Ale Street News Feb./March 2006

Regional Coverage: Philadelphia

By Rich Wagner

When the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation needed an official beer for the year-long celebration of Franklin’s 300th birthday, it was natural for them to contact Yards Brewing Co. since Yards was already making two “Ales of the Revolution” (George Washington Tavern Porter and Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale). It seems Ben Franklin is noted for a spruce beer recipe he brought back with him from France. In those days spruce beer was quite the elixir and considered a very refreshing summer beer. In fact, there are early accounts extolling the virtue of spruce beer for its ability to ward off scurvy.

I had never tasted this style of beer but was told by those who had that it was, shall we say, an acquired taste that is not acquired by many people. But Yards has balanced their infusion of spruce tips with molasses and produced a spruce beer with just a hint of pine in the nose and a flavor that’s eminently drinkable. It has found a following at the South Philadelphia Taproom at 15th & Mifflin Streets, where it has been on tap since the brew was introduced in November. And when the Constitution Center hosted a birthday bash for Philadelphia’s favorite founding father on January 17, Yards Tavern Spruce Ale was the hit of the party.

The Independence Brewpub in the Reading Terminal at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (1150 Filbert St.) features a caricature of Ben in the logo and is already famous for its Franklinfest beer. Brewer Tim Roberts promises to brew up “something special” in honor of Ben’s 300th birthday, a colonial-era inspired beer (about 7% a.b.v.) of amber hue, made with corn sugar and molasses. The brewpub will be hosting a week long beer dinner the last week of February.

The Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant will host its second “Beat Your Brewmaster” dinner on Thursday, March 23 at 7 PM where professionals and homebrewers will compete in six beer style categories. Chris Firey says he let Bill Young brew “whatever he wanted to for the holidays” and Bill came up with “Blackjack,” a 20° Plato brew with 5% roasted malt best described as a black dopplebock. It should be pouring in February after lagering for six weeks. Renner’s Red, an Irish red ale, is planned for St. Patrick’s Day.

The Nodding Head will feature their award-winning Berliner Weisse early this year, in time to make the deadline for entries at the World Beer Cup at the end of February. Gordon Grubb promises a Chocolate Stout for Valentines Day and an Oatmeal Stout for St. Patrick’s Day. In mid-March, as part of  The Book and The Cook events, Eric Tucker of the Millenium Restaurant in San Francisco will prepare a fantastic vegan feast, paired with Nodding Head brews.

Look for a great St. Patrick’s Day party on March 17 at the Grey Lodge Pub at 6235 Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia.

Johnny Brenda’s Bar in Fishtown at Frankford and Girard ust installed two twelve faucet towers upstairs for a bar which is slated to open in the spring.

The Bar Tourists of America will host their Seventh Philadelphia Bar Tour on Saturday March 25, 2006. Their last tour was in 1990 and plans are to include one bar from every previous tour. They plan to stop at Yards for a brewery tour and to hear Pennsylvania Brewery Historian Rich Wagner’s PowerPoint Presentation entitled “Philadelphia Breweries After Repeal… And Then There Were None (With Apologies to Agatha Christie)” at 2 PM. The lecture is free and open to the public, no reservations required.