Sunday, March 4, 2007

Eight bells and all is well

Here’s an update from Saturday’s inaugural Philly Craft Beer Festival. (We’re sure the cruise terminal at the Naval Yard has been swept and the deck swabbed by now, no small task when it comes to a building that nearly rivals a football field in length.)

If you’re one of the beer enthusiasts who may have ended up three sheets to the wind by drinking 2 ounces at a time, we hope the hangover was mild, although we didn’t notice anyone totally hammered during the noon-to-4 p.m. session we attended. Buzzed? Absolutely, but hammered, not really. We can’t speak to the evening session (6 to 10).

Incidentally, the festival's website reports both sessions sold out. (Admission was $35 in advance, $40 at the door.) Success!

And with that said, here are some details by the numbers …

Beer: Fifty brewers and 120 beers, more brew than you could possibly drink in two four-hour sessions, but so many different kinds that the beer geek in you might have been tempted to try. And we confess, those figures are what the promo literature declared. In our quest to taste some beer (we sampled from 17 breweries) and support these words with photos, we didn’t have time to check in with the management to see if any breweries were no-shows.

New Jersey beers: The Garden State five were Climax Brewing Co. of Roselle Park (pouring an ESB and an Oktoberfest); Cricket Hill Brewing Co. of Fairfield (a session IPA, East Coast Lager and Colonel Blides Alt Bier); Flying Fish Brewing Co. of Cherry Hill (XPA and Abby Dubbel; special thanks to Gene Muller for some key assistance to Beer-Stained Letter); High Point Brewing (Ramstein) of Butler (amber lager and blonde wheat); and Triumph Brewing Co. of Princeton (and New Hope, Pa., with a Philly location soon; Bengal Gold IPA, and our sincerest apologies for not taking down the other styles poured).

Details et cetera ...

The compass:
Brewers came from near (Philly, Philly burbs, greater Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and of course New Jersey) and from afar (Colorado, Maine, Vermont and Upstate New York, to name a few).

Interesting beer: Origin, a pomegranate-infused beer from New York and San Francisco-based Shmaltz Brewing Co. He’brew brews, the chosen beers; funny schtick, pretty good beer.

with a brew: Pig Iron Porter from Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (Delaware and Philly burbs). A former co-worker once slipped us a half-gallon of this porter back in the mid-’90s. It was good then and tasty still.

Attendance: Seemed like a battleship-load of people. Again, according to the literature, attendance would be cut off at 1,500 per session, and not oversold so folks could get served easily. Some of the participating brewers, however, marveled at the crowd size, speculating it was an aircraft carrier-load instead.

First session peak attendance seemed to be about 2:30 p.m. That’s when the dissonant drone of a thousand-plus voices chattering at once was the loudest. Also, navigating from port to starboard in the terminal was toughest about this time. Oh the sea of humanity. The lines to the heads were also quite long, but observant folks discovered a unisex head in the side room where the brewers’ panel discussion was held. Virtually no line! Way cool. Overall, a patient crowd, well behaved.

Food: Concession fare, but we must offer some props. It wasn’t bad for an event that had to deal in volume and do it fast to keep long lines moving (24-minute wait when we ate). Sample purchase: Turkey wrap, soft pretzel (this is Philadelphia) and a crab cake sandwich. Pinch to the wallet: 16 bucks, (but we’ve seen worse -- six bucks for a half liter of Deer Park at a Meadowlands parking lot party for the New Jersey Devils’ 2003 Stanley Cup win.)

Music: The Bullets. And sadly, we couldn’t hear them aft. Not their fault, though. We did make a point to move to the bow and actually listen to them. (Caught their cover of the Wallflowers’ “6th Avenue Heartache.” Coincidentally, we listened to “Bringing Down the Horse” during the ride into the city.) Fender guitars (one with the fat headstock, a reissue of an early 1970s model), stand-up bass, fiddle, a modest 20-inch bass drum on the drum kit ("It gets the job done" we were told) ... we'd liked to have spent more time listening, but duty called.

Minor letdown: Keepsake sampling glass was plastic. We prefer actual glass. Some day we’ll get over this hang-up.

Missed opportunity: Dock Street. We liked Dock Street back in the 1990s and used to take a six or two to friends for the Kentucky Derby. Then the brewery closed. We read about a return of the beer, but alas we didn't get a taste before hitting our limit for safe driving.

Cool Display:
Pint and shot glass setup at Raven Beer. With the sunlight filtering through from behind, it sometimes made for a ghostly effect in Poe's visage on the glassware. Quoth the Raven: You break, you buy.

Quotable quote: “Dude, are you Troegenating her?”A metaphoric, wink-wink, nudge-nudge appropriation of Tröegs’ double bock name. We’ll let it go at that.

Look for a photo gallery to go up soon. We’re still editing the nearly 300 frames we shot, weeding out the chaff. Also, if we took your business card and promised to email you some photos, we hope to get that done within a week.

1 comment:

Petiny said...

nah beer fests rocks, I remember the one in our town every year - various kinds of a cheap beer, many drunk ppl, concerts, food.... I can't stand waiting for another one.