Back in early 2008, Don Russell and the band of beer lovers planning the first Philly Beer Week knew they had a great idea, but didn't want to get ahead of themselves.
"We were very modest," said Russell, author of the "Joe Sixpack" column in the Philadelphia Daily News. "We thought there'd be 50 restaurants and that would be it."
As the fifth edition of the festival launches with Friday's Opening Tap event at the Independence Visitor Center, nearly 200 bars and restaurants are on board, said Russell.
All told, nearly 1,000 events — most of them happy-hour specials — make up the 10-day festival.
Russell spent this week plotting his itinerary. Philly Beer Week's free iPod and Android app makes it easy, and events are listed at www.phillybeerweek.org Russell plans to attend bigger events such as Saturday afternoon's Gladiator at Kite & Key, which sets up Roman-style gladiator games, chariot racing, and jousting on the 1800 block of Callowhill Street, and smaller, more intimate gatherings, such as the cute-named Kinky Beer and Porn Quizzo at Woody's bar in Center City on June 5. (Among the beers to be poured are Boulder Sweaty Betty, Iron Fist Double Fisted, Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale, Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp, Full Pint Perc-E-Bust and Chinookie IPA.)
The festivities have spread into the suburbs. For those unable to get to Opening Tap, for example, Isaac Newton's in Newtown, Bucks County, will host an event from 6 to 8 p.m. with rare beers poured by Allagash, including Old HLT, Saison Mihm, and Yakuza.
Among the highlights:
The annual Coffee Beer Brunch on Sunday, June 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Eulogy Belgian Tavern in Old City will pair coffee beers (Founders Breakfast Stout, Mikkeller Black Hole) with breakfast fare.
Italian Brewer Night with Teo Musso of Baladin, Leonardo di Vincenzo of Del Borgo, and Moreno Ercolani of L'Olmaia on Monday, June 4 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Alla Spina in North Philadelphia . They will serve Baladin Nora Sour Edition 2011, Del Borgo Reale Anniversary 6, L'Olmaia Karkade and Baladin Aliksir Cask.
Wednesday, June 6 will see Wendy Yuengling — Dick's daughter — at Fergie's Pub in Center City from 9 to 11 p.m., while the Von Stoudt Family Singers will sing "The Sound of Lager" from 8 to 11 p.m. at Hop Angel Brauhaus in Fox Chase
On Thursday, June 7, the 3400 block of Sansom Street will host Sansom Street Soiree from 3 p.m. to midnight as Baby Blues BBQ, White Dog Cafe, and New Deck Tavern feature a stage for live music and several beer trucks. There is a $10 charge, and half of the proceeds will go to local charities.
This year's beer week is more family friendly. Peggy the goat, winner of the annual Sly Fox Brewery goat race, will do a meet-and-greet from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Bar (1309 Sansom St.). Sunday's big family event will be a street festival from noon to 9 p.m. outside Tapestry at Fifth and Bainbridge Streets; besides 30 Saison-style beers for grown-ups, there will be Cirque du Soleil-style performers and a balloon artist. On June 7, Pizzeria Stella will host an Italian beer garden under the shambles at Headhouse Square (Second and Lombard Streets) from 5 to 7 p.m. For kids, there will be root beer and lemonade, plus an accordion player, a face-painter, balloon artist, and bocce tournament. Saturday, June 9, the Pub on Passyunk East (1501 E. Passyunk Ave.) will host a pay-as-you-go puppet-theater brunch with Tucker Tales Puppet Theatre in conjunction with Ommegang Brewing from noon to 1 p.m.