The Philadelphia History of Beer

This was created back in May, but it escaped my notice. April Kuhn created a cool poster for Drink Philly entitled The Philadelphia History of Beer. According to the website, “[w]hile it doesn’t cover everything that’s occurred in Philadelphia since its founding, it does cover a lot — and it shows why this truly is one of the world’s greatest spots for beer.” If you’d like one of the poster for your very own, they’re on sale online for $10 right now.


Beer In Art #153: John Lewis Krimmel’s Village Tavern

This week’s work of art is by John Lewis Krimmel. He was born in Germany, but emigrated to the U.S. in 1809 to join his brother in Philadelphia. Instead of joining the family business, he took up painting and became well-known for his genre paintings depicting everyday life in the city of brotherly love. One of his most well-known paintings was “The Village Tavern,” painted between 1813-14.


The painting is also sometimes called “In An American Inn,” and just from searching around, it appears their may be more than one of them, as there seem to be various references to both that are very, very similar, but not quite exactly the same, with slightly different colors and with the size of what’s depicted more or less, as if Krimmel painted the exact same scene more than once.


Perhaps most curiously, apparently the painting was used by prohibitionists as propaganda. “The depiction of a mother and daughter trying to persuade the drunken father to come home has caused historians of the temperance movement to praise In an American Inn as the first work of an American artist to illustrate this issue.” But that interpretation does not seem obvious to me. Nothing in the woman or the child’s demeanor suggests to me that they’re trying to persuade the man of anything. And the man is raising his glass to her with a smile on his face. And nobody else around them seems particularly alarmed by them being there. In fact, many people in the tavern don’t seem to be paying them any mind whatsoever, as if their presence is not so unusual. It just looks an old-fashioned scene from the TV show Cheers, with several groups in the inn.

The Woodmere Art Museum has in its collection the “Study for ‘Village Tavern,'” oil on wood panel, also done in 1814.


And the Winterthur Library has two early drawings that would eventually become the painting, done in ink and ink wash over pencil.


They contain all the elements of the finished work, but you can see the artist trying out different placements for the characters in the painting.


You can read Krimmel’s biography at Wikipedia or at Terra. There are links to more Krimmel resources at the ArtCyclopedia. You can also see more of his work at the Art Renewal Center, Scholar’s Resource, the Philadelphia Academy and the American Gallery.

Percy Street’s Beer Can Christmas Tree

Here’s a fun one. These are the kinds of press releases that help me get into the spirit of the holidays. The Percy Street Barbecue, a Philadelphia restaurant specializing in barbecue, also carries “over 60 varieties of canned beer” that they serve in custom galvanized steel buckets. Order 5 cans, and the 6th one is free.


For Christmas this year, they created an 8-foot tree made entirely of beer cans, over 400 in all. It “took General Manager Aric Ferrell and Desiree Howie, a staff member and local artist, over 12 hours to assemble.”


Now that’s the spirit. Who’s thirsty now.
(photos by Drea Rane.)

“Beeradelphia” To Showcase Philly Beer Scene

Maybe I was on to something when yesterday I suggested that we’re entering the “Golden Age of Beer Films.” Michael Ryan Lawrence, founder of Philly Philms, let me know this morning that there’s at least one more beer film in production. His film, Beeradelphia, is done being filmed and he’s in the editing process. A new website should be up next Monday, and that will feature “clips from the film, production photos, a blog” and more. You can also sign up for a newsletter there where you can follow along as announcements are made.

Here’s how he describes the film:

Beeradelphia is not just about beer. It’s about the home breweries and the home brewers. The local breweries and local brew pubs. The bar owners and the bar patrons. The beer festivals and beer events and all those that make them possible. The beer authors and beer personalities that keep us in “the know.” And of course… A film about Philly and Beer would not be complete without all the madness that is Philly Beer Week.

Beeradelphia is expected to be released early next year.


Bruce Nichols Passes Away

I just heard a few minutes ago the sad news that Bruce Nichols passed away from leukemia. Bruce was one of the founders of Philly Beer Week and launched the annual The Book & The Cook event nearly two decades ago at the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology & Anthropology where Michael Jackson did an amazing beer dinner each year. I last saw Bruce earlier this year during Philly Beer Week in July but, sad to say, we only spoke briefly, each of us on our way to different events. I’d heard he’d been ill but did not know the extent of it. Philadelphia’s beer community lost one of its leading lights today, and I extend my sympathy to Bruce’s family and all my friends in Pennsylvania and beyond who knew Bruce. He will be missed. Join me in drinking a toast tonight to Bruce’s memory.

Bruce with Don Russell and Tom Peters at the opening of the first Philly Beer Week in 2008.

Tom Peters, owner of Monk’s Cafe, posted the following on his website today:

I lost a good friend today and so did the entire Philadelphia beer community. Bruce Nichols lost his battle with leukemia. Bruce was president of Museum Catering Company and co-founder of Philly Beer Week. Bruce was a voice of reason, always calm and had an innate ability to bring people together.

Bruce, myself and Don Russell organized the first Philly Beer Week with the help of many bars, restaurants, distributors, brewers, etc. Bruce was always a driving force behind the Philly beer movement. He was also adept at keeping us crazy beer people organized and on-point. Philly Beer Week would have never happen without his ideas and positive energy.

Bruce is the person that brought famed beer writer, Michael Jackson, to Philly, way back in 1991. Bruce Nichols hosted Michael at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology for a “The Book & The Cook” event. That single beer event drew more people than any 10 food events combined. Thus began the real emergence on the Philadelphia beer culture. Bruce & Michael combined for seventeen annual beer events, each more challenging than the previous. Bruce really helped push the boundaries of beer culture in Philadelphia. We are all thankful and grateful to all that Bruce has done for us.

Bruce will be missed by all who were close to him and the beer community has lost a good friend and champion.

I raise a glass to your life. Goodbye, my friend.

And thanks to Jack Curtin for letting me and everybody know.

Bus Crashes Into Monk’s Cafe

NBC News Philadelphia is reporting that a SEPTA bus and police car slammed into Monk’s Belgian Cafe. They’re saying “the bus came through the front door of the popular Monk’s Cafe right before last call. Remarkably, no one was hurt.” (Thanks to Todd Alstrom for the story tip.)


Monk’s co-owner Tom Peters is on video telling part of the story.

View more news videos at:

Older Bud No Weiser

dogfish-head-green flying-fish iron-hill stone victory-hand yards-philly
The last event I attended during Philly Beer Week was the Older Bud No Wiser panel discussion at the World Cafe Live. Here’s how the event was promoted:

1996 was an historic year for Craft Brewing. It was in this year that Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head, Bill Covaleski from Victory, Mark Edelson of Iron Hill, Tom Kehoe of Yards, and Gene Muller of Flying Fish all took that epic leap of faith and started their own take on a craft brewery. Fourteen years later they’re all still in business and doing better then ever. Can you imagine what it would be like if they hadn’t? What a world it would be . . .

Host Greg Koch of Stone [which was also founded in 1996] will be your master of ceremonies as we turn back the clock to see what these monsters of craft brewing were doing and where their lives would have ended up, if not for hops.

Victory’s Blog also has a write-up on the event and you can watch the trailer below to see what was planned for the event.

Below is a video trailer for Older Bud No Weiser.

And it was also promoted with this hilarious fake class of ’96 yearbook, showing all of the brewery founders’ high school photos.


I arrived from the Kite and Key event, where we met the rest of the brewers assembled there. We got beers at the back of the theater as people streamed in and founds seats.

Toasting the Class of '96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione
Toasting the Class of ’96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione.

Once the theater filled up and everyone was in their seat, the first beer was served and the five brewer/brewery founders took to the stage.

Greg Koch MC'd the Panel of 5 Philly Area Brewers

Greg Koch served as emcee for the evening (although I took over for a short time twice throughout the long night) and after a short introduction about what a bad year 1996 was for the craft brewing industry, he introduced each of the five and they told their own story about starting their individual breweries that same year.

The Panel: Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski & Sam Covaleski
The Panel: Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski & Sam Covaleski

The evening went by quickly with all participants taking questions from the crowd, as the beer flowed freely. For each question asked, each brewer brought along several bottles of their own beer to give to participants who asked question, which — not surprisingly — led to even more questions. Bill at Victory tells me that they filmed the entire show and that they’re editing it down to a more manageable size. It should be an interesting record. One hilarious part of the evening that deserves a wide audience is the video below, which is a spoof of what might have become of the five brewery founders if they had not been successful with their respective brewers entitled “Craft Beer Class of ’96: Where are they now?

Below is a slideshow of the World Cafe Live event. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.

Philly Beer Week Wrap-Up

As ever playing catch-up, here is my wrap-up from the two additional days I spent in Philadelphia for Philly Beer Week. Monday I covered with Hammer Time, and after a quiet Tuesday attended the Lambic Beer Dinner at Monk’s Cafe. Wednesday morning I let my art freak flag fly and took the train to the suburbs for a quick visit to the Barnes Foundation, which I wanted to visit before it’s moved to its new location against the wishes (and the will) of Albert Barnes. When I got back, I headed straight to Standard Tap, in the hopes of getting my own Bear Ninja Cowboy t-shirt — success! — more tater tots and a shopping excursion to the Foodery across the street where I happily ran into two folks from Founders Brewing, Michael Bell and Dave Engbers, doing a tasting there.

Outside Standard Tap.

Then it was off to Nodding Head, where owner Curt Decker had invited me to his Sam, Tomme & Old Beer event, which featured some amazing nibbles (the Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar was sooo good and so was the pork tenderloin with fig reduction) and ten rare beer from Dogfish Head, Lost Abbey and, of course, Nodding Head.

Nodding Head co-owner Curt Decker
Curt Decker, with Sam Calagione and Tomme Arthur at the Nodding Head bar.

I wasn’t able to stay for the entire event, because I had a 7:00 event I’d committed to, but it was very tempting to stay longer. Some of the beers served which I was lucky enough to try included Dogfish Head’s Immort Ale 2006 and Black & Blue 2008. Then there was Lost Abbey’s Red Barn 2009, Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine 2006 and Lost Abbey Judgment Day 2007. And I finished off the event with a Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA from 2008.

Jack Curtin, Sam Calagione, Ed Friedland and Curt's assistant brewer
Jack Curtin, Sam Calagione, Ed Friedland and Curt’s assistant brewer, Gordon Grubb.

After that, I headed out for my next event, but had to make a quick detour at Fergie’s Pub to say hello to Carol Stoudt from Stoudts Brewing.

Carol Stoudt & me
Carol and me at Fergie’s Pub.

Then I grabbed a cab to the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology & Anthropology for the main event of my evening: The Great Lambic Summit.

The Great Lambic Summit
The Great Lambic Summit featuring Armand Debelder (3 Fonteinen) Frank Boon (Brouwerij Boon), and Jean Van Roy (Brasserie Cantillon), along with Dan Shelton (Shelton Brothers).

After that, I cabbed back to the after party at Monk’s Cafe, where many out-of-town brewers had congregated.

Brendan Moylan and me in front of Monk's Cafe
Brendan Moylan wandered up while a group of us were talking outside Monk’s.

Before turning in for the night, I stopped by McGilllin’s Olde Ale House, where a pub crawl between local brewers was supposed to end. Unfortunately, I got there a little to late so I had a quick nightcap and stumbled back to my hotel.

McGillin's Olde Ale House
Late night outside McGilllin’s Olde Ale House, Philadelphia’s oldest bar.

The next day I slept in, then went for a walk to do some sightseeing and pick up gifts for the kids, ending up, as planned, at a cheesesteak place on Market Street — Sonny’s — for my fourth cheesesteak in four days. (You just can’t get a decent authentic one in San Francisco so I tend to go overboard when I’m back East.)

Eventually I ended up at the Kite and Key for the debut of a collaboration beer between Dogfish Head, Stone and Victory; Saison de BUFF. The BUFF part is an acronym for “Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor.” It’s a great saison, spicier than most, but still quite refreshing. It’s made with — try not to break into song — parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme.

Kite & Key co-owner Jim Kirk and me with Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski & Greg Koch
Kite and Key co-owner Jim Kirk and me with Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski and Greg Koch.

After that, I caught a ride with the three brewers to the World Cafe Live, but I’ll finish that story in another post.

Below is a slideshow of my last two days at Philly Beer Week. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.

Beer In Ads #128: Gretz Beer

As my Philadelphia theme comes to an end, as does my time at Philly Beer Week, Friday’s ad is for Gretz Beer, never a big force in Philadelphia market, but by 1957 were still hanging on as the smallest brewery left in Philly. You can read below what they were trying to do with their “small car series” of ads, but the exchange between the two men in the Fiat feels forced. It doesn’t feel like a natural conversation, it screams adspeak.


According to Rusty Cans:

The Gretz car series was issued starting in late 1957 by the Gretz Brewing Company in Philadelphia. The smallest of the last four breweries in Philadelphia, Gretz decided to make its small size a selling point by comparing its beer to a sports car. Small cars were better, they argued, and so was a beer from a small brewery! As part of the promotion Gretz bought 11 of the latest sport cars and painted them yellow and black to match the Gretz label colors, with a Gretz logo on the sides. The cars were introduced at the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia at the end of November 1957 (Navy won 14-0).

And here’s another:

It’s for their bock using the iconic brewery character from 1951.

I love this image of the Gretz guy, and in fact have a t-shirt of it I got from Yesterbeer. I also say an original tray with the same image behind the bar at the Kite & Key last night.