Bryan Kolesar of thebrewlounge.com deserves hero status for spending 12 hours and 130 miles taking Steve Wilkes, Andy Sparks and me on an outstanding beer tour of Philadelphia, his hometown.
We all know of Philadelphia’s historic role in the founding and shaping of our country. Bryan took it upon himself to ensure that we also knew of Philly’s thriving craft beer culture. After all, it’s the home of Philly Beer Week, with hundreds of events surrounding it.
The day started with a quick stop at a marker commemorating the first lager brewed in the United States. In 1840, could John Wagner have predicted the beers that evolved from his Bavarian influences a century later or the Superbowl ads that would eventually promote them? Probably not. Steve Wilkes makes a great sign model.
Chris LaPierre, brewer at the Maple Shade, New Jersey, location of Iron Hill Brewing opened his doors and his taps early for us. In an interview recorded for Basic Brewing Radio, Chris talked about his ability as an Iron Hill brewer to brew different beers from the eight other Iron Hill locations, while maintaining the stable of standard beers his customers expect.
Chris also talked about his dedication to the homebrew community around his brewery as he hosts homebrew club meetings and competitions. One beer currently on tap, Buccaneer’s Bounty, features rich coconut and coffee notes and was the winning recipe in a homebrew contest.
The Rauchbock brewed by Chris especially caught our attention as a standout. According to
Chris, the malt bill was 50% Weyerman’s smoked malt making for a deliciously smoky brew that begged for a side of brisket.
Traffic delays and a potty stop at a 7-11 preceded our visit to Victory Brewing in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Victory is a brewery in the process of birthing a new expansion – one that will have a dramatic impact on their ability to spread their influence across the region and perhaps the country.
Currently, the Downingtown location has a 50-barrel brewing capacity that pumps out more than 100,000 barrels per year. The new location under construction in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, is reported to have the ability to add ten 200-barrel brews per day when it is completed in the summer of 2013.
Matt Krueger, Vice President of Retail Operations for Victory, gave us a personal behind-the-scenes look at the brewery operations of the current facility. According to Matt, Victory is one of only three breweries in the U.S. that uses only whole hops – not pellets – in its beers. We witnessed two trash can-sized whole hop charges being added to the boil. Upon entering the hop freezer, the aroma of bales of whole hops greeted us.
Lunch at Victory’s pub ranged from pizza to pork schnitzel and was accompanied by samplers of various taps, from ESBs to saisons. All beers were solid, with the Swing Session Saison being the standout. Any sane person would have been more than satisfied by the skill and hospitality of the Philly brewers so far. However, this was only the beginning.
To be continued . . .