The Year in Beer Top 10 – Chris’ List

With the Year in Beer now over, we would be remiss not to come up with a list of top 10 experiences from our amazing year. The original plan was to come up with a combined list, but within the first minute of discussion, it was clear that wasn’t going to work. So, here is my list not necessarily in order…

The Kerstbierfestival
Our kind of festival where great beer, friends and conversation seem to be the focal point. Maybe the perfect end to the Year in Beer.

The “Four”
I still need to come up for a better name for our July-October stretch of the Year in Beer. In these months we went to four of the premier beer events in the world; Oregon Brewers Festival, Great British Beer Festival, Oktoberfest and Great American Beer Festival. A lot of beer geeks would be happy to make all four in their lifetime; we did it in consecutive months.

Anchorage in January
The first month for the Year in Beer and there was some worry about how it would turn out. Not only was Anchorage’s beer culture quite amazing, the community was so nice and welcoming. We couldn’t have started the year in a better fashion.

Cologne, Munich and Vienna
After the Bergkirchweih beer festival, we joined our friends Ute and Wolfgang for Flogging Molly shows on consecutive nights in Cologne, Munich and Vienna. Day one was Kölsch, day two was beer gardens with liters of beer and day three was our first visit to Vienna.

Hallertau Hop Tour
One of the fringe benefits of the Year in Beer was that we got a tour of the Hallertau hop growing region by Anheuser-Busch’s European hop guy, Willy Buholzer. Thanks to Willy for being a great host and hop guide.

The Beer Bars
The Year in Beer gave us the opportunity to go to some of the best beer bars in the world… Toronado, Monk’s Cafe, Standard Tap, Brouwers, Falling Rock, Kulminator, Arendsnest, In de Wildeman, ‘t Brugs Beertje, Cafe Delerium, Liar’s Club, Cafe Amsterdam, O’Brien’s… to name a few.

Visiting All Seven Trappists
One of the main goals of our December trip was to visit all seven Trappist breweries. The worry was that in December, the six that were open to the public, would have limited hours or be closed. The beer gods were smiling down on us as we were able to visit all seven and drink the beer at the six that were open to the public.

One of the side trips we made during 2008. Big thanks goes out to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing  Corporation for inviting us out for Philly Beer Week. If they hadn’t, we would still be talking about someday we need to get to Philly. We knew about Monk’s Cafe, and it is truly amazing, but there is a lot more to Philadelphia’s beer scene than just Monk’s.

Seeing Our Friend Win Beer Drinker of the Year
Another 2008 side trip… Being into beer, for me, is not just about the beer, it is also about the great friendships you make. And to be on hand to see our friend, Matt Venzke, win Wynkoop’s Beer Drinker of the Year, was not only a great time but was worthy a Top 10 Year in Beer experience.

OK… this is probably number one. I got to spend the Year in Beer with my best friend and better half. It truly doesn’t get better than that.

The Spirit of Rocky

Philadelphia has a long and rich brewing tradition going back 300 years and is rightly proud of their beer heritage. And that pride showed in the enthusiasm and level of participation for the first ever Philly Beer Week. It was truly exceptional for a first time event.

Over 100 events were scheduled for the ‘week’ and while we were here for only the beginning, we managed to pack in quite a bit of beer drinking.

Our schedule was pretty packed for Friday and Saturday so rather than going over it beer by beer, here are the highlights of the two days.

Our Friday began with a bit of sightseeing. Richard Wagner, a local beer historian, took us on a walk around the old city, not only showing us famous landmarks such as the Liberty Bell, but also the sites of historic taverns and breweries that long have disappeared from the landscape of the city.

The highlight of the our tour was a visit to City Tavern, a historic recreation of a 18th century colonial tavern that was frequented by many a founding father.

In a partnership with Yards Brewing, the City Tavern serves three beers from 18th century recipes;

  • Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce – a spruce beer based on Ben Franklin’s recipe.
  • George Washington Tavern Porter – a porter that uses molasses and is a recipe Washington used himself.
  • Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale – a golden ale based on Thomas Jefferson’s recipe.

Kudos to Yards and City Tavern for researching these recipes and bringing back a piece of brewing history.

Lunch was four-course meal paired with beer at Tria, Philadelphia’s wine, cheese and beer cafe. I mention Tria not just because of the amazing beer-food pairings but also to plug their ‘fermentation school’ where some of the best beer minds in the world come and share their passion.

We were able to visit two breweries on Friday; Triumph Brewery, a new addition to the Philly brewpub scene and the first brewpub that we have been to with coed bathrooms. Odd facilities aside, I was excited that they had a kellerbier that I enjoyed. I don’t think I have ever seen a kellerbier made in the States.

Philadelphia Brewing, a brewery so new that they had just shipped their first product two days prior, is the new venture of former owners of Yards. The brewery building, built in 1885, was part of the Weisbrod & Hess Oriental Brewing Company. When they finish the remodeling, the brewery tasting room is going to be something to behold.

Friday evening was the first event for Philly Beer Week; a beer tasting with 20 regional breweries at the Marketplace at East Falls. Here, the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter tapped the official first keg; Extra Special Ale from Yards. It was good to see a big city mayor so supportive of the beer community.

The only problem was that this was the big chance to try a lot of the regional beers but because of our busy schedule, I was only able to try a small fraction of the beers available. The highlights were Hoptimus Prime from Legacy, ESA from Yards and the porter from General Lafayette Inn and Brewery.

The plans for Saturday included visiting two brewpubs in the Philadelphia suburbs, but the first task Saturday morning was to go to the Philadelphia Art Museum – not for the Frida Kahlo exhibit – rather to draw some strength and inspiration from the Rocky statue. We wanted to run up the stairs too but unfortunately, it really started to rain.

The first brewery was Sly Fox Brewery and Eatery in Royersford, one of the breweries in the canning movement. But there is more to Sly Fox than the fact that they can their beer. The Sly Fox lineup includes a GABF gold medal winning Pils. I also enjoyed the Helles, IPA, and their dry Irish Stout. Sly Fox and Yards were probably my two favorite breweries on the trip.

After Sly Fox, it was back on the bus to the short ride to Phoenixville and to Iron Hill Brewery.

Iron Hill had an impressive spread of 12 beers. My highlight list for Iron Hill would have to include Pig Iron Porter, Ironbound Ale and the ESB.

Saturday evening included a trip to the Foodery, a bottle shop that rivals any that I have ever been to. It was another case of a kid in a candy store. They had an impressive selection of not only regional beers, but beers from all over the United States and Europe. The awesome thing about the Foodery is that you can buy mixed six-packs…

Though I am not going to get into the “best beer-drinking city” debate, Philadelphia definitely deserves to be mentioned with cities such as Portland, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and [insert your beer drinking city here so I don’t piss anyone off]. Their beer culture ranks up with the best and is worthy of your beer travel dollar.

I really have to give credit to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation for seeing that there is a whole community of beer travelers they could tap into. Many cities take us for granted and Philadelphia should be commended. To make your Philly plans go to

I speak for both Merideth and myself in thanking Cara and Morgan for putting on a great tour. And thanks to all the Philly beer people who took time out of their busy schedules to entertain us.

Final thanks go out to our little group… Rick, Tracey, Dan, Kevin, Jay, Lisa, Mark and Fausto. It was fun hanging out with old friends and new ones alike.

To see all the images from the trip, click here. We should have the video up in a few weeks.



We survived our first day in Philly…Though I am going to need to talk with my travel coordinator (you know him as Chris), as we left the house at 4am to get out here at 4pm! This early morning stuff really catches up with you by the end of the day. Hey, a girl needs her beauty sleep, right? But we triumphed over the tired, travel slump to have a great night.

We are joined in our press entourage by about 10 other people and the West Coast is well represented. Jay Brooks from the Brookston Beer Report, Rick Sellers from Draft magazine and Lisa Morrison, Beer Goddess are all here and they are always good for some laughs and hijinx! And Rick brought his wife Tracy. She’s a very cool beergeek who grew up on a malting barley farm in Canada. Plus, we are meeting new East Coast people…working hard to expand our sphere of influence in the beer world. Beer world dominance is the ultimate goal…(insert evil laugh here).

Our first stop was the famous Monk’s Cafe…phenomenal food and great beer pairing! Tom Peters was a very gracious host opening some Rochefort 8° Cuvee that he had brought back from Belgium.

I even ate smoked duck in one course and brussel sprouts in another. You know the beer and company must have been good if I ventured to eat outside of my usual comfort zone. Oh, I also drank a gueze from Cantillon! But my favorite was the Orval which was paired with the duck.

Then Tom was so kind as to act as our walking tour guide to a few pubs. We also got in one brewery last night…Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant. They were cool because it is a second floor brewery. Now there is a feat…getting brewing equipment upstairs! They also had a funny bobble head collection. Get it?! Nodding Head…bobble head dolls.

A big thanks goes out to Tom for making it a great first night here in Philadelphia. No trip to Philly would be complete without a visit to Monk’s and a chat with Tom!

Well, we are off to full day of activities. In our free time this afternoon I want to go to the Penn Museum where they have a great collection of beer stuff spanning thousands of years. There is another museum that I want to try to get to also, which is a medical museum. Archaic instruments and medical oddities are the attraction. I’ll see if I can get Chris to go along with that one! I’ll keep you posted…


New YiB Side Trip – Philadelphia

Merideth and I have been invited to Philadelphia in March for beginning of Philly Beer Week. We will be in the City of Brotherly Love March 6-9.

We haven’t been to Philadelphia since 1992 and that was only for a few hours. While it has been on the list of places we should visit, without this great opportunity, a trip there would have had to wait for another year.

Coincidentally, early versions of our YiB press release talked about the expansion of beer travel and how city tourist boards were beginning to market their city to craft beer drinkers. And that is exactly what Philadelphia is doing with Philly Beer Week.