Now that Philly Beer Week has arrived in all its sudsy glory, talk has turned, even more than usual, to what we are all drinking right now. Of course, missing out on some Beer Week events is inevitable. There are just too many great gatherings happening at the same time. Fortunately, missing an event or three doesn’t mean that you have to go without good beer: There are countless great retailers in the region that boast some seriously deep selections. With this in mind, I set out to taste a range of beers that are worth stocking up on as springtime slowly melts into summer, and that will work well during both this most sacred week of the year and beyond. Most of the following are available at the Foodery (find locations and info at fooderybeer.com), and many of them elsewhere as well.
Founders, the standout Michigan brewer, produces the always delicious Centennial IPA, which, over the years, has become a standard in my fridge. Lately, however, I’ve found myself also enjoying the All Day IPA, a deliciously sessionable ale with distinct notes of Ritz crackers, citrus fruit and flowers.
Session beers, in fact, seem to be on the rise here as consumers realize that hopping an ale as aggressively as possible, and aiming for wine-level alcohol levels, don’t necessarily make for better drinking, just more potent. To that end, I’ve also found myself sipping the Narragansett Summer Ale and the Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, the former a crisp, deliriously refreshing beer and the latter a sweeter, more fruit-driven brew that works particularly well early in the day—it will shine with pancakes and bacon.
More powerful but still briskly refreshing is the Great Divide Colette, a farmhouse ale that, despite its 7.3 percent ABV, is perfect in hot and humid weather. Brooklyn Brewery is a producer that feels perpetually underappreciated around here, which is a shame. The lager is a touch maltier than you might expect, and this makes it go down even easier than many of its counterparts.
Sometimes, of course, you want more power in your brew, or a bit more drama, which is where the Firestone Walker anniversary bottlings come in. They’re based on blends created by top California winemakers, and each one, though different, is an embodiment of how complex and rewarding their beers can be. And there’s Apiarius from ShawneeCraft, a brewery in Shawnee on Delaware, Pa. It’s brewed with honey from the producer’s very own hives, but it’s not really sweet. This beauty boasts complex flavors of fresh-baked country bread, spice cake and lemon curd. And, finally, we come to the gloriously named Schmaltz Brewing Company’s He’brew Rejewvenator, a “dubbel doppel” kissed with figs and dates. It’s a great, complex way to end the night ... or begin the next morning.
Visit phillybeerweek.org to find out where these breweries will be featured during Philly Beer Week.