Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Ninth Annual Brewer's Plate

This past Sunday was the Ninth Annual Brewer's Plate. I'd never been to it before, but had heard great things and boy did it live up to my expectations. First some info on the actual event. It's run by Fair Food, a nonprofit organization uniting local farmers, business and consumers, and the Brewer's Plate is a big fundraiser for them. They concentrate on local area restaurants and breweries and pair them together with much thought going into the food and beers. Tickets were $70 for GA or $140 for the VIP. I was actually invited as press (I'm totally press, stop shaking your head) and got to experience the VIP area as a result.

When I arrived, people were already waiting to enter the Constitution Center for the VIP only portion of the event.
That's only about half the line so it was a bit long but they were let in relatively quickly once the event started

Some of my friends were right up there too.
I figure it's not an event if I don't have at least one picture of Ethan.

At this point they were letting people in so I started wandering around checking things out before it got busy. As I said, I'd never been before so I didn't know what to expect but man was it cool. They were using both levels of the Constitution Center with a large number of tables for restaurants and breweries. I decided to check out the VIP area first partially because I was with someone and he suggested it. It was a nice space for the VIPs with some special beers, desserts, and cheese spread about the area. While most of my friends seemed to concentrate on the food, I was more focused on the beer, surprise surprise. I started things off checking out Naked Brewing, a brewery I don't know much about but grabbed my interest with some interesting beers.
They were paired with some delicious Cherry Grove Farm cheeses and were pouring a real tasty Imperial Stout that had been aged on oak and some pineapple and some other stuff. Great way to start things off as it was quite tasty and I'll definitely check them out next time I see them somewhere. Next to them was the always great Tired Hands. I talk about them enough on the blog so I won't go on too much but here's a picture of Jean, Jon (their other brewer), and a few others around their station.
They were serving their delicious triple IPA Mrs. Pigman which seemed fairly popular with the crowds whenever I came around. Also available in the VIP area were beers from Forest & Main, a place I've been meaning to get to but just haven't had a chance yet. Heard awesome things about them and their beers were definitely solid.
Also in that picture is Chris LaPierre, brewer at Iron Hill Mapleshade, and Suzy Woods, Allagash rep extraordinaire, hiding to the right of him. This was actually later in the night hence the dramatic lighting change between the two pictures. Just in case you're confused by that or even noticed it. Now you know.

After that I wandered around a bit and took more pictures of the crowds and some tables. Rather than yammer on too much, I'll just throw a bunch out with short descriptions.

One side of the VIP area:
The VIP area from across the room:
The Brauhaus Schmitz table complete with chef Jeremy Nolen:
Weyerbacher's table with Natalie, Colin, and a few others. I don't remember his name, but the guy in the right side of the left picture created the Hammer of Glory for Philly Beer Week. Pretty cool, right?
The Yards guys chilling before the crowd enters:
Some guy cooking for a restaurant. Honestly, he could be someone cool but I didn't even know what restaurant this was, I just liked the shot.
The Dock Street group with Marilyn and Rosemarie in the left picture and Justin, the new head brewer, on the right.
The owner and head brewer from Bullfrog is next. Awesome to see them here since it also means we'll be seeing some of their beer here in Philly now. At least one positive thing came from Bavarian Barbarian shutting down. The owner was real nice, too, talking to me about their search for a new brewer and how they are handling the expansion. Seems like they are on the right track.
And the Brewworks table, serving up their Bourbon Barrel Insidious stout which was just as delicious this year as last:
Stick with me, I'm almost done with this photo bomb.

Here's the River Horse guys, both named Chris and standing with another brewer named Chris. And, on a side note, seems like River Horse is also working towards becoming more prominent in the Philly market. With a new distributor and new brewery, we should start seeing more of their beers on draft once the move is done in May.
And finally the best ice cream I've had in a while was from The Bent Spoon based out of Princeton, NJ. They had a really delicious Black Ops semifreddo along with a great wort ice cream that had chocolate covered malt in it. They do a lot of very cool ice creams and it's a shame they are so far (or feel so far) from Philly. It's the first time I've tried their stuff but they totally lived up to the hype. Definitely a place to stop at if you are near them.
Super nice people too.

Oh and I can't leave out the one picture I took of Jared and Kristy of PhillyTapFinder plus their friend. That would be rude.
Or the picture of Steve Wildy from Vetri and Patrick from Sly Fox (who used to be the Philly rep for Sierra Nevada.)
And that was my Brewer's Plate in about 20 pictures or so, I didn't count. The coolest thing by far about this event is how much the local restaurants and breweries seemed to care about it. Nearly all of the tables were covered by owners, chefs, reps, or other employees. If you know anyone in the industry that didn't have to work that night, they were probably here. Plus, everyone was super nice and the event itself was really well run.

The only slightly negative thing I'd say is that the VIP tickets seemed a bit expensive for what was offered. It's not that the special beer poured and the desserts weren't solid, it's just that at double the cost of a regular ticket it felt like there could have been more. I asked my friend who bought one and he felt like $100 would have been more reasonable and more worth it. However, at least it goes to Fair Food so it's hard to be upset about giving more money to charity. Just something to think about.

Regardless, I thought the event was excellent and I'm so happy that I was invited to check it out. I'll easily be shelling out for the regular ticket next year for their 10th anniversary as soon as I'm able. Funny enough, while this is one of the best beer events I've ever attended, it really seems to be about the food to most other people! I'll definitely concentrate more on that next year since all of my friends were talking about things I totally missed.

If you're curious about some other views on the event, check out the write ups by In Search of Beer and Brewlounge. Or, if you want to go to another Fair Food event, they are working on a huge Food Fest being held on April 14th.

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