May 31, 2012

Drink This, Not That

Yesterday the Today Show (admittedly one of my favorite shows and one that I hate saying anything negative against, but they forced my hand) aired Drink This, Not That, a variation of one of their regular segments Eat This, Not That, during which author Dave Zinczenko explains healthier substitutes for high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie foods. Yesterday they focused on the worst summer drinks. I was only half listening, since I never drink ice cream shakes (although it was interesting to learn that 32 oz of Baskin Robbins Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Shake is equivalent to 8.5 Krispy Kreme donuts!); however, I really paid attention when they got to the subject of beer.

Dave, author of the book Eat This, Not That and an editor at Men's Health, suggested - with a straight face - substituting Michelob Ultra for Goose Island IPA. I was actually enraged and tweeted about it immediately. To me it spoke to everything that is wrong with people who don't get what craft beer is all about. It's not about calories, it's about enjoying what you're drinking. Enjoying flavor. Enjoying variety. Not throwing something back just because it happens to only have 95 flavorless calories.

Now, I'm not trying to suggest that calories don't matter. Of course they do. Especially in the summer when we're wearing less and showing more. I just think that there are better ways to watch calories than skimping on beer. For instance, I rarely eat buns with burgers or sandwiches, and I'll usually order a side salad instead of fries. To me it's worth it, because I'm drinking a beer that I'm actually enjoying (it's also a reason that I rarely order dessert; I prefer drinking my calories to eating them).

You can also look for great-tasting, low calorie beer. Yes, they do exist! The calories in beer come from sugars that are responsible for the alcohol in the beer; therefore, higher ABV beers have higher caloric content. Lucky for us, it's not just summer that these "light" brews are available; the return to more sessionable beers that many brewers are embracing assures us that delicious, lower calorie beers are always easily found.

What are some of your favorite "light" beers and what do you do (if anything) to save for beer calories?

May 24, 2012

Best of Philly Awards Show

Tuesday night was Philly Beer Scene's first annual, red- carpet Best of Philly awards show, and what a fun night it was! Held at World Cafe Live, beer lovers of all sorts - brewers, writers, distributors, pushers (sales reps), and drinkers - were present.

Being treated like celebrities

As soon as you arrived, you knew something special was going on. Photographers waited outside to capture your image as you walked in on the red carpet. More photo opportunities were afforded by the Philly Beer Scene/ Best of Philly Awards back drop immediately inside.

The emcee with the mostest
Philly Beer Scene, and Mat Falco in particular, should be congratulated on pulling together such a great show. Joe Gunn of Jose Pistolas was the perfect emcee. He was funny, engaging, and extremely entertaining, as were the presenters. Some had skits planned, some didn't, but regardless of how they presented, everyone did a really good job. The band, Swift Technique, was fantastic (and funny, especially when Joe asked them if they wanted something to drink).

Swift Technique

Since the theme was giving the best in the Philly beer scene their due props, you can imagine there was some tasty beer flowing. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of the Victory Ranch Double R IPA, but was disappointed that the Forest and Main IPA had already kicked when I finally got around to asking for one.

"Who cares about all that?", I can hear you saying. "I just want to know the winners!"  I'll be honest, I tried to capture as much as I could, but then long periods of time would go by and I'd realize that I hadn't written anything in a while and I'd be lost trying to remember what else had been presented. So, without further ado (and probably some missing) - The Winners (that I remembered to write down):

Best Brewery Rep: Mike Lubieski, Weyerbacher
Best Distributor in Philly: Bella Vista 
Best Belgian-style beer: Weyerbacher Merry Monk's
Best Bottle Shop in Philly: Craft Beer Outlet
Best Wholesaler: Origlio
Best European Beer Bar: Monk's
Best Beer Writer: Lew Bryson
Best Place to Watch Sports: City Tap House
Best Home Brew Store: Keystone
Best Dark Beer: Victory Storm King Stout
Best Pale Ale: Yards Pale Ale
Best Bourbon-barrel aged: Weyerbacher Insanity
Best Brew Pub: Iron Hill
Best Beer Bar: Standard Tap
Best New Bar in the City: Barcade
Best Brewery: Victory
Best Brewmaster: Chris Wilson, Weyerbacher

Forgive yourself if you didn't make it out to this year's event, but don't miss (what will hopefully be) the next one!

PS. check out the latest issue of Philly Beer Scene, which has the complete list of winners, including some not announced at the awards show.

Photos are courtesy of Stephen Lyford. You can see more here.

May 21, 2012

Italian Market Festival

Three years ago I moved from the Fairmount section of the city to South Philly (Bella Vista). I'd lived in Fairmount for 5 years and I was ready for a change and excited to experience another part of the city. I moved in the weekend of the Italian Market Festival, something I'd never attended, let alone heard of. I couldn't go on Saturday, because of the move, and awoke early on Sunday, eager to see what the event would be like.

And what an event it was! Everyone, everywhere dancing and singing, eating and drinking. It didn't matter the person's age, gender, or ethnicity. Everyone was having a great time. I was almost in tears with happiness over the great luck of having moved to such an amazing, vibrant area.

This past weekend marked the 9th annual Festival, which takes place on 9th Street between Fitzwater and Federal Streets. I went, and was reminded of that first experience 3 years ago. The street was packed with people having a great time. The weather cooperated beautifully, giving us festival-goers sunny skies and a light breeze to ensure we didn't get too hot.

A main focus at the Festival, is, of course, the food. And not just the pizza, pasta, and meatballs with gravy you'd expect to find at an event called the Italian Market Festival, although there was plenty of that to be had. In keeping with the diversity of the neighborhood, you could also find Mexican and Vietnamese vendors offering treats like sausage and peppers, grilled corn on the cob, cured meats, and more. There was no shortage of pastries and other delectable sweet treats, either.

No street festival is complete without music, and there was no reason to be disappointed here. Between the DJ set up at 9th and Christian, to the live bands that played at 9th and Washington, and the other DJ stage at 9th and Federal, no matter where your stroll took you, you were sure to be rockin'. The best part for me has always been seeing everyone dancing through the streets, especially as the day gets older and the beer takes hold (more on that in a minute).

As if food and music weren't enough, there were plenty of artists set up selling everything from jewelry, to prints, to paintings, to clothing.

Of course one of my favorite parts is the drinking. While many restaurants were selling limoncello shots and Peroni, 12 Steps Down appealed to me with their craft brew offerings, including Troegs Sunshine Pils and Bells Two Hearted. So much fun to be able to walk down the street, cup of beer in hand, along with hundreds of other people. Wish we could do it every day!

Although it's too late to enjoy the festivities this year, be sure to set your calendar for 2013. Given that it's the 10th anniversary, I'm sure they'll have something planned to make it an even more spectacular event than it already is.

May 18, 2012

Philly Beer Week is coming!

14 days. That’s all you have left to get ready for the biggest, best week of the entire year – Philly Beer Week. I’m not kidding when I say it’s the biggest week of the year, since the event actually runs for 10 days.

The official press conference took place Wednesday night in the beautiful gardens at The Four Seasons hotel, home again this year to the With Love Beer Garden. The beer garden will be open 5 – 9pm Monday, June 4 – Friday, June 8 with the following featured each night:
Monday, June 4 - Victory
Tuesday, June 5 - Philadelphia Brewing
Wednesday, June 6 - Prism, Evil Genius and Round Guys
Thursday, June 7 - Sly Fox
Friday, June 8 - Dock Street

Beer Week kicks off on Friday, June 1 with the day-long Hammer of Glory relay. Join the fun as the HOG makes its way through the streets of Philadelphia (via several bars) on its way to Opening Tap. This year there’s a free shuttle bus from Sugar House Casino, so there are no excuses for not being able to keep up.

Opening Ceremony, held on Independence Mall, is free and starts at 7 pm with Mayor Nutter tapping the first official, collaborative keg of the week, Brotherly Suds 3. Things really get under way with the Opening Festival at the Independence Visitor Center. Tickets are available for the VIP session ($75) from 6:30- 7:30pm, and the general session ($40) that starts at 7:30pm. VIP passes get you a special selection of beers paired with complimentary beer-friendly food, a souvenir drinking glass, and a gift bag. Either way, you’ll be treated to samples, including seasonals and one-offs, from the region’s best brewers.

Throughout the week there will be hundreds of events, including chances to meet the brewers, tap takeovers, festivals, classes, tours, food pairings, and more. And it’s not just Philly that gets shown the love; events are being held in the ‘burbs and New Jersey. You can find all the information at the Philly Beer Week website, and even more exciting, the PBW app, which lets you search by events, and set favorites and reminders.

Whether it’s your first time attending or your fifth, you’re sure to find plenty of opportunities to try great brews, meet great people, and make memories that you probably won’t remember because of said great brews.