Dave Heaton and his wife Jill Goodheart moved to Philadelphia in 2004 from Michigan, so Jill could pursue a degree in speech language pathology at Temple University. They stayed for five years, during which time they became mainstays at Philly Beer Week, going so far as to take the entire week off together to get to as many events as possible—which Dave, a music journalist, calls an “endurance challenge.” They moved back to Missouri in 2009—to Kansas City—but have marked their calendars and made the trek halfway across the country to the City of Brotherly Love every year since. PW sat down with Dave to figure out what keeps them coming back.
OK, so you two used to live in Philly. What keeps you coming back every year for Beer Week? Beer Week gives us a fun excuse to come back and see friends and visit a city that in a lot of ways we miss—to go to old favorite places and keep up with some of the newer bars and restaurants. Philly has great bars, so Beer Week’s an opportunity to visit many of them in a short period of time. Plus, we get to drink a lot of beers that we can’t get at home. We were living there when Beer Week started, and I haven’t missed a year yet, so that’s another, somewhat silly reason: just to say I’ve been to them all. Of course it’s such a mammoth collection of events, and we’ll just be there for four days of it, so it’s not like you can ever really experience the whole thing.
What’s the beer scene like in Kansas City? Is there anything remotely equivalent to Beer Week? Kansas City has a solid craft-beer scene that is getting better all of the time. There is one significant brewery, Boulevard, and some smaller ones just getting started, plus an ever-growing number of new breweries from the region—from the rest of Missouri, and nearby states including Kansas and Nebraska. There are just a few great craft-beer bars, though more seem to be opening regularly. The best one is a few blocks from our house now; it and a few others do have “meet the brewer” events and beer dinners and such fairly often, including a bunch recently for American Craft Beer Week. But no—there’s nothing anywhere close to the scale of Philly Beer Week, in terms of the number of events, bars, breweries, beers or drinkers.
Is there a particular bar you always make sure you don’t miss during Philly Beer Week? Grace Tavern. It was our favorite bar when we lived in Philly, the one we went to pretty much every week. Going there every year during Beer Week isn’t as much about the particular events they have as it is the place being special to us.
We also tend to go the Grey Lodge Pub most years for a beer breakfast. It used to be wheat beers; this time it’s wild-yeast beers.
Your most memorable beer? Honestly, at this point in my life I don’t have the best memory. So, while I wish I could accurately recall all of my favorite beers from the past five years, I’m not sure I can. The best beers are usually as much about when and where you’re drinking them, and with whom, as about the beers themselves.
I usually try to drink at least some beers that I won’t ever have the chance to drink again. Two years ago, for example, I drank a Voodoo beer that had been brewed just for that occasion; the brewer couldn’t tell me the ABV, even, when I asked him. In general at Beer Week, I’ll be drinking beers from breweries I can’t get at home even if they’re easy to find in Philly, like Dogfish Head.
The most colorful brewer you’ve ever met during your trip? Each year I do end up meeting, at least briefly, a good share of friendly and down-to-earth brewers and brewery reps, not to mention fellow drinkers. I’m not sure about most colorful, but there have been memorable conversations here and there. Bobo from Chimay is charming, and generous with the beer. I remember one East Coast brewer drunkenly telling me he was working on bringing their beer to Kansas City, though I’m not sure I believe him. One time I went to shake the hand of a Lagunitas rep and spilled my beer on him; he took it better than he probably should have. Sometimes the brewers seem a little overwhelmed—we talked with Larry Bell from Bell’s one time about how tiring it was at Beer Week to try and keep up, drinking-wise, with his fellow brewers.But Beer Week can be overwhelming for everybody.
And what’s your general Philly Beer Week goal? We try to stay away from the crowds and chaos and hone in on smaller, quieter events where we can drink fantastic beers. My goal is always to see how many different beers I can taste without ever getting too drunk or hung over. It’s an athletic event, really, or the closest I’ll get to one. It takes focus to drink that many different beers at night and be ready for beer with your breakfast the next morning.
It’s Philly Beer Week—and PW is here to guide you through all those suds. Meet the bartenders, check out the brews, hit the town!
PW's Year of Beer: Allagash White