Big Philly Beerfest gives you a chance to taste 350 beers

Beer lovers, break out your steins: The Big Philly Beerfest will live up to its name this weekend when it comes to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, offering thirsty visitors hundreds of beers from all around the country.

Tickets are $45 to 75, with some tiered entry levels, including VIP entry that will give you access to a “Connoisseurs Reception,” with rare brews and food from Reading Terminal Market. All ticket-level entries (excluding the designated-driver tickets, of course) include unlimited samples of tasty brews. (Word to the wise, the Convention Center is near many public-transportation options).

“I try to make it a nice array of beers,” event manager Matthew Utter, 35, said of the festival’s beer lineup. “I don’t want it to be an IPA fest, or a pilsner fest, or a stout fest, because I want it to be a fest for every beer drinker, to try and hit the palate of every person.” 

To attract all types of beer enthusiasts, Utter put together a list of about 350 beers from about 125 breweries, ranging from small, local outfits like Philadelphia’s Dock Street Brewery to larger, overseas breweries like Edinburgh's Crabbie's. With that many brews, there’s no way you’re making it through the whole list. (Please, for the love of your liver, don't try.)

Utter, who previously worked at Munich’s König Ludwig International and Cincinnati’s Christian Moerlein Brewing Co., however, has some picks for folks to look forward to. 

While there will be craft-beer classics like Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale and Southern Tier’s Choklat, the real treats will come in the form of new and specialty brews from some of brewing’s most coveted companies. Utter specifically recommends offerings from Downingtown's Victory Brewing, which will have several popular best-sellers available; the lineup from Avery Brewing Co., which includes the popular imperial stout Mephistopheles; and Fat Head’s Original Beers out of Pittsburgh, which will have its Belgian Blonde among other brews.

Also be on the lookout for 24-ounce craft-beer cans of a hoppy golden ale from New Belgium Brewing. Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co., a new brewery out of Virginia, will have available its Kilt Flasher (a heavy scotch ale) and Vienna Lager. The lineup is a mixture of beers that allows folks to enjoy many old classics, while getting a glimpse at what exactly is new out there.

“Some of them aren’t rare or hard to find, but you need those, too,” Utter says. “There are so many choices out there.”

Connoisseurs, however, can find limited options at the “Connoisseurs Reception,” which requires the $75 ticket. In addition to snacks, guests there will be treated to large-format beers not available on the festival’s main floor, including the Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments, Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout (an 18 percent ABV imperial stout packaged in a 12-ounce bottle), and Green Flash’s Divine Belgique, a tripel. 

Proceeds from the event will benefit Animal Rescue Partners, a local nonprofit that finds homes for rescue animals in the Philadelphia area. The full list of beers is available at bigphillybeerfest.com/beer-list.


Big Philly Beerfest

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St., $40-$50 advance; $50-$60 day of event; $15 designated drivers, 215-418-4700, www.paconvention.com/.

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