The 10-day festival and education of all things beer returns this week as the Philly Beer Week caravan rolls across the Greater Philadelphia Region. The event, celebrating a decade, gives beer enthusiasts (OK, beer nerds) a chance to get a bit of education and, of course, partake in some of the best beers from all over the world.
With more than 50 outlets serving up their own unique Beer Week event, we catch up with a couple of local bar managers to provide an inside look at the industry and why Philly Beer Week is a giant piston in the engine that keeps their establishments fired up.
General Manager | Cinder
Garrett Williams couldn’t always explain why a Perri cider is the true champagne of beers. Especially not while he was doing clandestine radar work for the Department of Defense. Originally an engineer by trade, Williams quit all that to tend to family issues and chose a new career path starting as a food runner for Teddy Sourias, owner of Bru Craft & Wurst, UBahn and now Cinder, a uniquely niche cider bar in the heart of Center City.
Fast forward a few years, and Williams oversees one of Sourias’ restaurants and will be running Cinder’s ship when Philly Beer Week ports for the next 10 days beginning June 1.
“I actually started as a food runner over at Bru three years ago and before that I’d never worked in the industry in my life so it was a interesting experience,” said Williams. “When you’re an outsider looking in, you don’t really see just how hard people [in the industry] work, I always joke that it’s the biggest group of underachievers ever. It’s a collection of the smartest most talented people, people who are awesome singers, great artists, whatever. Not that those talents are going to waste, but they’re very blue collar, which to me fits the theme of Philadelphia. It’s a city of hustle which I love.”
It’s Williams’ hustle over the past three years that helped him land his role at Cinder, but also his vast knowledge of different beers and ciders. Listen to him discuss what Cinder has on tap for PBW and, to be honest, it’s more impressive than nerdy.
"The fact that people are this excited about beer and the culture that surrounds it, frankly, allows me to have a job like this.”
– Cinder general manager Garrett Williams
“Last year, we really saw a major demand for not just beer, but really good ciders,” said Williams. “We had six originally on draft, but we’ve since bumped that up to eight. Mostly as a seasonal change, we dropped two lines and bumped up two of our cider lines. We’re always running Jack of the Pear, which is our house cider and then the second line is usually a local. We try to rep a lot of local breweries and there are so many great cider ones around here that you’re never in short supply. The last two lines are reserved for the French and the Basque [ciders]. We try to keep that old style going as true cider enthusiasts are going to look for those.”
Williams’ personal favorite?
“I’m a huge fan of the French ciders and we’re going to have a few running,” he said. “They’ve been doing it right for years and the Perry ciders [Perry ciders can only be called that if they’re made with French pears], I think they are definitely worth trying.”
But the excitement truly stems from an opportunity to work the annual event and educate consumers on what’s in their glass. Something that doesn’t find Williams making a return to radar work anytime soon.
“Honestly? Beer Week is what allows a place like this to be open,” said Williams. The fact that people are so nerdy, but in a good way, because I’m a huge beer nerd too; I’m pretty new to this but I’ve learned to love this. The fact that people are this excited about beer and the culture that surrounds it, frankly, allows me to have a job like this.”
Cinder | 1500 Locust St. cinderphilly.com
Chris “Ducky” Doran
Beer program manager | Cambridge, Hawthorne and Tio Flores
What’s the best part of your job?
I’ve been doing this [job] for about seven years and my job entails buying all the beer for all of our family of restaurants. That involves pricing, writing draft descriptions, placing and receiving orders you name it, training staff on what the beer is. A big part of that job is trying the beer so that opens up the opportunity to try hundreds of different kinds of beer without having to buy any myself. I get paid to drink beer which is pretty sweet. But I love numbers, I love writing descriptions and having an opportunity to romanticize the beer. It’s a lot of fun.
Talk about the beer scene in Philadelphia...
Philly is probably the best beer drinking city in the United States. That’s not a bias, either. I’ve been to a bunch of different beer week [events] in other cities and they don’t hold a candle. For starters, the Beer Week here is over a week and there’s beer week in other cities that are only three days long, which is not fair. We have an advantage here that we have a ton of great local craft brews on top of all the good shit coming into the port of Philadelphia, so I feel like we have our pick of the best.
You’ve been a part a few editions of Philly Beer Week. Do you have a memorable story from one?
Dude, I have a memorable story almost every other day in this industry, but probably the best one from Beer Week is from a few years ago here at the Cambridge, we had tap takeover featuring five different breweries on the same night and all the brewers and owners and reps and CEOs they were all here; it was a packed house before we even opened and it was because we’re talking five really sexy breweries from all along the East Coast, four of which had never been in Philadelphia so everyone wanted to get their hands on one. We had a couple kegs that weren’t here yet, but the owners were. So we had one of the beer reps from [the former] Bella Vista Distributors [in Philadelphia]..drive his car north of here to Binghamton or just south of Scranton somewhere, pick up a keg off of an awaiting freight train, throw it in his car, throw bags of ice all over it and haul ass back here. We didn’t care, we were prepared to pay for all his speeding tickets for all the points he’d accumulate on his license, we needed that beer. Mind you, for a week and a half leading up to this moment we’re calling and asking ‘when is this beer getting here’ and getting run around. There was beer delivered that morning, that afternoon that we tapped and this beer still wasn’t here. We opened at 4 p.m. and this guy said he did 90-100 mph on the highway to get here.
Thank God, he wasn’t stopped having to explain why there’s a keg in his trunk while he’s driving twice the legal limit. It was crazy, but he got here with time to spare we opened the keg and it was like winning the World Series, everyone cheered, they’re high fiving this kid, he’s drenched in sweat. Fucking insane, but that’s what beer week is all about.
Stories like that have made Philly Beer Week a memorable event, but why do you think now a decade strong that it’s become a staple?
Craft beer is in Philly’s blood; without a doubt. Wine, cocktails, yeah, they’re great and [Philly] has a great bar scene in general...but Philly Beer Week really highlights the importance of beer to the service industry here in Philadelphia. Every city has a TGI Friday’s but every city doesn’t have a Cambridge, or a Monk’s [Cafe]. Hell, not every country has a Monk’s. This city really has just a focus not just on imported beer, but local beer which is a scene that is just getting ridiculous and only getting better and better. We are beer blessed here in Philly, it is almost a religion and beer is the Holy Water.
Cambridge | 1508 South St. cambridgeonsouth.com