Philly Beer Week: Joes Versus Pros

Philly Beer Week continues with top local brewers facing off in a challenge to determine the best brew of all.

By Benjamin Gilbert
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 10, 2009

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Unless you were at Jose Pistola's Monday night, you were missing the best selection of homebrewed beer I've ever seen. Billed as the "Extreme Beer Homebrew Challenge II: Joes vs Pros," Sam Caligione and the Dogfish Head folks were on-hand to sample some of their more esoteric brews while a slew of locals featured what they've been brewing in their own homes. Tthe event featured homebrewed beer from at least 15 different Philadelphia-area brewers, handpicked by Philly's own expert zymurgist George Hummel of Home Sweet Homebrew. On top of all the booze, Jose Pistola's offered up three steam trays of their signature Mexican dishes -- from soft and flavorful pulled pork to veal empanadas.

But let's be honest: You're not here to read about the food that Jose Pistola's was serving last night. Beer Week is about beer. So I took the liberty to sample about two-thirds of the brews available. And out of what I sampled, I found a winner (but I'm not going to tell you until the very end).

First up was Andrew Starsiak's "Sooopah Wit," an ultra-lemoney Witbier with low alcohol content and a refreshing aftertaste. Though it certainly runs the risk of becoming an overpowering flavor after repeated pints, one or two would be a great way to start any Spring/Summer cookout. Next I tried out Kyle Kernozek and Michele Dickey's nameless Finnish Sahti, an almost Belgian-style tasting brew with a light sweetness about it that tasted very welcoming; almost like Christmas cookies but without all the punch and nostalgia.

By this point, as you might imagine, I was feeling a lot more talkative. So I started asking the homebrewers and attendees what their favorites of the event were and what I got was a totally mixed bag of responses. Kelly Kurtz of the Fairmout area told me she liked the "Imperial Rasberry Wit" the best, expounding, "It was very refreshing. I enjoyed it very much!" Meanwhile, Andrew Kopopka of Haddon Heights said his favorite was Bruce Fabijonas' "Problem Child Porter", a smooth and sweet coffee Porter. "The coffee was really well-balanced. I liked it more than [Philly Brewing Co.'s] Joe Porter," he noted. No need to start brewer rivalries, Andrew. Come on!

While the event was billed as a "challenge," event organizer George Hummel said the rivalries were friendly. "It's not really a formal competition so much as a celebration of the microbrew/homebrew movement. Some of the brewers here uses to be customers of mine ... that I lost ... and some are current customers. The best brewers I know from the shop and even some of the guys from Yard's brought their own homebrews." According to him, the real action takes place in fall with a national competition.

I left well before the event ended so as to not entice myself any further with the enormous variety of fresh, homebrewed beer -- glad to have met the hardcorest of the hardcore beer lovers in Philadelphia. Hell, I'm even inspired to start homebrewing myself at this point. Good thing now I know where to go. (Oh, right, and my favorite was unequivocally Chris Vachon and Matt Appio's "Grapefruit Pale Ale." Easily one of the best beers I've had in ... what, the past four days? Is Beer Week over yet?)

PW is a sponsor of Philly Beer Week.

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