July 26, 2009

Summer Ale Festival

Last night I went with a friend to the Summer Ale Festival at the Philadelphia Zoo. We had a really good time, and I realized how much I love the zoo - I don't think I've been to one since I was 13! I'm definitely going back again soon.

The funniest part of the night came when my friend decided to give me a plug on her facebook page. She wrote "At the Summer Ale Festival with Philly Bear Girl" BEAR, not beer. We didn't realize it until another one of our friends texted me and told me what was written. It was appropriate given that we were at the zoo (although there are no bears), but so hysterically funny. I'm still laughing out loud as I'm writing this. I told everyone to be on the lookout for my other blog, which will be about wild animals.

There were a number of local brewers at the event, and all featured at least two of their summer ales. In addition, there were several local restaurants who were onhand to provide some delicious eats.

Now, I don't like to complain, especially about an event whose proceeds went to the education and preservation efforts at the zoo. But my friend and I got there at 7 - the event started at 6:30 - and there were already a number of vendors who were out of food. What? People had only begun arriving 1/2 an hour before that, and they were already out? It was like there was no communication between the event organizers and the restaurants that were participating.
The other problem was the long lines. I really don't think anyone was properly prepared for the number of people in attendance, and lines wound round and round and up and down. It was made interesting because while you were waiting in line, you were typically near some sort of animal, but it didn't take away from the fact that there was a whole lot of waiting going on.

Having said that, the event was a lot of fun, even if I didn't get to try all the beers I wanted to (lines were just too long). I had the wonderful Weyerbacher Double Simcoe and a Hops Infusion. I paired the Hops Infusion with a fish taco, and it was fantastic! I also had the Victory Golden Monkey with a piece of banana bread, and the Victory Storm King Stout with a piece of banana chocolate truffle. Mmmmm! The River Horse Double Wit and Victory Whirlwind Wit were a hit with my friend. I enjoyed the River Horse Hop Hazard Pale Ale, Victory Hop Devil and Yards Pale Ale.

Wow, when I write it all out like that, you probably wonder how many other beers I could have wanted to try! But believe me, there were a number of them. However, we did get some really good ones in and - much like I want this blog to be - I think the night was an eye-opening event for my friend and showed her just how many different types of beers she likes.


  1. I was wondering if anyone was going to report on this. I thought about going but had a bad experience at last years event (of course I blogged about it). The crowds were a big problem back then and some tables even ran out of beer early. Like you mentioned it's great that the money goes to charity but there needs to be better structure. I hate to see the overcrowding make an otherwise great fest such a pain.

  2. Yeah, I found it pretty disappointing for trying new beers but a lot of fun in other ways. Hopefully the event organizers pull it together for next year!

  3. I love to read honest / constructive assessments of our events and appreciate you writing about SAF '09. The lines at certain tasting stations were perhaps the biggest issues we encountered. It was also extremely frustrating to see that a couple vendors ran out of food early due to the portions they were handing out. It was communicated to all vendors that 1300 people were anticipated - and we specifically limited ticket sales to try and address overcrowding. In the end, crowd flow and the location of stations contributed to these problems. We've already debriefed and will be taking the necessary steps to improve upon things for next year. Glad you enjoyed the pairings and thank you for supporting the Zoo! We hope to see you out again in '10.

    Corey Krejcik
    Managing Partner, Rolling Barrel Events