Reader: It's Philly Beer Week again – what are the can't-miss events?
Craig LaBan: I'm excited for this 11th annual Philly Beer Week, which is now under the aegis of Philly Loves Beer, a non-profit that promotes beer locally all year long. This 10-day period is always an intense time to explore new flavors and meet some industry luminaries. And for day one on Friday, June 1, "Opening Tap" at the Fillmore is always a blast to launch the fest, and a perfect way to get a big gulp of many participating brewers in one place – including several excellent cider makers, too. For your roadmap to the best local brews, check out the results of the Inquirer's recent Brewvivational beer competition to help bring some order the foamy chaos.
June 2 Try to get to Monk's Café to meet the Alchemist's John Kimmich, the man behind the Vermont brewery's Heady Topper and the hazy New England IPA trend. But Monk's events are always among the toughest tickets around. Saturday will also be a big day at Strangelove's, which gets visits from the brewers of Burial Beer Co. (Asheville, N.C.), local stars Forest & Main and 2SP, plus Maine's Liquid Riot, which also will be sampling its amaro.
June 3: Wake up to brunch with Oxbow from Maine, one of my favorite wild ale brewers, at Khyber Pass, which has one of the city's best NOLA-style menus. Some Bananas Foster French toast with a funky Loretta chaser sounds like a "yes, please," kind of morning to me.
June 4: Everyone's an indie-brewing star in their own garage, but some of the area's very best homebrewers get their true moment of glory in the beer week sun at Jose Pistola's annual Extreme Homebrew Challenge.
June 5: It's hard enough to spell Brettanomyces while sober. After a few pints of St. Benjamin's Abbey Dubbel, all those consonant-crazy yeast strains can really get wild at the Third Annual Drunk Spelling Bee at the P.O.P.E.
June 6: Learn about the art behind some of the catchiest local beer labels with a panel of experts at U-Bahn.
June 7: Explore the funky artistry of four rare wild yeast beers fermented in Allagash's legendary "coolship" open-top fermenter, served at Tria Taproom along with some Cherry Grove cheese washed in Coolship Red.
June 8: If you haven't yet tasted one of Philly's best new local saison producers, Brewery ARS, they'll be featured at the Garage on East Passyunk Avenue along with some artisan jerky from Righteous Felon to keep you thirsty.
June 9: Fishtown FestivAle takes over Frankford Avenue all day Saturday with food, vendors, music and beer.