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Philadelphia Brewer’s Plate

Last Sunday, I decided to attend one of the Philadelphia Beer Week events: the Fifth Annual Brewer’s Plate.

It was held in the beautiful venue of the University of Pennsylvania’s Art and Anthropology Museum, so it was a fairly easy walk away.

short tangent: I grew up in the suburbs, and it is such a revelation to me to be able to go to alcohol-oriented events where I can walk home, or take a bus home. As someone who usually goes to events on my own, I would never be able to do half this stuff (legally or safely) out in the suburbs, where you have to drive everywhere. I love city living.

Statement of bias: Oh, right, and I’m not a big fan of beer. I love the stuff, but I am nowhere near as knowledgeable as I am, say, about scotch. So my descriptions will be rather vague and highly personal. When I am in a new location with new beers to try, I tend to just tell the bartender that I am looking for something brown and with flavor – and that’s mostly what will make me love a beer.

Upstairs there were tables where local restaurants offered fancipants food with right beside them stands where local breweries offered fancipants beer to match. There were around 20 such stations. And then downstairs, the VIP area had a few additional food and drink stations, and an area talking about beer and food pairings – and most importantly: chairs and tables. Sitting down was such a relief.

But I started upstairs, so let me try to do this in order:

637 N. Third St. (Fairmount Ave.) Philadelphia, PA 19123

Chicken pate with braised onions on a cracker – wow! They do chicken pate perfectly. There’s no overwhelming pepper or booze taste that is so common with restaurants trying to apologize for their chicken livers. Nope, this is just well made and creamy and unapologetically rich and tasty.

Country pate with mustard on focaccia – not as impressive. It’s pretty standard and would not be out of place in a fancy picnic basket, but more out of obligation than true love. Stick to the chicken livers.

And the beer pairing was Sly Fox Brewing Company‘s Saison Vos

A Belgian style Saison (or Farmhouse Ale) brewed with German Pils malt and hopped with East Kent Goldings. Fermented with a special proprietary yeast which imparts its dry, spicy character.
14.5 OG | 32 IBUs | 6.9% ABV

Tasted like your standard light belgian style which is not my thing. But it was light and tasty and easy drinking.

Alfa Bar
1709 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Pulled pork sliders on a mini-brioche – Carolina barbecue style (i.e. mustard/vinegar sauce). It was decently tasty, but not exciting. It is perfectly decent barfood.

And the beer pairing was Troegs Brewing Company Dreamweaver Wheat

Combining four wheat types with Munich and Pils malts, noble Saaz hops, and a yeast strain that imparts a spicy, peppery, clove taste with a slight hint of bananas
14 IBUs | 4.8% AbV

very hoppy, without quite enough flavor to back it up.

Bar Ferdinand
1030 North 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19123

Cheese Soup (made with Cricket Hill’s East Coast lager) with a Meatball (made with Cricket Hill’s Paymaster Porter) – The chef, who seemed very impressive, very generously highlighted his representative beers, so I’m not all that sure I know much about the menu at the actual venue, other than that it is made thoughtfully. The cheese soup was light and thin, but tasty and not oily. It was salty, but not too much so, and I’m guessing that means a hard cheese base. Other than that, I have no idea. I also have no idea what went into the meatball, but is was a decent meatball. Really, people raved about this dish, but I just ate it and moved on without much fanfare. I was most impressed by the guy serving the food, but I have (again) no idea how affiliated he normally is with the restaurant.

So the beers. From Cricket Hill Brewing Company (in Fairfield, NJ) – East Coast Lager

an easy drinking “golden” lager with a wonderful balance of crisp malt flavors and flowery hop finish. Built specifically with very low bitter aftertaste

Well, it sure is gentle…. My notes read, “weirdly light.” But, if you like that sort of thing, this is perfect. When I want that sort of thing, I drink water.

Paymaster Porter (apparently being phased out for the summer season)

Dark brown Ale with major coffee flavors but no burnt aftertaste. The background is slightly chocolate with wonderful candied undertones

Sorry, Cricket Hill. I do not like coffee flavors at all. 🙁

The Belgian Cafe
21st & Greeen, Philadelphia, PA

Roasted broccoli and caramelized onion frittate with mornay sauce – Well, they were one of the very few places who had a vegetarian offering. But it was cold and boring. And their pairing beer didn’t show up, which is sad because it sounded like it would be different and exciting (Ludwig’s Revenge Rauchbier from the Roy Fitz Brewing Company = supposedly smokey tasting)

Betty’s Speakeasy
2241 Grays Ferry, #1, Philadelphia, PA 19146 (also, *flail*, I am so thrilled they finally have a physical location!)

Had a mix of four tasty fudges and 1 brewed cupcake. The only one that was less than exciting was Fred, the pretzel fudge, because it was a bit chewy when it should not have been. But the rest were just as exciting as their standards usually are.

And then I skipped their beer because there was a bit of an awkward traffic moment by them (probably because they had two breweries, offering 2 beers each).

24 North Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

Tempura tilapia with crispy onion strings – this was one of my favorite offerings. The fist was seasoned with lemon and the tempura batter makes for a lighter fried fish than usual. And it didn’t hurt that they had the frier right there and people were eating the fish as quickly as it came out. If only the table at the restaurant would come with a frybaby right there.

Paired with Flying Fish Brewing Company‘s Belgian Abbey Dubbel

features an immense head with a fruity nose and a generous body. Malty in the middle, the beer features a clean, almondy dry finish and a slight alcohol warmth
Malts: Two-row pale, Munich, Special B, Chocolate, Demerera Sugar
Hops: Styrian Golding
Yeast: Belgian Abbey Ale
16.4 OG | 7% ABV

Cantina Dos Segundos
931 North 2nd St (2nd & Poplar), Philadelphia, PA

Gorditas con tinga des res – The gorditas were split and stuffed with delicious, tender short ribs (and chorizo, popato, and chipotle) and then grilled cripsy. They were topped with shredded napa and a fresh cheese of some variety. Delicious. This made me want to go to the restaurant and try it sometime.

Beer pairing – Triumph Brewing Company‘s Jewish Rye Ale, which didn’t have as distinctive a flavor as you’d expect. Though maybe it would have stood out more paired with some pastrami and mustard.

El Camino Real
1040 North 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19123

Smoked beef/pork sausage and bean chili – was hearty and tasty and managed to be both comforting familiar and unlike any chili I’ve had before.

Paired with McKenzie Brew House‘s Biere d’Hiver – bitter and acceptable.

Capogiro Gelato
many locations

Were offering 4 flavors: Dulche de leche, Bitter Chocolate, Stracciatella, and Pistachio. I had not had the pistachio before, so I tried that – delightfully salty and toasty. Much more appealing than most pistachio-flavored things. I’m convinced.

Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant
several locations

Doing their own beer and food pairings, they matched up Soft chicken tacos with yellow tomato-habanero salsa, jicama slaw, and queso fresco (meh. not spicy, and tasted like it had been invaded by neighboring El Vez’s mahi mahi tacos) with their Ironbound Ale

medium-bodied beer has been overwhelmed with hop additions. Brewed as an American pale ale, it’s a celebration of American hop varieties: Cascade, Crystal, Centennial and Chinook.
OG: 1.050 Color: 8 L IBU: 30 Alc by Vol: 5.1%


And then they paired they Chocolate Imperial Brownie (a very respectable brownie) with the Bourbon Russian Imperial Stout

aged in bourbon barrels with whole vanilla beans.
OG: 1.095 Color: 35 IBU: 75 Alc by Vol: 8.6%

And right here was the beer who single-handedly demonstrated the genius of this whole event. On first taste, the beer was a bit hard to swallow and just too dark. But once you were also eating the brownie, both tasted better! The beer became smooth and heady (in the sensuous way, not the foamy way) and the brownie became darker and sexier. This right here was a work of brilliance. I applaud you, Iron Hill.

The Choptank Oyster Company
6035 Castle Haven Road, Cambridge, MD 21613

This isn’t a Philadelphia restaurant! It isn’t even a restaurant! And yet, they are totally forgiven for that – and they consistently had a huge line. And deservedly so. This was the best raw oyster I have ever eaten. It was amazing. And now I have no idea how to get it again. But, wow.

And then it was paired with some beer, but that also had a line and just one table over was a Philadelphia Distilling table with vodka, gin, and absinthe. And don’t you know that absinthe and oysters go perfectly together? Okay, so it was totally a guess on my part based on their sometimes pairing with Pernod, also licorice-flavored. So, yeah, it totally worked. This was my first time trying absinthe, and there was just the right amount of sugar added to it wasn’t puckery and yet also wasn’t sweet enough to cloy and taste like candy. I was surprised by how pure the licorice taste was, since I had always guessed it would be smokey or in some way more complex a flavor. But, yeah, crossed that off my list.

Pub & Kitchen
1946 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146

Ale House Cassoulet – beans and stuff all cooked down and ending up satisfying and delicious and perfect for a cold winter evening.

Southwark Restaurant
701 South 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Southampton Double White braised beef tongue on wild mushroom & roquefort spelt cracker with picked vegetables – Was also one of my favorite dishes. This was amazing. Not only was the tongue tender, but the flavors really made it stand out as extraordinary. And the beer, in which it was braised, is also intriguing because I would have guessed wine fron the flavor of the tongue. I want to try this restaurant now. (Ooo… but looking at the website, it looks like I’ll need to save up and go for a special occasion)

And I sampled it with Southampton Brewery‘s Biere de Mars (which isn’t mentioned on their website)

a fruity, spicy aroma (from the yeast — there are no spices added!) and flavor with notes of pear and honey.
ABV 6.8%

I liked it!

South Philly Tap Room
1509 Mifflin Street, Philadelphia, PA 19145

Smoked beef ceviche with salsa borracho, radish salad, and cotija cheese – delicious! I ended up stealing a second. It was just fresh and light and delightful to eat after all of the heavy things people did with beef.

paired with Philadelphia Brewing Company‘s Kenzinger Beer

golden session ale – ABV 4.5%

Not my kind of beer, so moving right along.

Terrain at Styer’s
914 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills, PA 19342 – really! at the garden center! Awesome!

Red wine braised short ribs with brown butter mashed potatoes – this was one of the last things I tasted, but I squeezed room because people had been saying nice things about it. And I suspect it’d be hard to have your short ribs be so noticeable in a room so bizarrely full of shortribs. They were cut so that the fibers were a little too long, so it got a bit stringy. But it was very tasty nonetheless and deserved the praise. And the mashed potatoes were pure delight. I mean, how could you go wrong? Good choice.

Paired with Lancaster Brewing Company‘s Strawberry Wheat (which sounded vile, so I skipped) and Shoo Fly Porter

made with Lancaster County molasses, eight different malts and grains, and four different styles of hops. This beer has a deep, rich, brown color, medium to full body, and finishes with a smooth mouth feel.

Supposedly it tastes sweeter when it is served warm. For all the molasses and malt and stuff, it was a surprisingly simple and drinkable beer.

Tinto (oh, Tinto, I love you)
114 South 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA

Braised shortrib bocadillo – so split a dinner roll in half, then grease up the inside. Add shortribs. Add frisee (a type of lettuce, I dislike), and then top with some dressing. And the result is delicious and amazing. I did not mind the frisee at all. Om nom nom. No, really.

Paired with Nodding Head Brewery‘s Grog. This was my favorite beer without a question. And I am very worried that it isn’t represented on their website. But it’s dark and tasty and delicious and smooth. I could drink a case of this beer, which I don’t say about many beers.

1137 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19101

Tria convinced Jasper Hill Farms to make a special Winnimere cow’s milk cheese washed in Victory’s Baltic Thunder and encircled in spruce bark. And it was something I wish I could run right out and buy. It was gooey and awesome. It just oozed out and said, “Why hello there,” and I wanted to take it home.

They also had a Boerenkaas that went even better with the beer. Another one I hope to buy, but this one I might actually be able to.

Paired with Victory Brewing Company‘s Baltic Thunder

Baltic Thunder represents the Baltic Porter style admirably. Exhibiting the enticing, toffee roast of the British porter that originated the style in the 18th century, and the soothing, subtle fruit nuance of contemporary brews that flourish from Helsinki to Vilnius today
Hops: European whole flower
Malts: imported German 2 row and roasted malts
ABV: 8.5%

Molasses and coffee. yep, coffee, which means I automatically don’t like it. But the cheese was good.

and Hopdevil

powerful, aromatic punch of whole flower American hops backed up by rich, German malts. HopDevil Ale offers a roller coaster ride of flavor, coasting to a smooth finish
Malts: Imported, German 2 row
Hops: American whole flowers
Alcohol by volume: 6.7%

Fizzy and bitter.

White Dog Cafe
3420 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Spicy Lamb Bolognese – yep, pasta with spicy meat. Filling, but not fancy.

And then it came with two beers from the River Horse Brewing Company:
Double Wit (not on their website)

Classic Belgian Wheat Beer combining banana, clove, and citrus flavors.
8.0% ABV

while it was white and light and not my usual thing, it was delightful and just packed full of flavor. But by all means, do not eat it with the spicy bolognese! Go back to Betty’s Buttons and get some fudge because this is a beer that went well with a bit of buttery sweetness. This would be nice to savor on my back porch in summer.

Dubbel Honey Weizenback (also not on their site)

dark german lager brewed with Munich and caramel malts. This robust wheat lager is rounded out by orange blossom honey.
7.5% ABV

This one went very well with the spicy food and was the one they recommended as a cold spring day beer. It was also very drinkable. Yum

And the people representing the brewery were very friendly, too. I think I’ll suggest to my parents and we go exploring and tour their facility.


And then down to the VIP area. With chairs. Did I mention the joy of getting to sit down?

Right in the door, John and Kira’s Chocolate
no retail address, but they are in negotiation to be carried by DiBruno Borthers

their chocolates are tender fluffy mouses covered in the thinnest later of ganache.

  • La Vigne Lemongrass – a lovely palate cleanser, the flavors were definitely present, but not overpowering.
  • Glen’s Strawberry – why is it so hard to make the strawberry flavor in chocolaes appealing?
  • Lavender Honey – if you like these flavors, then the execution was superb. They clearly have an amazing hand with keeping the levels of the flavors perfectly balanced.
  • Papohaku Ginger – this one is delightful, but despite working laboriously with fresh ginger, I found the taste reminding me more of powdered ginger. Delicious powdered ginger, but still. Then again, it was at the end of a lot of tasting.
  • Drunken Chocolate Figs – Oh, yes. These were quite tasty.

306 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Cured Salmon with quinoa – surprisingly disappointing. I regretted picking this one up.

paired with Victory Brewing COmpany‘s Golden Monkey

richness of German malts and Belgian yeast are tempered by a sparkling approach and overall light body. Considerable depth of character with abundant herbal, fruity notes
Malts: 2 row German malt
Hops: European whole flowers
Yeast: imported, of Belgian origin
Alcohol by volume: 9.5%

ended up being surprisingly good.

DiBruno Brother’s cheese selection was surprisingly disappointing.

And then Marnie Old had a huge table where she had beers and various flavor types to talk about the science of beer and food pairings. It was fairly similar to the excellent class on wine I took from her through the Walnut Hill Restaurant School. She was also pushing her book, “http://www.marnieold.com/shop/marnie_books_plus.html”>He Said Beer; She Said Wine, which is probably good… but I won’t buy it because it pushes my sexism buttons. That said, she was taking on the beer event regardless of the book title.

And then there was a bag of swag – a copy of Imbibe magazine, a sample of Sapphire gin, and a pint glass from Victory.

Also, I met up with a gut with a blog called Beers of Legend, and he was all, “You should totally promote yourself more. Here, have a business card. I get a press pass that let’s me go to all of these events for free.” Hmmm… maybe I’ll run it up the flagpole next year, but I suspect it won’t go particularly high because a) this is not a beer-centric blog and b) by then there will be more food bloggers than real press asking for those passes. But, hey, he gave me a card and made, “We should make an arrangement,” gestures, so I have linked to him dutifully.

…so I hear next week is Foie Gras Week.