Ale Street News April/May 2006

Regional News: Philadelphia

By Rich Wagner (


The first person I met on my way into the World Café Live’s “Beats, Brews & BBQ” event was Dave Hoffman of Climax Brewing , Roselle Park, NJ. He ushered me inside and began extolling the virtues of his Nut Brown Ale. “Something special,” he said, that he made with the second runnings from his Tenth Anniversary Barleywine. Ten years is a long time for any company, but brewing in the shadow of the smokestack of the “King of Beers” makes the feat no less remarkable! Dave’s story is not unique—examples of homebrewers turning pro abound—but I started thinking about how far we’ve come, especially here in the East.


Downstairs the reps from Dock Street were pouring their Amber Ale and celebrated Bohemian Pils and handing out coasters and stickers proclaiming the “20th Anniversary of the Micro Brew Revolution.” I found it remarkable to think that the Dock Street brand has been around for over twenty years, starting as Philadelphia’s first contract-brewed craft beer. Back then Matthew Reich had just launched his New Amsterdam Beer, planning to grow his market and start his own brewery, and Jeffrey Ware was following suit – and succeeded! Across the room I saw Anchor Brewing’s Andy Musser and we reminisced about the days when Fritz Maytag literally started the “Micro Brew Revolution” by purchasing the Anchor Brewing Company when it was just about ready to go out of business.


It’s hard to remember what it was like, when I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of bars in the city that had Yuengling Porter on tap! Today that brewery has “kleenexed” the word Lager and Yuengling’s beer can be found in just about every bar! And now Pennsylvania’s two oldest craft brewers are coming up on their twentieth year in business!


Back in those early days the White Dog Café was one of a few bars in town with a great beer selection and one of the first to serve Stoudt’s beer on tap. On April 2, Judy Wick’s White Dog Foundation is hosting their Second Annual Brewer’s Plate fund-raising event to support the Fair Food Project, pairing local gourmet food with over fifteen locally produced craft beers at the Reading Terminal.


Another Tenth Anniversary is being celebrated by Victory Brewing Company which rolled out its Ten Years Alt beer to commemorate their victorious first decade. Inquirer food editor Craig LaBan reported that bottles of this brew can be found at the London Grill and at Tria, a new bar at 123 S. 18th St., which celebrates “the three fermented food products” – beer, wine and cheese.


It’s hard to believe that the Nodding Head has been in business for six years, that location being the site of the former Samuel Adams Brew House, Philadelphia’s first brewpub, which closed its doors after a ten year run in 1999. Gordon Grubb says he’ll be brewing a Spring Ale for the warm weather. He’s also planning to roll out the third edition of “George’s Fault” the award winning 9% Belgian-styled Grand Cru, conceived by Home Sweet Homebrew’s George Hummel. Also look for the second coming of Gordon’s Saison and for something completely different, his Tripple IPA which will contain twice as many hops as the 3C and be somewhere around 13%!


Manayunk Brewing Company will be holding their Beer Festival on Saturday, April 29. Chris Firey says he’s brewing up a Belgian Brown (10% abv) made with tons of candy sugar and a little honey; a golden hued, malty Maibock (6.7%); and will be blending Black and Tan, with their Black Lager and English Bitter. He also reports that Manayunk will be offering another batch of California Dreamin' soon.


In Center City, Tim Roberts reports that Independence Brewpub will have its usual lineup of  warm weather beers; Summer Ale, Weizen, and Belgian White, and that from Memorial Day to Labor Day they will be offering growlers to go.


Meanwhile, Yards Brewing’s Nancy Barton says they are thinking of doing an Eleventh Anniversary Beer, since they were so busy they missed their tenth anniversary! “But knowing us,” she says, “by the time we actually get around to doing something it will be our Thirteenth Anniversary Beer!


Opening Day at Citizens' Bank Park is Monday April 3, and Yards’ Philadelphia Pale Ale is on draught at every game!


On Saturday April 22, Yards will co-host "Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Day," the semi-annual Frankford Avenue Clean-up, to be followed by a BBQ at the brewery. The event is the brainchild of Bill Barton, who just wanted to do something to improve the neighborhood. Co-sponsored with the New Kensington Community Development Corp., the city provides the bags, rakes, and brooms. Officials who attended in the fall said the 150 volunteers were, by far, the largest turnout for any Clean-up event in the city!


On Friday May 5, Yards’ Dean Browne will be pairing Yards and Heavyweight Beers & Cheese at DiBruno's on 17th & Chestnut Sts. 


On Saturday May 20, at 2 pm, I’ll be presenting “Philadelphia Breweries During Prohibition” and releasing my second E-Book by the same title ( While on Sunday May 21 look for the “Slow BBQ at Yards.”  Proceeds go to Slow Food Philadelphia (  Fellow Slow Food Members - Tom & Peggy from Heavyweight ( will also have their beers there.  Open to Slow Food members and potential members.


And last, but not least, Yards brewer, Jason Simon and his wife, Kerry, are expecting their first child in May, so keep your eyes open for Yards babywear!