Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Sorry for the ridiculous delay in commentary; I've been more than a little occupied with another business project and just haven't found the time to compose my thoughts on that spectacular week-and-a-half in March, for which I was able to attend a few events. I'm hoping this will be the very last post on Philly Beer Week from anyone for a while (unless of course, beer writer Jack Curtin forms another thought on it, which is always possible). Though I wasn't able to attend any of the truly inspired events at some of the newer South Philly beer bars, I did luck out on some special times: Upsate PA Beers at the Grey Lodge with Lew Bryson; the Klash of the Kaisers pilsner beer event at Triumph Old City; Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em smoked beer and barbeque event at Yards Brewery and the 19th Friday the Firkinteenth at the Grey Lodge. Vicariously I goto to experience many more of the over 600 events in and around Philly, through blogs and tweets from Bryson, Curtin, beer buddy Gary Bredbenner and hilarious blogger/twitter babe Suzanne "beerlass" Woods. I can't remember feeling that much food and drink excitement in the city since the heydey of The Book and The Cook in the 90's.

Which brings me to my point. Philly Beer Week looks like a stunning success. I haven't yet read any numbers yet, from either the city or the brilliant organizers of the event, but I can only guess that they will be impressive. The parallels between Philly Beer Week and The Book and The Cook are obvious: The Book and the Cook also typically ran 10 days, with a large centerpiece event that would attract thousands. Its events were mostly held within the city limits, but soon expanded to the suburbs. The hype was usually pretty impressive in the months preceeding the week of events (and I was a part of that hype machine, doing PR for two different hotels and several restaurants, hosting and escorting a bunch of different celebrity chefs, as well as conducting an annual pair of beer tours), and the events themselves were exciting culinary adventures. I bet Tom Peters, owner of Monk's Cafe and a PBW organizer, might have the best perspective of both festivals, having participated in TBATC over the years. His experiences with TBATC no doubt helped him avoid the many challeneges that have afflicted TBATC over the years.
Here's why I think Philly Beer Week worked so well:
1. Compelling, centralized PR for the event. Jennie Hatton and Profile PR did a bang-up job, hyping even the smallest events and each and every one of the breweries, brewers, beer personalities and venues. And they used the internet, bloggers, et al far better than TBATC has ever learned to do.
2. Brewers without ego. I've handled my share of celebrity chefs for TBATC events over the years, and with nary an exception, brewers are not stuck on themselves as many famous chefs are. You didn't hear a single gossipy word about any behind-the-scenes scenes at any of the PBW events.
3. The product doesn't get bastardized. At TBATC events, it is typically the job of the host chef and his restaurant to make the dishes created by the celebrity chef/cookbook author. And you and I know that already takes the food one level away from its origin. Rarely does the guest celeb chef get behind the line and cook at the restaurant that hosts him. They are typically there to peddle and sign their latest cookbook. At PBW, the beer is the product and the real star, and nobody gets to mess with it.
4. Organizers who loved what they were doing. Tom Peters from Monk's Cafe, Don Russell from the Philadelphia Daily News and Bruce Nichols from the Museum Catering Company; did you ever see three happier guys at beer events than these three? If there was stress in putting PBW together, they never let it show. Pure joy on their public faces, and that's a huge confidence booster.
5. Longevity of interest. After TBATC, there would be an annual summary/post-mortem article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a column from Rick Nichols sometimes, some boldface names in Michael Klein's and Dan Gross' daily gossip columns (or Stu Bykofsky's before that) and that was that. Weeks after Philly Beer Week, people were still talking about Philly Beer Week.
And here's hoping for an even better (if that's possible) Philly Beer Week next year. OK, now we can talk about something else.
How about wine?

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