It’s been 4 years since we last attended Opening Tap (the OFFICIAL kick-off to the 10-day brewfest known the world over as Philly Beer Week), and in those 4 years, a couple things have changed…
- In January of this year, the Board of Philly Beer Week (PBW) announced the creation of Philly Loves Beer and a URL change from phillybeerweek.org to phillylovesbeer.org (thankfully, both URLs will take you to the same website. Good work PBW Webmaster!). Here’s what the Board of Philly Beer Week had to say about the birth of Philly Loves Beer at the start of the year:
In January 2017, the Board of Philly Beer Week (PBW) – a group of 17 hospitality industry professionals and beer-savvy experts – will debut Philly Loves Beer (PLB), a year-round entity devoted to raising Philadelphia’s global profile as a destination city for beer tourism. PLB, working independent of a brewer’s guild or business association, is the country’s first and only non-profit 501 (c)(6) organization dedicated to beer appreciation. Through consumer education and professional advocacy 365 days a year, PLB will serve as the foremost authority on beer and beer culture in Philadelphia and the surrounding area.
A member-based network born out of demand, PLB will offer educational seminars, networking events, fundraisers, beer festivals, promotional support for their participants, and continue to expand beer’s imprint in Philadelphia. The PLB website (phillylovesbeer.com) will feature current news about beer, interviews with local brewers, forums on national beer trends, listings for marquee events, plus articles on Philly’s rich brewing culture.
- The venue for Opening Tap has moved from the Independence Visitor Center in Old City to The Fillmore in Fishtown.
- Instead of the usual Friday night event, Opening Tap has been moved to a Thursday.
Other than these organizational, venue, and minor date changes, Philly Beer Week 2017 remains the same Craft Beer fueled behemoth of fun that it’s always been, i.e. hundreds of events featuring local and national Craft Breweries in numerous venues across South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania.
As has been the case for as long as we’ve been covering PBW, the prelude to Opening Tap 2017 was the Hammer of Glory (HOG) Relay, a 10 hour event that takes the HOG (the official mascot of PBW!) from its first stop in Northeast Philly at 9AM to its final stop at The Fillmore in Fishtown at 7PM with 24 stops in between. While we weren’t fortunate enough to follow along with the HOG during it’s day long journey to The Fillmore, we did get to attend Opening Tap.
Here’s what we thought of this year’s event…
G-LO: While the physical location of the venue is a little out of the way for us former Philly residents / current South Jersey residents, I really liked the The Fillmore and how it was laid out for the event. I particularly liked the wide open floor plan of the main room which allows you to quickly determine what’s available and what you may have missed over the course of the event. I’m still a little leery of having attendees navigate stairs at drinking events, but again, thanks to the wide open feeling of the main room, I never felt cut off from the event when exploring the second level (aka the balcony) of the venue. My only complaint about the second level is the narrow pathway where the VIP pours and food were set-up. It didn’t stop me from getting to the food and drink, but the potential for colliding with other aficionados (and wearing my food and drink!) was a little too high for my taste. Other than that minor quibble, I really enjoyed The Fillmore and would definitely go back should the opportunity present itself.
Limpd: The Fillmore is a beautiful spot. And G-LO is right, there isn’t that feeling of being cut off as the horseshoe-like design really makes you feel like you are a part of everything. I also agree with G-LO’s assessment of the second level. I’m thinking that if the food and VIP beers were run along the upstairs bar, there may have been a little better flow. And, as always, after a night of drinking, I fear the large concrete staircases.
The band was really good but I could see how the wrong band in that venue would be a little too loud. I’d like to go back to The Fillmore, but unless they are running a series of tribute bands, my kind of artist has missed their chance to play there by at least two decades (as My Benevolent once said during our courting days upon learning of my musical tastes, “Don’t you listen to anyone that’s NOT dead?”).
G-LO: Since we were fortunate enough to secure VIP tickets to this event, we were granted admission at 6PM instead of the general admission start time of 7PM. This gave us access to the balcony level which had special VIP-only pours and food. While the food that we tried was definitely tasty (thin slices of roast beef, pan seared tuna with wasabi and ginger, some sort of stir fry, buffalo chicken flavored pierogies, and some pasta salads), there just didn’t seem to be enough food on hand, i.e. we left a little hungry and wound up making a stop at The Industry for falafel and burgers on our way home (we also made a pit stop at The SugarHouse Casino for a bit of gambling, but we’d rather not discuss our bit of bad luck at the tables, so let’s pretend that didn’t happen). Then again, most would argue that I can definitely skip a meal or two, so perhaps the organizers were simply doing me a favor by keeping the food choices to a minimum.
Limpd: The food was very nice. Not enough, but very nice. If you are having an event from 6pm to 10pm, I think there should be more food. Not necessarily a meal, but definitely a wider variety of appetizers. That being said, I really liked the stir fry, beef and pasta salads, though thanks to a mild bout of reflux (I’m guessing that drinking too many Stouts and Sours during this event had something to do with this), I had to avoid the wasabi tuna and buffalo chicken, which is a pity because they both looked really good.
G-LO: While food may have been in short supply, there was definitely an abundance and wide variety of beer on hand. From Stouts to Saisons to Sours to IPAs, and every beer style in between, we had no problem staying hydrated during our time at Opening Tap. As is becoming the norm at events such as this, picking a favorite beer is practically impossible since there is sooooo much good beer out there! Instead of picking a favorite beer of the night, I’ll simply tell you of the stand-outs of the night via the following categories:
- Messiest Pour: The guy from Urban Village who was pouring samples from a massive can of beer instead of the customary tap.
- The David Lynch Award for Best Beer Name: Evil Genius Bruce Willis Was Dead the Whole Time Peach IPA.
- Best Tap Handle: A tie between Fat Heads Brewing and River Horse Brewing
- Sauciest Beer Name: Weyerbacher Sexy Motherpucker
Limpd: I concur with G-LO’s selections. I thought that the best beer of the night was the Weyerbacher Sexy Motherpucker which is a bit of a surprise to me because I didn’t think I was a fan of Sours (I guess I just haven’t had a really well-crafted one). I also liked Cape May Brewing’s The Bog, Wissahickon Brewing’s Raisin’ Kane, and the beer that Evolution Craft Brewing made especially for Philly Beer Week. And I think I may have found a new favorite dessert beer in Southern Tier Brewing’s Thick Mint.
The Opening Tap
G-LO: The actual Opening Tap that took place at 7:20PM was delightfully fun AND weird! While the band was playing David Bowie’s Space Oddity, the Hammer of Glory was delivered on stage in a “lunar rover” by three men wearing “space suits”. Given that this was the 10th Anniversary of Philly Beer Week, I say the more outrageous and ridiculous the better! Two words: Mission Accomplished!
Limpd: I’m not sure I understood the space theme to this year’s Opening Tap, but I suppose it was better than having some sweaty guys running up after completing the Hammer of Glory relay. While I may not have understood the concept, there is no denying that the band did a respectable cover of Bowie’s song. As a side note, the delivery guys stayed in those space suits all night long with one guy still wearing his helmet. I’m guessing they were method actors. Talk about devotion to your craft. Well done, Lads!