Beer, beer everywhere

At breakfast and tea, as well as bars and brewpubs, Philadelphia Beer Week is positively bubbling.

No raised pinky required: Monica Ferguson enjoys the Ladies Beer Tea at the Belgian Cafe. (April Saul / Staff Photographer)

The hammer had started its day in the Northeast and traveled in Olympic torch-style relay via foot, bike, Big Wheels, roller skates, and truck to Center City. Noted beer aficionado Ben Franklin - or a very close facsimile of the Founding Father - carried the hammer on its final leg and handed it to a laughing Mayor Nutter.

The second annual Philadelphia Beer Week - a 10-day celebration of all things brewed - was launched at the Comcast Center Friday, where Nutter tapped the first Yards keg with a swing of a specially forged "Hammer of Glory" that would have done Thor proud.

"We are the greatest beer-drinking city in the United States of America," Nutter said. "We make all kinds. We drink all kinds."

And we turn out for beer. As many as 30,000 enthusiasts were expected to attend 670 beer-related events across the region, from tastings to trivia to brew-tours, during the brewing extravaganza that continues through Sunday.

And while Nutter expanded on the positive economic impact the event would have for the city, advising the crowd that "after that seventh or eighth, you might want to think about that designated driver," he finally realized the 700-strong sellout crowd wasn't there to hear him speak.

"Enough of the talkin,' " Nutter declared. "It's time to start tappin'."

While men may have slightly outnumbered women at the opening-night event, this was no frat party. Attendees came in all ages and sizes, from different towns and with different agendas.

Rob Dougherty, 28, a Fairmount home brewer who attended three Beer Week events each night last year, said he hoped to repeat that feat this year. He welcomed the chance to talk to the professional brewers and to "try to get little recipes out of them when I can."

Bruce Rodgers of Mickleton, Gloucester County, joked to a friend that, only one hour into the event, "I've already had 40 beers." Rodgers and his wife, Dori, said their two children, ages 11 and 15, had been to more brewpubs than most people of legal drinking age.

"We love to sample beers and this is the perfect venue for it," said Bruce Rodgers, 44. "We never come to Philadelphia, but this is a good time."

So good, in fact, that the Rodgers family was talking about finding a nearby hotel room for the night. Nutter would have been proud.

Still, there wasn't a lot of chugging going on at Beer Week events, especially not at the Ladies Beer Tea at Fairmount's Belgian Cafe Saturday afternoon. Host Nancy Rigberg, owner of Center City's Home Sweet Homebrew, said good beer was "an extension of good food and the finer things in life."

"Beer is more food-friendly than wine. It's more adaptable," Rigberg said. "Beer has a culinary place and it's just as important to learn beer and food pairings as it is food and wine pairings."

The women who crowded the cafe sampled shrimp croquettes and pancakes topped with smoked duck with a sage-heavy beer and desserts with a chocolate stout. Among the crowd were home brewers, beverage writers, and those who work in the industry as well as those who simply appreciate a good beer.

While men may be the focus of major beer companies' advertising, women are the ones who have historically brewed and created beers, Rigberg said. Biology has also given women a more refined palate. Carolyn Smagalski, the self-proclaimed "Beer Fox," held a glass of light beer up to a window and admired the yeast floating inside.

"It's like a sunset over the ocean. It's glowing," said Smagalski, of Harleysville, in a wondrous voice. She sipped and marveled at the beer while looking at the crowd of females around her.

"Beer is our bond," she said. "I feel like it's our own secret society of women like the bacchanalia was."

Beer flowed freely all weekend, as free buses took revelers from bar to bar across the city. (A common sight? A school bus carrying a cheering crowd of over-school-age people.) Brewers had a chance to show their wares to a new audience as well as meet new customers.

"This exposes us to people who might not be driving down [Routes] 30 or 202," said Gerard Olson, a brewer at McKenzie Brewhouse, which has locations in Malvern and Chadds Ford.

One of McKenzie's locations is next to Immaculata College, and some of the holy sisters imbibe at the brewery. "They tend to prefer the stout," Olson said. (Perhaps because the nuns appreciate the dark beer with the white collar?)

At the Khyber in Old City on Sunday, a chili cookoff featuring beer as an ingredient ended with one clear winner and one entry thrown against the wall.

"It was godawful," said judge Chubb Rock, who threw the offending blend. "It had apples and cinnamon in it. . . . People like to get nuts, the whole white-bean-turducken chili. That's OK, but it's not chili."

The winning recipe was "just plain delicious," he said. It incorporated the beer as good recipes do: "It's like chicken stock, something that's already been made that makes it better. It adds body," he said. "The beer's a background taste."

Beer might not be everyone's choice as a breakfast beverage, but the Grey Lodge Pub in the Northeast was packed by 9:30 a.m. Saturday as diners settled down for a first meal accompanied by a pint of their favorite and foamiest beverage.

"The society we live in says coffee and orange juice are for breakfast, but in some European countries, they drink beer all day long," said Tim Howard, 37, of Montgomeryville, enjoying a light wheat beer with maple flavors with his buttermilk pancakes. "I jumped at the opportunity to drink beer for breakfast for once."

So diners could try a dark wheat beer with chocolate undertones with their chocolate- chip flapjacks, or pair a beer with a fuller taste and higher alcohol content with the spicy egg wrap with cheddar cheese and salsa.

"I'm not saying you should drink 20 beers for breakfast, but one won't do harm," said pub owner Mike "Scoats" Scotese, who said he doesn't usually serve a morning meal.

"Beer has a lot going on. You don't hold your pinky out when you taste it. You don't spit, either. But there is a lot there."


TJ's Restaurant Doppelbock-Braised Short Ribs

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon pepper

2 1/2 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 3-ounce pieces

1 1/2 pounds onions chopped into pieces similar in size to the short ribs

1 1/2 pounds carrots chopped into pieces similar in size to the short ribs

1/2 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

1 quart good-quality beef stock

12 ounces of your favorite Doppelbock (I use Ayinger Celebrator)

1/2 cup dark Karo syrup

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1. Heat olive oil in a large heavyweight pot on medium- high flame.

2. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Dredge short ribs in flour, shake off any excess flour.

3. Brown meat on all sides in hot oil (about 1 to 2 minutes per side) and remove from pot. The meat will still be raw inside.

4. Add to the pot chopped onions and chopped carrots, saute for 7 to 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and minced garlic to the carrots and onions, saute an additional 2 minutes.

5.   Add beef stock, Doppelbock, Karo syrup, and thyme. Scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pot - this is good stuff and will add flavor to the sauce. Add the meat back into the pot. Bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for two hours.

6. After 2 hours remove lid, turn heat up to high, and reduce sauce for 20 minutes.

Per serving: 969 calories, 64 grams protein, 81 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams sugar, 40 grams fat, 136 milligrams cholesterol, 2,156 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber.

Mussels With Fennel and Sausage

Makes 4 servings

4 garlic sausage links (from Martin's in the Reading Terminal Market)

6 garlic cloves, smashed

4 shallots, sliced

1 fennel bulb, cored and sliced thin (reserve the fronds for garnish)


2 tablespoons toasted fennel seeds, smashed (1 ounce)

Salt and pepper

4 pounds Prince Edward Island mussels

8 tablespoons butter, 1 stick

3 bottles Yards Brawler (12 ounces each)

1 baguette

1. Chop the sausage and fry in a large pot or cocotte. Add the garlic, shallots, fennel, and fennel seed. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the mussels and butter and then the beer.

3. Cover and steam just until the mussels pop open. Toss with the fennel fronds.

4. Serve the whole baguette on the side and tear apart with your hands.

Per serving (without bread): 1,081 calories, 71 grams protein, 38 grams carbohydrates, trace sugar, 65 grams fat, 258 milligrams cholesterol, 2,280 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.

Beer-Brined Chicken Breasts

Makes 4 servings

4 chicken breasts, boneless, 8 ounces each

8 ounces water

8 ounces amber beer

3 tablespoons salt

2 thyme sprigs

1 large bay leaf 

1. Combine all ingredients except the chicken breast in a pot and heat until the salt dissolves.

2. Allow to cool and add the chicken breasts. Brine for four hours.

3. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry.

4. Saute 15 or 20 minutes in a cast iron skillet, or bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Per serving: 251 calories, 52 grams protein, trace carbohydrates, no sugar, 3 grams fat, 132 milligrams cholesterol, 148 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.

Mustard Green Beans

Makes 4 servings

1 pound French-style green beans

2 shallots, finely diced

4 tablespoons butter

6 ounces light-bodied beer

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1. Saute the beans over high heat for five minutes or less (can use the cast-iron skillet the Beer-Brined Chicken, recipe below, was cooked in). Don't overcook; beans should be crisp. Add shallots. Add butter, beer, and mustard.

2. Keep the flame on high and quickly reduce the beer for about 5 to 6 minutes, until almost all the beer is evaporated and the beans are glazed.

3. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 52 calories, 3 grams protein, 10 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, trace fat, no cholesterol, 110 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.