Philly food is so much more than cheesesteaks. Let us show you.
On Saturday, the German Society of Pennsylvania once again hosted their annual Philly Bierfest. Not limiting themselves to beer, the event celebrates all things German—music, history, food, clothing, games, and, of course, the beer. The fest, which is one of the few that gets better every single year, is a wonderful mixture of education and entertainment, and includes fun for the entire family (even providing kindercare for small children).
This year’s event began with a VIP Plus presentation from drinks writers extraordinaire Marnie Old and Lew Bryson, speaking about Tradition vs Trends in Craft Brewing, with a focus (of course) on German beer. For an hour, the two expertly informed the crowd about not only traditional German beer, but how the German brewers are embracing craft and how craft brewers in America are now embracing German styles. All accompanied by 10 tastes of the various beers they were talking about.
After the guided tasting was the VIP hour, which was a great chance to taste many of the beers on offer before the crowds rolled in. In the main hall of the Spring Garden building of the German Society were all the brewers local to Pennsylvania and their beer, while across the courtyard were the German imports for sampling. For the locals, Roy Pitz’s Ludwig’s Revenge has long been the local benchmark for a rauchbier (one of my personal favorite styles), but the Chainsmoker from Brewery Techne was a great addition to the style. One of the most surprising tastes, though, was the Bembel with Care apfelwine (which is basically a still cider) mixed with Cola. It doesn’t sound like it would be good, but it was actually pretty tasty.
Back in the main building was the Edgar Allan Poe cheese & PA cider cave, appropriately decorated with spider webs and offering a fortune teller to anyone interested. I was more interested in the cheese, especially Birchrun Hills Blue (it doesn’t get much better) and the cider from Ploughman. Everything I’ve ever had from Ploughman has been delicious, and their Distelfunk sour peach cider was no different. It was a standout of the day, and every summer picnic and cookout should include bottles of it when it comes out. Trust me.
Near the end of the day was another class, this one a guided cheese tasting and beer and cider pairing with the inimitable Madame Fromage, Tenaya Darlington. I’ve never known anyone more excited about cheese, or more knowledgeable, and it showed throughout her presentation. She’s also extremely knowledgeable about cocktails, as evidenced by her Booze & Vinyl book coming out in May, which pairs each side of 70 classic albums with their own cocktails.
All in all, Bierfest is hard to beat. The only problem I’ve ever had with it is the food—they’ve tried myriad ways to serve food to people, but none if it ever seems to stick. But it is extremely affordable, there are non-stop activities and events to keep you busy the entire time, and everyone is there to have fun. It’s not your usual beer fest crowd, which makes it much more enjoyable to mingle with the folks who attend—especially those who come in full lederhosen. It’s a family event with a lot of beer, and most of it is pretty light, so you can drink more of it for longer. And who doesn’t want that?