establishments contributed prizes, runners ran strong through terrible weather, Dock Street staff took care of the beer, the food, and the hospitality..and all was very good with the world for a few hours.

~ Regrets, I have a few and they include... ... missing the Hammer of Glory, which you may recall Patty covered in part for me. This continues to sound like one of the most well-planned, well-executed, and creatively well-conceived events of 2010. ... missing the continuing 150th anniversary party at McGillins complete with the Clydesdales on Drury Lane! ... missing the Lambic Summit, or maybe Zythos, pick one. Afterall, the two events that I did with the Belgian Lambic brewers that came across could never be enough, right?! ... not seeing the Beer, Ninja, Cowboy "event"...or something else zany like it...because I love out-and-out good fun and a good spectacle ... T.U.D.? I mean, I did have my just wasn't at Fergie's as in past years. And, Fergie's is always a good time. However, occurring on the last day after my afternoon-long event at Dock Street meant it just wasn't going to be in the cards for me. ... not finding Jack, Lew, and whomever else at Dawson Street Pub. After the Beer Geek Finals, Patty and I drove right on past Dawson Street Pub. Yes, it's been over 15 years since I was last there and well, you know, it was dark (sort of sounds like one of Jack's excuses). I want to call this out before Jack catches up and roasts me for this one.

~ Best beers? This is tough one, but ones that stood out include... (in no particular order) ... Sierra Nevada Beer Camp "Exporter" - an easy drinking baltic porter that was a little light on the baltic, but not in a bad way. I'll be anxious to try some from the Russian River barrels that have been squirreled away in Santa Rosa, CA. ... Tröegs Scratch 31 (from the firkin) - apparently only one firkin of this remains, where it shall appear is a question anxious palates are asking. Until then, search it out on tap and maybe soon to come in even more bottles?! ... Stone dry-hopped Arrogant Bastard - the citra dry-hopping seemed to take a bit of the usual punch of this beer, in a good way ... Dock Street's Saison du Potts - just about perfect and very satisfying that this comes from brewer Ben Potts and the good people of West Philly ... Drie Fonteinen Doesjel - my first run-in with this beer that went very well with food both at Teresa's Next Door and Monk's Café...two good places to put the theory to the test ... BrewDog's Sink the Bismarck - the best? maybe not, but maybe the most interesting, the most drinkable, and the most beer-like 41% ABV beer that I've ever had. Believe it.

~ I still haven't found what I'm looking for, like... ... Philadelphia Brewing's Pharmhouse Arrest - apparently close to 60 kegs of this are floating around City accounts (at this point, maybe half that number?) ... Russian River's Registration Ale - sent from RR and named a bit tongue-in-cheek for the PBW festivities, apparently I'll be catching up with this at TJs on Saturday 6/26 ... more Brotherly Suds from Sly Fox - the collaboration beer that I only tasted once, at the Opening Tap. So, it's a bit difficult to register an opinion at this point ... Victory's Summer of Love beer - the one that they produced for PBW and the tourism bureau. I continue to get e-mails suggesting that I try it. I intend to do so as soon as possible.

So there's my baseline. Funny thing is when you think about it, no two individuals' Philly Beer Weeks could possibly look alike, do you think? In some ways, that can be a good thing I suppose.

Coming tomorrow...PBW '10, Gentlemen's Clubs, and the Marketing of Craft Beer and Beer Week in Philadelphia.


John Doherty said...

Good information Brian.

I had all the "best beers" you talk about except Drie Fonteinen Doesjel. I agree with your thoughts
on these beers.

Never heard of Philadelphia Brewing's Pharmhouse Arrest but will look for it. Russian River's Registration Ale and Victory's Summer of Love beer are fine beers(make sure you get some RR because Vinny is not sure he will ever brew this again).

Bryan Kolesar said...

Thanks John! Let me know if you find the Pharmhouse Arrest around town. It's on my short list :)


warriorsoul said...

On at Craft Ale House currently, but has been for two weeks.
Go now!

aka warriorsoul

Bryan Kolesar said...

Thanks Tom! I never made it to CAH, but did find it pop up on TJs tap list last week. Pretty decent beer.