Saturday, June 05, 2010

Philly Beer Week 2010: Day 1 Wrap-Up

Link to Day 1 Pictures

Link forward to Day 2

Wow! What a way to begin. While I didn't get to personally experience the Hammer of Glory tour, Patty was out capturing some of the sights and sounds of the tour. She stopped in at Standard Tap, Kite and Key, and Nodding Head before meeting up with me.

She crossed paths with the likes of Jennie Hatton, co-captain of this big amazing thing called Philly Beer Week; Steve Shapiro/Gail Williams, visiting BeerByBart founders from San Francisco; and a gaggle of brewers and reps, bar owners and assorted beer fans. The antics that she experienced along the way sound unparalleled. Maybe someday she'd like to write here on TBL, but for now you'll simply need to see what she experienced yesterday through the photos she took (see the link at the top of this posting....or just click it here again).

And, I've confirmed that she still doesn't look to be paid for her work...she simply wants to be given credit for the work that she did. Sometimes credit is the most important thing that can be given, don't you think?!

So, I finally jumped off the train and met her at the Oyster House, which was in the midst of celebrating its 1-year anniversary since it's makeover and reopening in 2009. The Stoudt's crew was there as well, finishing up dinner after having tapped a firkin of their Double IPA. At first, I thought a $7 hit for what appeared to be a 12-ish ounce glass might have been a wee bit side of expensive, but I later learned that the keg does not exactly come cheap from the brewery.

I never thought I'd be starting PBW with a shellfish dinner on Sansom Street, but this worked out real nicely, particularly as I was chasing some oysters with the hoppy brew from Stoudts.

We finished up with dinner and made our way across town to the Independence Visitor Center where the Hammer had already shown up and Mayor Michael Nutter had already tapped the First Firkin of Sly Fox Collaboration BS1 beer. I caught up with that mayhem last year and I figured that the pictures and scene would look much the same, so we took our time finishing dinner and showed up just after 8pm at Opening Tap. I trust that pictures will be slowly filtering their way out to the Web and when they do, I'll link to them here.

Just after 8pm, the line still strung out to a good 100 people or so down Market Street. This being my second beer event at the Visitor Center (the first being Brewer's Plate), I'll stick to my standing position: I can't see this as a viable venue for beer events. The Brewer's Plate was contained mostly to the first floor and kept everyone tightly packed mostly in a long chute of tables and samples.

This year for Opening Tap, the venue was opened up a bit more, but I'm afraid too much so. When I talked with people in the room upstairs more than a few had said they had no clue what was going on downstairs where a few handfuls of brewery tables were setup. People were either drawn to the open air patio upstairs and/or the large screen television which was showing the Flyers game or they came in the Market Street entrance and bee-lined to the back of the venue's first floor.

It was very crowded and warm upstairs. Downstairs, a few tables greeted folks as they were given their bracelets and glassware. Then a short empty stretch, save for some food and non-alcoholic beverages. In the back of the space was another cluster of tables which gathered folks around several hanging TVs showing the Stanley Cup Finals game 4. I realize that I'm not doing a great job of explaining why this venue does not work so well. But, there's something lacking in the layout and continuity/flow of the space and the people.

After only having about six or so samples, I was shocked to see how fast time had flown as we were being hustled out by the security crew. The cab companies must have been on alert, because many were pulling up ready to take us off to the next stop in our journey. That worked well.

We decided to watch the third period with a bunch of great people (including BeerByBart's Steve Sharpiro and Gail Williams, visiting from San Francisco) at Varga. Funny how this was our first visit, while it was already Steve's and Gail's second.

Varga became a great place to meet Brendan McLane from Oskar Blues and drink of their Gubna and Gordon. The third period became much more important to watch as the Blackhawks were actually attempting to make a game of it. Varga, a nice addition to the neighborhood corner pub that many have raved about, turned out to be a great venue to watch game four.

Several other beery types of folk wandered through the door while we were there, so apparently they get a lot of industry insider attention as well. I'm anxious to head back soon to sit down for a few more drinks and a plate or two of food to give Varga a proper review. 10th and Spruce Streets for those of you who'd like to try it out for yourselves.

There was no way we were going to take the 1:15am train out of the city (the 12:15 was the more responsible choice), so we polished off our beers, said our thank-yous and good-nights and grabbed a cab back to 30th Street Station where, you guessed it, we had our one last. Great Lakes Brewery from Cleveland and one of its brewers was there during happy hour with several of their beers. It seemed like a good time to put down an Edmund Fitzgerald Porter before grabbing the train. According to the bartender, whether it was PBW, a summer Friday, the Flyers, or the Phillies, or just another typical happy hour, the Great Lakes event was reportedly well-received.

And, while most city beer stories for us tend to end at Bridgewater's before taking the train, this one had one last wrinkle (not TJs in Paoli as you might have (wisely) guessed). As we board the crowded, almost full, train, we were looking for two seats and lo and behold we wind up sitting with Greg and Sue Ramirez who were returning from the Flyers game...well, of course, they made their own pitstops from the subway to the regional train. You just never know...

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