Chatting with Adam Ritter of Sidecar Bar & Grille about Philly Beer Week.
This post originally appeared at Philadelphia ExBEERiment.
In the spirit of exBEERimentation that pervades the streets of Philadelphia during the days leading up to Beer Week, the Ladies of PE have scoured the beer community in search of interesting personalities to regale you with their yeasty yarns. The first interview to appear in this sudsy series features Adam Ritter, owner of the Sidecar Bar & Grille and participant in Beer Week’s South Philly Short Bus.
As natives of South Philadelphia ourselves, we can’t help but raise a glass in salute to his community pride!
We only wish we could let you share in the amazing music that was playing in the background. Nothing pumps an interview up more than a large helping of T-Rex and The Kinks.
Rachel Riot: What was the inspiration behind the short bus?
Adam Ritter: More than anything, we wanted to highlight what’s actually going on in South Philly. We feel as though outside of the city center, going into South Philly a little bit there’s some exciting stuff going on; there’s exciting bars. The events themselves are second to none. We’ve been lucky enough to basically form an interesting association, guild, whatever you want to call it, amongst the different bars here in South Philadelphia, that we’re excited about. We want to showcase what’s going on here, and I figured the best way to do that is to take some of the people right to the bars and make it happen for them. Almost give them no choice.
And listen, it’s a great deal. It’s free, and it continues in its own circle for about 9-10 hours. It actually goes from 4 [pm] to 1 in the morning on three different nights during Beer Week. It [starts on] the first Saturday, which sandwiches the Wednesday, and of course ends on the second Saturday. And we all have fun events, good events going on. And we really teamed up to advertise it well and promote it well in general. And we’re all real excited about it here in South Philly. Anything south of South [Street] that takes beer seriously.
Rachel Riot: How do you feel that South Philly bars compare to bars in other areas of the city?
Adam Ritter: Just to piggyback what I was saying earlier…I feel as though what we’re doing here in South Philly is second to none. That may be prejudiced, because we’re here in South Philly: we’re proud of what we do more than anything. There’s interesting bars all around this town, but I think there’s a great collection right here within a ten block radius.…And we all take what we do so very seriously; and I feel as if we all take beer very seriously. And we’re just trying to take beer, make it fun and mature—combine the two together. And we’re not necessarily doing this for the St. Patty’s Day feel. We’re looking to do this for people who want to check out some good stuff outside of the traditional, typical places in the city’s center.
Kunoichi Erica: Do you hope for the short bus to accomplish anything besides getting drunk people from point a to point b during the festivities?
Adam Ritter: Oh yeah, of course, more than anything. There’s a lot of savvy folks that are drinking high-end, high-gravity suds right now…I’m going to take myself out of it as a bar owner and say very specifically: if I saw something like this, and I enjoyed good beer, this would be the greatest thing ever. You get to encompass six respective bars all within one evening, or even in three evenings. If you want to drink American-made, Belgian-style beer here at the beginning of the trip, you know that there’s something from Michigan going on at the other end of the street and something from California going on at another bar…You’re essentially going around the beer world in a trip that’s going to take you about an hour and a half to get you all the way around.
Is there going to be some drunkenness going on? I imagine there is. That’s what I was saying before: it’s not like we’re just trying to cart people around to do a bunch of Irish Car Bombs and stuff like that. These are people that are sophisticated, that want to drink something that they typically can’t get their hands on: maybe some one-off stuff, real specialized stuff that’s coming in, that we’ve been working on for a while, each and every one of us. And then also concepts to build around that….
I know Grace [Tavern], for instance, is doing an event with Sam Adams—a chocolate and cheese beer event…On a Friday night we’re bringing Hebrew beer in from Shmaltz Brewery, and my mom’s making traditional Jewish food to match up with what’s basically Shabbat’s Dinner with Hebrew beer….When I first heard about that brewery, I thought it was really cute to piggyback it with the Hebrew thing: and it turned out to be really delicious beer. It’s not just cute; it actually is good beer—it stands on its own. Therefore we came up with the concept to have the Shabbat’s Dinner and I’m going to play Klezmer music from New Orleans to match it, and maybe throw some Neil Diamond in there as well….
You can tell through the Philly Beer Week website, we’ve all got great stuff going on [in South Philly]. For Pete’s Sake has great things going on. Philly Taproom brought beer in that they’re giving away—the New Glarus product. They had a shipment and they’re giving it away, just because it’s that interesting of a beer, that they’re able to do that. I know the Devil’s Den has some really great events as well with the Bell’s people, Founder’s as well. I feel that we’ve got some really well-thought-out concepts going on here. These are beer concepts. It’s not just about carting drunk people around. It’s about saying, “Let’s taste beer for what it is. Let’s appreciate it for what it is. And let’s have a whole lot of fun with it, in a slightly immature, but mature, way.”
Kunoichi Erica: If you could equate one beer with President Obama, what would it be, and why?
Adam Ritter: Well, I don’t know if I would equate it personally, but Ommegang came out with a beer called Obamagang. So we’re going to do an entire Belgian evening with Ommegang. They’re from Cooperstown, NY, and they do Belgian-style, American-made beer. So we’re gonna do an “Are You Experienced?” night—meaning Belgian food and beer…They did a one-off package in favor of the president—a Chocolate Cherry Stout, that we’re going to have a sixtel of for that event. You’re not going to be able to ever get that beer again. So…we have this particular beer, that there’s probably four sixtels of in the entire state right now. That’s just an example of the uniqueness of some of these events. But, to go back, that’s probably the one that I would equate with him, because it’s named and brewed for him.*
*PE Writers’ Note: Since the time of this interview, we’ve learned that the feds have put a stop to the name of Ommegang’s new beer. It will now be officially called “Inauguration Ale 2009.” Imbibe more here: Examiner.com
South Philly Bus Tour: Saturday, March 7, 4 pm. Wednesday, March 11, 6 pm. Saturday, March 14, 4 pm. See phillybeerweek.org for details.
The women of ExBEERiment review two new literary brews.
Bar Review: 12 Steps Down