Philadelphia Brewing Company celebrated one year in business. Here's to many happy returns.
On Saturday, I headed over to the Philadelphia Brewing Company in Kensington for the brewery's one-year anniversary, sold on the promise of a new, limited-edition Imperial Stout named "Shackimaximum," live bands and tons of free food. What I found was even more than that: A celebration of Philadelphia's brewing history and over 1,000 smiling beer lovers happily knocking out free brew after free brew.
"We hit 1,000 at 3:00PM, " Tyson Tarbell of PBC told me, with a toothy grin of satisfaction after hours spent running around the brewery. Tyson was one of the hardest working employees of PBC I encountered, helping where he could, when he could, and doing so with a willing smile -- another testament to the spirit of Philly's tight-knit, burgeoning beer society. Tyson and everyone else I met at PBC on Saturday -- from owners Nancy and Bill Barton to an enthusiastic gentleman named Rene Luis Alvarez (a longtime Yard's, and now PBC, enthusiast) -- all shared one thing above all: A passion for great local beer.
The festivities were set to kickoff at one o'clock so I arrived a bit early to get a lay of the land and talk to some of the folks running this operation. I was deftly guided into the inner workings of PBC by Tyson who, like most of the folks there on Saturday, donned a worn-looking PBC t-shirt and was more than happy to talk to me about PBC and why he loved it so much. He guided me past the hundreds of cases of beer ready for sale that day (a steal at $20 a case), the main floor's bottling room (with an ad-hoc bar and table filled with loads of free food) and up the stairs where the enormous (and gorgeous) tasting room was converted into a dance hall for the day to accommodate the two bands who were to keep the celebration in full swing. After offering me a cup of the aforementioned "Shackamaximum" and introducing me to a few folks, he disappear into the bowels of the building for more setup while I quickly loosened up with 9.5% brew in my hand (which was completely delicious, I might add).
Just before 1:00PM, the folks from PBC manning the door let the already sizable line growing outside into the main courtyard where PBC's signature "Kenzinger" was being served alongside the "Newbold IPA," while right next to the bar, folks were shucking some enormous raw oysters and serving 'em up with tobasco and lemons. As partygoers settled in and the beer started flowing, I took to the visibly loosened crowd to hear what they had to say about the days events and how they found out about it.
"We came here last year on a tour of the Philadelphia breweries for his bachelor party and loved the atmosphere. We've been drinking PBC ever since," Rene Luis Alvarez told me, referring to the group of four gentleman he'd come with, adding, "And they give you quality beer!" Kensington native Pat McHugh told me that, "They haven't really had any misses as far as I'm concerned," referring to the cadre of beers PBC now has under their belt (though he did admit to me that he likes the "Newbold IPA" the most). "I only have PBC beers on tap at home," he added.
By 3 p.m., the line for the "Shackimaximum" -- only being served at a single bar on the upper floor by the brewers themselves -- had reached 20-minute long wait times. The dozens of pizzas on the lower floor had been depleted, as well as the chili and anything else that wasn't nailed down. Delco Nightingale were in full swing in the upstairs tasting room and everyone was clearly getting ready for a long Saturday of drinking. And so I figured this was as good a time as any to sit down with Nancy Barton, co-owner of PBC, to ask her how the day went and what the future of PBC holds.
When I asked her how she felt about the day's events, she quickly exclaimed, "I'd say it was a huge success! We had over 1,000 people here today enjoying themselves and drinking our beers. The beautiful weather certainly didn't hurt either. The guys from across the street brought oysters for people to enjoy, some great bands played and I think everyone had a great time." So is this an official part of Philly Beer Week then? "It's a coincidence. They have their week during our anniversary. We of course launched last year with Philly's first Beer Week and it's great for the city and the breweries around town. But no, this isn't part of the Philly Beer Week events." The company is a sponsor of Beer Week, however.
Being a big IPA drinker myself, I noticed that the "Newbold IPA" tasted not only fresher but significantly hoppier during the day's events. "When we started there was a hop crisis. We worked with what we could get. We've tweaked the recipe a bit though and what you're tasting is what we really wanted to do in the first place." And what does the next year hold for PBC? "We're bottling our 'Fleur de Lehigh' this year for Spring/Summer and adding it to our assorted box. We're not sure yet if we're bottling the 'Joe Porter' for next Winter but it's a definite possibility."
By 4:30 p.m. , the last partygoers were heading out the front and Tyson was sweeping up cigarette butts and helping the Delco Nightingales pack up their equipment. "It really was a great day man, wasn't it?" he asked me. I'd be hard pressed to say no.
Benjamin Gilbert is covering Philly Beer Week for PW. PW is a sponsor of Philadelphia Beer Week.
Philly Beer Week continues with top local brewers facing off in a challenge to determine the best brew of all.
Nancy Barton of Philadelphia Brewing Company leads PW on a tour of the Kensington neighborhood. Thirsty? There's a good beer waiting in Kensington for you.