PHILADELPHIA, Mar. 15, 2016 – Attendees to The Brewer’s Plate annual celebration of food and beer in Philadelphia experienced what makes the event an perennial favorite of both consumers and industry veterans. The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia was abuzz on Sunday evening with more than 1,200 beer and food loving attendees. Again in 2016, The Brewer’s Plate did not disappoint.
Scores of brewers, chefs, owners, and sales reps enthusiastically attend the Sunday night event during what is always a busy time of the year on the beer events calendar. Around the Kimmel Center on Sunday night, they were often quoted along the lines of “…this is my favorite event of the year…” and “…I love working this event…”
Though it has grown in size and scope, the event continues to primarily showcase breweries, restaurants, farms, and bakeries of the immediate Philadelphia region. It has grown nicely into its host venue of three years – The Kimmel Center, home of the Philadelphia Orchestra – where nearly 100 brewers and chefs served their creations to attendees that comfortably circulated through three open air floors of event space.
Beer and cheese. Beer and ice cream. Beer and meat, lots of meat. Even some beer and vegan-themed dishes could be found for sampling. The difference The Brewer’s Plate provides in the food and beer pairing experience is the obviously careful attention to planning well-conceived and intentional combinations. While entirely impossible to sample every combination of beer and food, my meager attempt yielded some favorites of the night.
Beer & Bread – High Street On Market served a smoked tartine atop anadama miche that went perfectly with Deer Creek Malthouse’s Fly Humans — a dry-hopped saison (5.6% ABV) with brettanocmyces. Deer Creek is a Chester County-based commerical malthouse for area brewers and High Street is a highly-regarded restaurant in the city’s Old City neighborhood.
Beer & Cheese – Cheese paired with beer comes about as close as anything in perfectly encapsulating the full-circle of agricultural life to beer in the glass. Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse is a long-time favorite at The Brewer’s Plate and was serving up a variety of hard and soft cheeses to accompany a wonderfully smooth, creamy, and roasted Leather and Chrome Milk Stout (5.8% ABV) served on nitrogen from McKenzie Brew House in Chester County. The beer is available for a short time at the brewpub’s Devon location.
Beer & Ice Cream – Another perennial favorite at The Brewer’s Plate — Weckerly’s Ice Cream from West Philly — served a custard called The Beer I had for Breakfast. It was made with the city’s St. Benjamin Brewing Compay’s Le Bon Bock (7.4% ABV) and chunks of cinnamon pastry and showcased a perhaps lesser-known, but no less excellent beer and food combination.
Beer & Vegan – ShawneeCraft continues to impress with its lineup of beers coming from the banks of the Delaware River in northeastern Pennsylvania near the Pocono Mountains. At The Brewer’s Plate, they served a barrel-aged Belgian Golden Ale aged in Chardonnay barrels and fermented with brettanomyces. It was a beautiful beer enough on its own and made even better when paired with Center City’s subeterranean U-Bahn restaurant, which served Lettuce Wraps with Beer-pickled Veggies.
Beer & Meat – No beer and food pairing event would be complete without chicken, beef, fish, or the one meat that seems to trump all other beer and meat pairings, pork. Bringing together three food truck owners, Revolution Taco has its first storefront location in Philly’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. They were pairing their tender and flavorful Smoked Beer-braised Pork Shoulder with Sly Fox’s better-than-ever Helles Lager. The uncompromising, traditional German-style lager (4.9% ABV) immediately turns thoughts to upcoming summer barbecues.
As with the food pairings, more beers flowed from the brewers taps throughout the night than could possibly be sampled. Not for lack of trying, a handful of others rose to the top of this beer guy’s list at The Brewer’s Plate 2016.
2SP — Bob Barrar (an Iron Hill “alum”) is the head brewer and is hitting his stride quite nicely at the relatively new brewery in Delaware County. His Baby Bob American Stout (6.5% ABV) is an available year-round flagship beer and was a big hit at The Brewer’s Plate.
Allagash — Douggernaut is the Maine brewery’s new St. Klippenstein Belgian-style strong stout (11% ABV) aged in bourbon barrels with coffee. Unfortunately for the masses, it was served only in the VIP+ session and along with the paired Peanut Butter Bacon Macaron from Garces Events Catering created one of the most unforgettable pairings of the evening.
Dogfish Head — Beer To Drink Music To (9% ABV) is a new release from the southern Delaware titan. It celebrates the role of music in the brewery’s history and is a slightly spicy, slightly sweet, but clean and dry Belgian-style Tripel. Like all well-made “limited time only” beers (limited 12-oz. bottle distribution), hopes are high for seeing it return in the future.
Flying Fish — It’s been way too long since I’ve had a Red Fish (7% ABV) from Flying Fish in southern New Jersey. Fortunately, I found the brewery’s table and filled my last glass of the event with the perfect balance of sweet malt and piney hops.
Iron Hill Restaurant & Brewery — Head Brewer Paul Rutherford was pouring a few of his beers from the Ardmore location of the region’s mini-chain of high quality, award-winning brewpubs. The Golden Child (5.7% ABV) stood out as one of the best of the evening with a melding of citrus and tart flavors. This refreshing beer took home a gold medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup.
Naked Brewing — The Black Currant Rising (4.7% ABV) is not currently packaged in bottles or cans and hopefully that won’t be the case much longer. I tend to see this brewery from Huntingdon Valley, Pa. more at festivals than I do on tap at bars around town. Love to see more of them, especially with something like this refreshing Belgian-style Wit with New York State-sourced currants.
Tröegs Independent Brewing — The Troegenator Double Bock is already a mighty fine beer, proven even more so by winning eleven major awards (including six gold medals) in the last ten years. At The Brewer’s Plate, they served up the decadent version as Barrel-aged Troegenator (10.8% ABV) from caged and corked 375mL bottles, which are available only from the brewery after six months of aging in bourbon barrels.
Weyerbacher — Playing up the beer with meat pairings, Jester’s Choice #4 is a smoked American porter (7% ABV) with a noticeable and pleasant amount of smoked malt to pair wonderfully with grilled meats, but not too much to scare away newcomers to the style.
Yards — Many breweries have mid-winter annual beer releases and Yards brings out its eagerly-anticipated Olde Bartholomew barleywine (10.3% ABV) perfect for cold weather sipping. It skews more toward the traditional malt-heavy English-style barleywine as opposed to the overly Americanized versions that showcase a higher hop profile.
Two other plates of food that I missed out on but overheard from others throughout the evening as some of their favorites included Foie Gras Mousse served up by London Grill from the city’s Fairmount neighborhood and Lancaster Chicken Liver & Kielbasa Spiced Scrapple from a favorite city-based food truck — Guerrilla Ultima BBQ.
Live music has always been a staple of The Brewer’s Plate; this year had the feeling of going to yet another level. Throughout the evening, the American Deluxe Band kept the party hopping with plenty of tunes to groove to from artists such as Bruno Mars, Prince, and Queen. By closing time, the band was in full throttle mode entertaining the dancing crowd who had witnessed a not-so-typical Sunday night of over-the-top food and beer in Philadelphia.
About the writer: Bryan Kolesar has been on the trail of great beer for over 20 years and writing about it for more than 10. In 2015, his “Beer Lover’s Mid-Atlantic” book was released and in a mere 416 pages covered the diverse beer scene of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Find his book online and in bookstores and follow him on Twitter @BrewLounge.