By Annamarya Scaccia
The old “bigger is better” adage just doesn’t apply to the Philly Craft Beer Festival. In fact, the second annual event — where attendees pay a flat rate to troll about the Philadelphia Naval Yard with tasting glasses, sipping the best beers participating breweries have to offer — boasts quite the contrarian slogan: “Better, Not Bigger.”
That theme is well-suited for the fair, which sold out completely last March and is likely to sell out again this year. There are several subtle but smart tweaks worth noting. Both sessions of the brewer’s program will feature a talk with beer gurus Don “Joe Sixpack” Russell and Peter Cherbach to accommodate demand from ticket holders. Elsewhere, organizers have upped the number of Liberty Belle Catering food stands without having to expand outside the Naval Yard venue.
This year also features 15 new participants. First-time breweries include California’s Green Flash Brewing Co.; Maryland’s Hook & Ladder; Maine’s Peak Organic; and New Hampshire’s Smuttynose. There’s also a slew of new Belgian newcomers, in-cluding Abbaye d’Aulne Brewery, Affligem and Atomium Belgian Grand Cru.
New York’s Starfish Junction Production, the group behind the one-day fest, hopes to double last year’s charitable donation of $6,000 for the Committee to Benefit the Children of North Philadelphia’s St. Christopher’s Hospital. “There was a totally different turnaround this time,” says Starfish’s Andy Calimano. “We got phone calls [from] breweries [that] wanted to be a part of this event. It was surprising that we [got] as much of a response as we did.”
Local beer aficionados will get to taste the ale, stout and lager brews of area favorites like Yards, Dogfish Head, Nodding Head and Victory. Other returning breweries include California’s He’Brew, Oregon’s Rogue and New York’s Southampton, which will revive its Biere De Mars, a farmhouse-style beer the brewery last produced in 2005. “We resurrected [it] in honor of Philadelphia,” says Southampton’s Spencer Niebuhr.
For Calimano, the festival is a chance for people to sample new beers and potentially purchase some for their homes or establishments. But save the debauchery for your corner bar. “It’s not an opportunity to get drunk,” he says. Attendees will receive 2-ounce pours from participants — just enough to get a taste. Designated drivers get into the event with a heavy discount.
But it’s Niebuhr who best puts the festival in perspective. “People are going to bring their best beer to one of the better festivals on the East Coast,” he says, “with one of the best beer-drinking cities on the East Coast as a backdrop.”
Philly Craft Beer Festival
Sat., March 1
Session I: noon-4 p.m.; Session II: 6-10 p.m.
Philadelphia Cruise Terminal
Philadelphia Naval Yard
5100 S. Broad St., 631-940-7290, phillycraftbeerfest.com