Booze Banter

Event Review – Opening Tap at 2300 Arena, The OFFICIAL Start of Philly Beer Week 2019

G-LO: 2019 marks year 12 for Philly Beer Week (which lasts 10 days, as opposed to the standard 7 day week. New math perhaps?). Our first Philly Beer Week outing, which was way back in 2010, sure doesn’t feel all that long ago. Seriously, where does the time go?

LimpD: I’ve stopped trying to track the time. But, I agree. It sure seems to fly by. I’m just happy that our schedules allowed for us to attend this year’s Opening Tap. Before going in to the event, I was wondering what pageantry and majesty would accompany the Hammer Of Glory (HOG). More importantly, I was really curious to find out what special brew they’d be pouring for THE Opening Tap.

G-LO: I hear THAT! We’ve been to three of these events over the years, and they definitely put on quite the show when The HOG shows up. Given that the venue (2300 Arena) was a stone’s throw away from 2 Street, using the Mummers made perfect sense. That was quite the entrance! I’m not a huge fan of the Mummers and String Bands, but I gotta admit, this was a pitch perfect pairing. And did I not call it when the MC announced that their next number would be one that everyone knows?

LimpD: Yeah, yeah; you’re the great prognosticator. Quite the shocker that they played “Fly Eagles, Fly“. While I am in agreement with my feelings towards the Mummers, the production quality was all there. And, who doesn’t love watching that keg tapped! Do we know anything about what was in that special keg?

G-LO: Just call me Nostradrunkus! And here’s my next prediction: we’ll be drinking at The Murder Table again very soon.

I wasn’t shocked by “Fly, Eagles, Fly”. That song pairs well with a really big room full of Philly Beer Weekers. Lots of locals, drinking lots of local Craft Beer in the heart of Mummer’s Country. It was a no-brainer and a much better choice than “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers“.

With regards to what they were tapping onstage, here’s what the organizers have to say about Duveldelphia:

In the spirit of Philadelphia and the collaborating nature our breweries take part in, Opening Tap will be the first opportunity to taste the 9th Annual European Collaboration Beer, Duveldelphia.  This 6.8% hoppy blonde was brewed in Belgium by raffle winners from La Cabra Brewing based out of Berwyn, PA alongside the 148 year-old family-owned brewery, Duvel Moortgat. This collaboration blends Duvel’s mastery of fermentation and La Cabra’s American-style hopping! Idaho 7 and Citra hops provide a fruity bouquet balanced with a dry body.

I really enjoyed the pomp and circumstance leading up to the tapping of this special keg, but we didn’t get a first sip of this beer until after 7:30PM. By that point, we had already tried at least a dozen beers, so to be honest, I can’t say all that much about the actual taste and whether I really enjoyed it. I remember it smelling a lot like a Belgian Wit and/or Farmhouse Ale, two styles that I usually enjoy, but I don’t recall what effect the hops had on this collaboration brew. That’s the only real problem with events like this (mind you, it’s a good problem to have!); unless you let me try the super special stuff when my palate is relatively fresh, I’m not gonna have much to say about it. I mean, it’s not like there was a shortage of unique and delicious beer on hand for the masses!

LimpD: I knew it was a Belgian and, unfortunately, I knew it wasn’t a wheelhouse beer for me. Also, it seemed to me like more than half of the craft brewers had their own version of a Farmhouse Ale. So, I can certainly see why this one might have gotten lost in the shuffle. Maybe next year, they should make more of a standout in terms of style, or encourage the brewers to produce something different (a style competition perhaps?).

The venue was interesting and a bit off of the beaten path. I liked the mix of inside & outside space (although, they could have used a cigar bar!). And, the little canteen with roast pork & roast beef sliders (yes, even with the provolone) was a nice touch. What did you think of the venue?

G-LO: I have no issue with all of those funky Belgian beer styles. They’re fun and so unusual when they’re made well. It just gets tough to tell one from the other when you have so many of them in a row. But I guess you could say that about any of the tastings that we’ve attended over the years.

Agreed on the venue. And yum to the Roast Pork and Provolone! I had no idea that 2300 Arena existed before our invite to this event. I’m guessing it was an old warehouse. I really liked the layout and the size of the place. Worked well in terms of spacing, as it never felt crowded. My only real complaint was with the lighting and the sound, i.e. I couldn’t get a decent shot when we were at the individual brewer’s tables, and it was really tough to hear what the brewery reps were saying once the music really kicked into gear.

I really like how they set up the bar area to the right of the main entrance, and the outside space in the back was a nice touch too. Even though that outside space was under I-95, it was surprisingly quiet. I thought for sure that all we’d hear out there was the roar of the cars as they zoomed past overhead, but that most definitely was not the case.

Going back to the beers, there sure were some funky beers on tap! Passionfruit popped up in many a brew. Some worked really well, and some didn’t, but overall, there was mucho variety on offer. Did any beer in particular tickle your fancy?

LimpD: Ahhhhhh, the beer! I sought out some Stout and found a good one from Workhorse Brewing (and they hauled it to the event in the best vehicle ever!) and the Parabola from Firestone Walker (13% ABV; YOWZA, what a kick!). Along the way, I grabbed the Original from Jack’s Hard Cider (fantastic!), a Salt & Sea from Flying Fish (strawberry, lime and sea salt that somehow worked really well) and an Imperial Session IPA that was a collaboration brew from Urban Village and U Sciences. This one left me with two thoughts…

(1) How is this beer both an Imperial and a Session? Me thinks there was some wordplay going on here!

(2) Where was an official degree in beer brewing when we were going to school? I know a lot of people have “majored” in beer while at school, but to get an actual degree in it? That’s something entirely different!

You seemed to check out a wide variety of styles. Were there any beers that really surprised you?

G-LO: Totally with you on the Workhorse Brewing truck! That was super cool (both figuratively, and literally, because the big refrigeration unit on the top meant that the cargo area was keeping those kegs quite chilly)! And their beer was pretty tasty too.

I believe we tried a lot of the same beers in most cases. That Flying Fish one with the strawberries, lime, and sea salt was surprisingly good (we really need to pay the brewery, which is essentially on our backyard, a visit!), as was the dubiously named Imperial Session IPA from Urban Village and U Sciences. And as far as pursuing a brewing science education goes, when we were going to University (as the rest of the world would say), there wasn’t much in the way of variety with regards to drink, so I guess we missed our opportunity to be one of the innovators of the Craft Brew Universe. We could have beat Crazy Calagione to the punch! I guess hindsight really is 20/20 (he says while reaching for his readers to finish up this email!).

It was good to see some Cider on offer. I tried the Dry Hopped Jack’s Hard Cider. That was really really nice, and made for a nice change of pace after all that beer.

I can’t say that any beer really jumped out at me. As you said to the woman serving up those yummy roast beef and roast pork sliders, “picking a favorite beer is a lot like picking a favorite child”. They all have their pluses and minuses, but we love them all nonetheless. The fact that I can’t pick an absolute winner of the night says a lot about the amount of quality Craft Beer that’s out there. How’s that for a diplomatic and noncommittal answer?

If I had to complain about anything, it would be this…

Who came up with the idea to have open mic karaoke after the Opening Tap? All I know is that we went outside after the keg tapping to explore a bit more, watched some hatchet throwing, and chatted with a couple attendees about the grossness that is the word “moist”. After 10 or 15 minutes of outside fun, we went back in to experience someone’s god-awful, ear drum puncturing rendition of an Adele song. To say that it was painful would be an understatement, and to add insult to injury, something had to have gone wrong with the stage lights because as we were walking towards it, they got really bright and nearly blinded me thanks to them being pointed right at my face. Not fun, Limpd! Not fun at all! I’m just glad that this happened towards the end of our visit.

All in all, I’d say it was a funtastic and brewtastic night. The weather was perfect. The beer was diverse and satisfying. And all in attendance were well behaved and in VERY good spirits.

Any final thoughts before we wrap up this blog post and put a bow on it?

LimpD: I’m in total agreement about the Karaoke portion of the evening. Did you know that Karaoke means empty orchestra? After some of that singing, I could certainly see why the band would want to empty out. Some voices are only suited for the shower!

Musical stylings aside, the venue, food and weather were all that (and a bag of chips!), while the Craft Beer offerings were inspired and abundant. I’m not sure what more we could have asked for in an event. I’m already looking forward to next year!

G-LO: Re: the meaning of Karaoke, in the words of of the late, great Johnny Carson, ” I did not know that!”. Hopefully the powers that be at Philly Loves Beer will nix the Karaoke from next year’s event. My ears would thank them endlessly!

The countdown to Opening Tap 2020 starts NOW…


Many thanks to the fine folks at Philly Loves Beer for their hospitality at this brewtastic event!

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