Philadelphia has the biggest and best "Beer Week" celebration in the entire U.S. In fact it's so popular (and efficient) that by the time I got this post up, the official website was already switched over to tout the 2011 event. According to that site, Philly Beer Week was only started in 2008, but it's been so successful that 25 other U.S. cities have emulated it and launched their own.
We didn't pay too much attention to Beer Week this year (which is actually 10 days not a week) until the last few days when we decided we better check it out somehow. From examining the online schedule, Philly Beer Week had all sorts of specials, tastings, specialty brews, meet n' greets, and dinner pairings. You can drink all day and all night if you want! There must have been well over 100 area bars and restaurants participating, most offering one special or event during the day, then a happy hour 5-7pm special, and then a nightly 8-10pm special. Most bars would pick a theme too - like all Belgian beers or all Pennsylvania breweries.
Bradd and I decided to focus on one area of the city to make it easy to hit up a few Beer Week events in one night - Fairmount. Our first stop was Bishop's Collar. It's always good for a quick, cheap and tasty dinner, but at about 7pm they didn't have any Beer Week things going on so we just ordered off the regular menu. At least our tummies were full.
Then we tried Brigid's, a little dive up the road from Bishop's Collar that was featuring beers from the Breckenridge Brewery. It appealed to us because last summer we took an amazing vacation to Colorado and stayed in Breckenridge, just a stone's throw from the brewery. They have some great beers and the place was really a cool spot to hang out, even in a ski town during the summer. It was a clear mix of year-round local and travelers, sharing in their good times.
Anyway, back to Brigid's. I don't think I'd go back to the bar itself - its super tiny and you have to squeeze past the actual bar stools to get to the tables in the bar. Some reviews I'd seen online said it was all cozy and had a lot of character, so maybe it was just overcrowded for Beer Week, but I found the tight squeeze a little annoying. BUT the fun part was that we got to meet one of the brewmasters from Breckenridge! Told him about our trip and we learned about how he got from growing up in South Jersey to Colorado, and then stayed there. I remember that there was a girl involved, and some friend who was desperate for help making beer, so the guy just up and went and never looked back for 30 years. Nice, friendly Philly Beer Week experience. As for the beer, I tried Breck's SummerBright Ale but it was a little heavy for my taste, even though its a wheat beer. My favorite is still the brewery's Agave Wheat, which I had out in Colorado.
Then we headed down to The Belgian Cafe, where I love to eat for brunch or dinner. Steak Frites Salad is perfect for a not-too-filling-meal-that-includes-french-fries and the burgers are the same as Monk's so they are just awesome. The 8-10pm special there was all Norwigian brews that I could neither pronounce nor spell, but I know the brewery was called Nogne. I ordered whatever seemed like a 'whit' but what I got was really dark and thick. I wasn't a big fan but dealt with it cause I think it cost $14. Yeeesh. And that was the special price. BUT the fun continued here when we got to meet the brewer - who came allllll the way from Norway for Philly Beer Week. We had a short conversation with him, during which I remember his saying he liked Philly, but otherwise he was tough to communicate with. We got a great pic though, which appropriately depicts how absolutely giant this man was. We didn't even come up to his shoulders.
Philly Beer Week 2011 starts June 3 of next year. Until then, the website lists all sorts of other beer-related events around the city. Cheers!