A few hundred people are mingling, pint glasses in hand. A band plays on stage. At four different stations, an array of craft beers are being poured.
Not an unusual scene for Philly Beer Week, but this one is a little different. Scattered throughout the crowd are people wearing lime green wristbands. They’re not merely beer enthusiasts, they are the people who make the beer everyone in the room is enjoying. They’re here to spend the afternoon with scores of folks who enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Such was the scene last Sunday at World Café Live when Michigan’s Founders Brewing Co. hosted fans at their Founders All-Star Road Show. Featuring beer, music, engagement with other beer lovers, and yet more beer, it’s the sort of event that has come to typify what Philly Beer Week is all about.
Welcome to Philly Beer Week 2014.
Dave Engbers, co-founder of Founders, said breweries like his flock to the city every year for one simple reason: “Philadelphia is the best beer drinking city in the Unites States.”
A quick glance through the event listings at phillybeerweek.org is proof positive that there is no shortage of opportunities to try unusual beers and mingle with those who love them. Since it was established in 2008, PBW has become something much larger than a week-long celebration of good beer. It has become a model for the rest of the country on how beer can create a sense of community.
“Philly Beer Week, I think … was the first really significant [city] beer week,” Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company, told PW during Philly Beer Week 2013. “Now we have a multitude of them.”
Dozens of other cities have followed suit, establishing their own beer weeks to celebrate all things suds, but few have been able to forge the sense of community enjoyed during Philly Beer Week.
For Engbers, that’s the reason why he bused more than 30 of his employees halfway across the country for the event.
“The beer industry isn’t just about selling something, it’s about connecting with the consumers. That’s always been part of what we do. Yes, we make beer for a living, but we’re in the relationship business,” Engers said. “We do it because we love what we do.”
Events like the Founders All-Star Road Show—and there will be many others held by other breweries through June 8—are a chance for people to hear the quirky stories behind their favorite brews. Jason Heystek, Production Planning with Founders and the heart of their barrel-aging program, talking about being covered in scalding hot chili pepper juice during the making of Mango Magnifico. Head Brewer Jeremy Kosmicki saying he created All-Day IPA for totally selfish reasons: he wanted a tasty low-alcohol beer he could drink all day. Sarah Aldritch, their Communications Manager, sharing stories about how Founders is a way of life in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Such reminders that there are human beings behind your beer is what Philly Beer Week 2014 is all about. And that’s a lesson Engers, Koch, and many others do not forget.
Despite its monumental growth, Engers said the craft beer community remains a small one in many ways. “If someone has an issue with a beer, they can go to our website and tell us, ‘that beer sucked,’ and we’ll hear what they have to say.”
As evidenced by the enthusiasm with which brewers flock to Philly Beer Week, the craft beer world wouldn’t have it any other way.
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