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The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer

26 June 2015

bwEvery year, there seems to be a new book coming out about the basics of beer.  I suppose that’s a good thing, since it means there is a large market for people who want to become more informed about drinking beer but don’t know where to begin.  Unlike breweries or beer styles, however, you only need one or two books to cover almost everything you need to know about diving into the beer world.  Books about drinking are like brewery tours—once you’ve gone through one or two, you’ve gone through them all, and the only reason to go on more is to see how your favorite brewer or brewery does things.

That being said, The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer by Ashley Rouston, the self-styled beer evangelist and social media maven, packs more of a punch than many of the other learn-about-beer books.  It has the typical setup of listing beer by style, with facts and history about each one followed by the preferred glassware, tasting notes, and which food it pairs best with.  What the style descriptions offer that most others don’t, though, is a quick line about what to drink that kind of beer instead of.  If you’re a beer beginner and don’t know what you like, this book does help you choose, for example, a Belgian Tripel instead of champagne, Chablis, or a corpse reviver.

After you’ve gone through all the styles, you can move on to the next section to pick up some advanced knowledge—the ingredients of beer, how it’s brewed, how to officially taste a beer, and how to respect it with proper storage, cellaring, glassware, and temperature.  Afterwards, the book takes you even deeper into “having fun with beer,” which most other beginner books leave out.

There is a section that goes deeper into pairings, with an overview and then a focus on some of the most typical pairings you’ll find for beer—different kinds of cheese, tacos, and pizza.  And while other books may have smalls sections about food pairing, not many others have sections on cooking with beer (unless they’re a full-on beer cookbook).  Rouston adds in a few recipes for easy to make beer food, broken down into handy sections like Meat and Seafood, Vegetarian, Sauces and Dressings, Desserts, and others.

The book ends with another recipe section, only this time it’s recipes for beer cocktails, broken down by type of liquor. There is at least one recipe for the most popular of them, including bourbon, gin, mescal, and many others, as well as some tips on how to pair beer and spirits on your own.

All in all, it’s a pretty handy guide to getting your feet wet in the beer world.  It may not have all the information, but it’s got everything you need to get started and be able to keep up in conversation.  The nice part is the extra section about beer and food, which many books overlook.  You’re not going to become a total beer expert from reading this one, but if you’re just beginning, it’s as good a place to start as any, and better than most.

Be sure to check out our new website EatYourPHL for everything you need to know about where to eat in Philadelphia.


Inaugural Philadelphia Pro-Am Set For July

25 May 2015

brewfestOn Saturday, July 18, there will be a lot going on at the Local 22 Philadelphia Firemen & Paramedics Union Hall.  Not only will there be the Independence National Brew Fest, but along with the fest is the first annual Philadelphia Pro-Am Competition, presented by Philly Beard Corp., in which Philadelphia’s top homebrewers will team up with local professional brewers to create one-off beers for the event to be judged—the best of which will be sent to the Great American Beer Festival and entered into its own Pro-Am competition.

If you’re only in it to drink beer, the event will take place from 5-9pm where you’ll be able to get all-you-can-drink and an event glass for a mere $40.  If you would like an extra hour to immerse yourself in special beers, VIP tickets will be running $60.  Brewers will be bringing a regular beer for the actual event, but will also be showing up with an altered version of that beer for the VIP hour only, so this could be your chance to get some beers you may never try again.  There will also be food from local food trucks to keep your stomach full of something other than beer.

If you’d like to compete for the grand prize, find a local brewer to team up with and submit a beer—winners will be entered into the GABF Pro-Am as well as receive airfare to the event and a two-night hotel stay (a $1,500 value).  These beers will be judged by BJCP-certified judges, but there will also be a group of celebrity judges on hand to hand out other awards to participants.  Celebrity judges include a representative of, Danya Henninger of Zagat Philly (and many other publications around the city), and myself.  That’s right—I somehow qualify as a celebrity judge.

For all of the official contest rules, please visit the Philly Beard Corp website, and you can purchase tickets here.  A portion of the proceeds will also benefit the Pink Boots Society, an organization devoted to empowering women to advance their careers in the brewing industry.  So purchase your tickets if you want to drink a lot of beer, or gather up your team if you want to enter the Pro-Am.  The possibilities at the Independence National Brew Fest will be endless, as will the drinking—and you can’t go wrong with that.

We’ll bring you more information on participants and what to expect as it becomes available.

Philly Beer Week is Upon Us!

7 April 2015


It’s National Beer Day, and what better way to celebrate than with our first announcement about the 2015 Philly Beer Week? The best 10 days of the year will begin on Friday, May 29 with the annual HOG Relay and Opening Tap, and conclude on Sunday, June 7. This year, the event will have a new app and a new publishing partner to help get you through the myriad events of the week.

The festivities will officially kick off with Opening Tap on May 29 from 7-10pm at the 23rd Street Armory.  Tickets are already on sale, with general admission tickets starting at $46 and designated driver tickets at $25.  VIP tickets will run $92.  General admission attendees can expect beers from 40 local breweries, as well as Leuven on a Prayer, the annual PBW collaboration, this year between Belgian Brouerij Hof ten Dormaal and Philly’s own Free Will. The event will also include live music and a photobooth with a ton of props care of PBW sponsor Photobot 3000.  VIP access will get you in an hour early and give you access to special beers as well as a buffet spread from DiBruno Bros.  If you are going to Opening Tap, be sure to wear either shorts or dark pants, because last year the ground was damp and filthy.

To keep up to date with all the happenings of beer week, be sure to download the new and improved app (available here or in the app store). The app gets better every year, and this year is no different.  It includes updated maps and directions to venues, improved compatibility to the desktop website to help you sync events between the two, new search filters, and integrated social media sharing so you can let all of your Twitter followers and Facebook friends know exactly where you’ll be all week.

Get your tickets to Opening Tap so you can be first in line to celebrate all of our great local beers and kick the week off as a true Philly Beer Week.  As the days dwindle down, be sure to keep an eye out as well for Philly Beer Scene’s official PBW Guide, a print handbook to the week that they will release two weeks before the kickoff.  And speaking of two weeks before, be sure to check back for our annual can’t miss lists of all the events, debuts, and drinking you shouldn’t miss throughout the 10 days of greatness that is Philly Beer Week.  See you then!

Two Roads Brewing Debuts in Philly This Week

4 April 2015

tworoadsBeginning on Tuesday, April 7, Two Roads Brewing of Stratford, CT will be bringing their “road less traveled” philosophy to Philadelphia with a week’s worth of beer tastings and welcome events, commencing on Saturday, April 11. Head Brewer Phil Markowski will be making his way down to Philly to join the festivities, interact with fans, and answer any questions we may have.

Two Roads, which will be partnering with importer and distributor Muller, Inc., will be bringing some of their favorite offerings to Philly.  These include their Road 2 Ruin, a double IPA brewed with seven hop varieties; No Limits Hefeweizen, a Bavarian wheat ale; Ol’ Factory Pils, a traditional pilsner dry-hopped with German and American hops; Worker’s Comp Saison, a fruity farmhouse ale that is slightly spicy; Lil’ Heaven, a session IPA; Honeyspot Road White IPA, a wheat IPA; Unorthodox Russian Imperial Stout, which is aggressively hopped with notes of rye, chocolate, and espresso; 20 Ton, a blond barleywine; Igor’s Dream, a Russian Imperial stout made with rye and aged in oak barrels; and Henry’s Farm, a traditional dopplebock.

If you’ve had the beer before, or are looking forward to trying out yet another new brewery in PA, there are numerous opportunities for you to do so. Some include:

Late Night Munchies at Varga Bar | Tuesday, April 7, 8 – 11pm
Varga will be pairing select Two Roads styles with snack plates, and will have a special cask offering.

Nutmeg State Tap Takeover at City Tap House Logan Square | Wednesday, April 8, 4 – 7 pm
Phil Markowski will be on hand to meet with drinkers, and will be offering his book on saisons, Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition, to the first 30 guests to buy a Two Roads beer. All of the aforementioned beers will be available, as well as a special cask offering.

Leftorium of Beers Lunch at Monk’s Café | Thursday, April 9, Noon
Phil Markowski will take over the celebrated Belgian beer bar for a special brewer’s lunch,  Space is limited, so be sure to call ahead (215.545.7005) to secure your seat and give yourself a good reason to skip out of work early.

The Brunch Not Taken at Strangelove’s | Saturday, April 11, 11:30am – 2pm
Chef James Kenngott will draw inspiration from Robert Frost—who the brewery based their name on—offering myriad brunch items to pair with the Two Roads beers. 4/7 CORRECTION: The brunch at Strangelove’s will simply have Two Roads beer and the usual delicious food you’d find at Strangelove’s, there will be no Robert Frost-ing of the food.  Sorry for any confusion.

Throughout the week, Two Roads can also be found at Barcade (April 8 starting at 7pm), Two Stones Pub (April 8 starting at 4pm), Good Dog Bar (April 8, 8-midnight), POPE (April 9 starting at 6pm), Bru Craft & Wurst (April 10, 4-7pm), Union Jack’s (in Glenside, April 10, 6-8pm), and Time, for their seventh anniversary party (April 10, 8-11pm).

Be sure to check out this fine new brewery and show them a warm welcome to Philadelphia.  Hopefully, I’ll see you out at one or more of these events!

10th Annual Great Chefs Event Set For June 9

3 April 2015


Now back for its 10th year, Marc Vetri’s Great Chefs Event will be taking over Urban Outfitter’s corporate campus in the Navy Yard on June 9 from 6-9 pm.  As always, the event brings together some of the best chefs from around the country (and one from Italy) as well as some of the top beverage personalities from the states.

While tickets are unabashedly pricey—$350 for a regular ticket and $525 for a VIP ticket—there is little chance you’ll ever find this kind of selection of chef in one place very often.  And this year, the VIP afterparty will be taking place at Lo Spiedo, also in the Navy Yard, to make transit from the event to the afterparty that much easier.  And if you get the VIP ticket, be ready to eat more food than you’ve ever eaten before between the actual event and the VIP afterparty. The amount of food is unbelievable.

This year, Philadelphia will be well represented with the likes of Mike Solomonov (Zahav), Jose Garces, Daniel Stern (R2L), Masaharu Morimoto, and Emilio Mignucci (DiBruno Bros), with the beverage side of things including Bill Covaleski (Victory Brewing), Tom Kehoe (Yards), Tom Peters (Monk’s Café, representing Russian River), Stephen Warner (Lo Spiedo), and might-as-well-be-local Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head.  And as exciting as that would be, throw in the likes of Marc Murphy, Michael Symon, Jonathan Waxman, Alon Shaya, Sue Torres, and Alex Guarnaschelli, among MANY others, and the event has definitely justified it’s ticket price.

As far as food goes, and celebrity chef sightings, this is easily the event of the year, and all others pale in comparison. Not only is the food amazing, the drinks are all top notch, and the VIP afterparty provides even more.  I can say from personal experience that it is almost unbelievable how much amazing food is to be had at this event.

But not only is there the food, but the whole event benefits Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the Vetri Foundation for Children, and raises thousands upon thousands of dollars every year between the ticket sales and the ridiculously impressive auction items available either online, or live at the event.  Whether it is a trip to Italy or a private home-cooked dinner from your favorite chef, the items for auction are well worth contributing to.

If you want to check out the full chef’s list, you can go to the Great Chefs event website here.  Tickets can be bought here. I know they seem expensive, but as I mentioned earlier, this event absolutely delivers on the price and will not let you down.  It’s a great place to see your favorite chef, eat a ton of amazing food, and help out charities that have been providing for children and families for years.  Do not sleep on this event—you will not regret attending.  We began looking forward to it as soon as we left the last one.

Sample Local Fare at Noshhh…If You Can Find It

16 March 2015

Noshhh Logo Wide

On Friday, March 20, the collective efforts of Spirit Forward, Home Brewed Events, and Brew Crew Events will be presenting Noshhh, a speakeasy-themed local food and drink vendor showcase. To stick with the theme, the location will not be released until this week, after having clues pop up on the Noshhh Facebook event page. While you’ll have to wait for the event to officially announce the location, we can tell you that it will take place from 7:30 – 10:30 Friday night.

For only $15 in advance (there’s still time!) or $20 at the door, guests will be able to spend their three hours at the secret location (which the Facebook page has said is within four blocks of Elfreth’s Alley—so, Old City) sampling fare from some of the newest and brightest local businesses. On hand to make cocktails will be Spirit Forward, Bluecoat American Dry Gin and Manatawny Still Works. There will also be beer on hand from new local breweries 2nd Story Brewing Co and Broken Goblet Brewing. And if those drinks don’t appeal to you, United By Blue and Backyard Beans will be offering coffee.

As for food, Pure Fare and AGNO Grill will be offering health-focused bites, with additional snacks from Two Brothers Hummus. Spruce Hill Preserves and PB & Jams will also be teaming up for offer perfectly paired snacks, and Chocamo Cookie Cups will be on hand for dessert.

In addition to everything you can push and pour into your face, Home Brewed Events and the Dashing Rogue will be talking about home brewing and food pairings, so you can learn something while you’re there and even book them for private events. There will also be live jazz from Ensemble Novo to fill the evening with even more bang for your buck.

Tickets are still available at, so be sure to buy them in advance to save yourself a few dollars. And keep track of the event’s Facebook event page this week to find out exactly where you’ll be going, and where I will hopefully be seeing you.

Only One Week Until Brewer’s Plate

1 March 2015

brewersplateThe Brewer’s Plate—one of the best local food and beer pairing events, and our favorite of the year—is only a week away, with festivities on Sunday, March 8 at the Kimmel Center. The event runs until 10:00pm and will begin at 6:30 for general admission ticket-holders and 5:30 for VIP ticket holders.

This first hour will be in conjunction with Drink Philly for a VIP cocktail hour, providing three local cocktails for guests based on Drink Philly’s Home Bar Project and made with the help of Dan Lan Hamm of Spirit Forward and 1 Tippling Place. The VIP section will also offer a special glass for ticket holders, as well as—for the first time ever—a beer brewed exclusively for the event, from Victory Brewing Co and Brewery Vivant, a special session-style ale called Bon Vivant. As before, there will be breweries offering VIP-only drinks as well, including 2nd Story, Brooklyn, Conshohocken, Free Will, Victory, and Weyerbacher.

While we always recommend the VIP experience at Brewer’s Plate, if it’s too late for that, the general admission portion of the evening is nothing to sneeze at. The quality of the food providers seems to step up every year, and this year will include such names as High Street on Market, Russet, and Amada.  But don’t worry—there will be the usual favorites offering their wares, from Alla Spina, Cedar Point, and South Philly Tap Room to Belgian Café, Industry, and Misconduct Tavern.

The local beer list also seems to grow every year, and 2015 will be no different.  Stalwarts like Yards, Weyerbacher, Victory, Sly Fox and Dogfish Head will be there, as always, but will also be joined by 2nd Story, Barren Hill, Brewery Vivant, The Other Farm Brewing, and last year’s favorite Forest & Main. A full list of the food and drinks participants can be found in the Brewer’s Plate website here.

Each ticket (VIP and GA) has a three-tiered pricing system, and the lower prices are selling out fast—if they haven’t already sold out.  There are still general admission tickets at the $69 price point (which is a steal) before they move up to $79.  VIP tickets are almost completely sold out, with a bargain of a $99 ticket still available—jump on this while there is still time!  Tickets can be found here.

We cover a lot of great events every year, but there are only a few that remain in the upper echelon year after year with such consistency as Brewer’s Plate.  And not only is it consistently good, but the participants seem to put real effort into their food and drink pairings, instead of just bringing something and hoping the two go together.  This is a thoughtful, delicious, and ultimately satisfying event that has been the cornerstone of Philly food and drink for years, and will continue to be. If you’ve never been, buy your ticket now.  If you have been before, well, you already know what  worthwhile event it is.

I hope to see you there.

Beer Pairing Dinner Asks If Sam Still Matters

31 January 2015

A much sought-after ounce of Utopias

Last night, in the wake of a recent Boston Magazine article about how the craft beer industry has abandoned Jim Koch and Sam Adams, the beer’s local rep teamed up with City Tap House in University City to try to prove otherwise.  The team used a three-course dinner, with Sam Adams beer pairings, to prove the hashtag #SamStillMatters.

The dinner began with a first course of pork belly atop pork rillettes, alongside a frisee and Treviso salad with a chocolate vinaigrette, and was paired with Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru. The sour “KMF,” as chef Chad Vetter explained, worked well to cut through the rich pork and the chocolate vinaigrette—which it did, and did well. And even though I don’t like frisee lettuce or chocolate, I thought the dish (and the beer) were very good.

For our second course, rather than contrast flavors in the beer and food, Vetter decided to pair like flavors with his black pepper oxtail and smoked hedgehog mushroom flan, which went with Sam’s Black Harbor Stout—an imperial stout aged in Buffalo Trace barrels with a hint of black pepper and dark fruits.  This was by far the best course of food, and Chef Vetter really shined in the smoked mushroom flan, which was a person favorite of the night.

For dessert, we were served cheesecake in wonton wrappers smothered in a fig compote, with a side of hazelnut whipped cream.  I’m not much of a dessert person, but this was delicious—and paired perfectly with the star of the night, a one-ounce pour of Utopias. For $50 for the meal, the experience was really a bargain—three great beers from Sam Adams (including a chance to try the ultra-rare Utopias) and three excellent courses from City Tap House—food of a caliber I wasn’t aware they could produce. That part of the night was excellent.


Highlight of the meal: black pepper oxtail and smoked hedgehog mushroom flan

However, the event was promoted as a “community meal and discussion” about whether Sam Adams was still relevant.  Aside from the Sam Adams rep giving us descriptions of each beer, there was no discussion (and there were other Sam Adams employees at the table with us).  After describing each beer, the rep went to his own table to ate by himself.  I was looking forward to a community roundtable on the pros and cons of Sam Adams, and a discussion from craft beer fans and writers as to whether it still was actually relevant.  And while the dinner proved that they still make good beer, it didn’t go any further toward deciding if Sam still mattered or not.

While the Utopias was a great addition to the evening, exposing people to a bottle they will most likely not see again (and most likely not be able to afford if they did), is not the best way to go about proving relevance. They proved Sam Adams still makes tasty beer, but that’s about it.  In the end, the beer and food were great, but I still don’t know why I should care about Sam Adams—and with the isolation and lack of discussion from Sam’s employees, it seemed like they didn’t know, either.

Nonstop Chili & Homebrew is the Perfect Match for Winter

29 January 2015

wwarm2015For the third year in a row, the Philly Homebrew Club will help you beat up on Old Man Winter with the perfect foil for cold temperatures and dreary days: all you can eat chili. For their third annual Winter’s Warmers event, once again held at the Philadelphia Firefighters and Paramedics Union, you’ll be able to sample homebrew and eat chili from 1 – 5pm on Saturday, February 28th.

The chili will come from the entrants of the event’s annual chili cook-off, which is divided into three categories: Anything Goes, Vegan/Vegetarian, and Traditional. If you’d like to enter the competition, we’re told there are less than a dozen spots left, so you need to act fast. Entry is $35, which includes a glass and event t-shirt. There will be a first place prize ($225) and second place prize ($100) for each category, as well as an additional $225 for Best in Show. Entry rules can be found here.

While the homebrew will be poured from the club’s members’ donated beer for the event, there is also a beer competition alongside the chili competition. Beers have to be submitted by February 22, and there is a limit of 75 beers (three per contestant). While it’s probably too late to brew anything new at this point, if you’ve got anything that falls into the BJCP categories for Porters, Stouts, Belgian Strong, Strong Ales, Fruit, Smoke and Wood Aged, or Specialty, you can check out entry rules here.

If you’re just coming to enjoy eating and drinking in excess, you’re also in luck. For $30 in advance (or $40 at the door), you’ll get a souvenir Philly Homebrew Club glass to fill with homebrew from the club, as well as all the chili your stomach can handle. And while the event keeps growing, there always seems to be enough food and drink to get your money’s worth. We gave it our all last year, and there was plenty of chili left when we had to throw in the towel. With 35 chili chefs, you won’t get bored and you won’t run out of food—trust us.

The Philly Homebrew Club always puts on great events, and this one is no different. We’ve been going since the very beginning and have seen the improvements every year, from finding a bigger space to streamlining the process and helping you get as much chili into you as quickly as possible. $30 is a bargain for an event like this, and you’ll also be supporting a quality charity—a portion of the event’s proceeds will be going to benefit the Local 22 Philadelphia Firefighters’ and Paramedic Union’s Widow’s Fund.

Philanthropy and a full stomach? I’ll see you there.

Stone Brewing: Hypocrite or Hilarious?

19 January 2015

Recently, Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma, CA initiated and then rescinded a trademark infringement claim against Sierra Nevada Brewing, feeling that the letters “IPA” written across a beer label (for a different beer name, in a different font, with clarifying words in front of it) were too similar to their own “IPA” letters written across a beer label. Once the internet attacked Lagunitas for a largely frivolous lawsuit (see the images and notice that they are not alike in any way, other than referring to the beer style), Lagunitas called it off.

lagunitas v sierra nevada long

Now, whether or not the lawsuit was ridiculous or not (it was), Stone Brewing Co. decided to have a little fun at Lagunitas’s expense by releasing a fake beer on their Facebook page: Sosumi IPA, clearly using Lagunitas’s IPA font for the design. Now, it is quite possible that the two brewery owners are good friends and just enjoy taking the piss out of each other, but it seems the ways in which they make fun—especially since they themselves have resorted to lawyers to combat a not-even-close name relationship.

sosumiIt was within the last year that Stone Brewing Co. issued a cease-and-desist notice to Boulder, CO brewery, The Kettle & Stone Brewing Co. Uh oh, they used the same word in their name—clearly a cause for lawyering up to protect Stone’s brand from a brewery that isn’t in the same city, doesn’t use the same font or writing, and has a completely different logo. I could see if they had named themselves something like Stone’s Brewing Co. and had a devil-like logo—that would cause market confusion. But just happening to share a single word? The Kettle & Stone eventually changed their name to Vindication Brewing Co., certainly as a dig at their much larger and much more powerful Stone Brewing.

So, what do you think? Is it okay for Stone to have a little laugh at Lagunitas’s expense, or is this joke just a tad too hypocritical, given Stone’s past actions? Let us know in the comments.