From Grey Lodge to Yards’ Best Brew, a Philly Beer-Drinker’s 2012 Diary

What did you imbibe this year?

2012 is the first full year I’ve been using Untappd—the beer app that lets you keep track of what beers you’ve had and where (because the act of drinking beer is not conducive to remembering), and lets your friends quantify the extent of your drinking problem. Today, I’m taking a hazy stumble down Fuzzy Memory Lane to run down my personal 12 local beer drinking highlights of 2012:

12. Victory’s Alla Spina Novello: This collab between Downingtown’s Victory and Alla Spina honcho Marc Vetri is a kinder, gentler take on Victory’s Golden Monkey. The first of what will soon be three joint efforts, it’s a perfect embodiment of Philly cross-fertilization, and a window into the future as Victory moves into its new brewhouse, leaving its old brewpub facility prime for experimentation.

11. Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale: Bell’s is not local (though we drink a lot of it here in Philly), but I was drinking it at the New Wave Cafe while watching the Flyers play in the Winter Classic. Aw, remember hockey?

10. Cabinet Artisanal Brewhouse’s Heart and Soul and No Love Lost: Named for songs by Joy Division (rounding out the series were New Dawn Fades and Exercise One), these beers brewed in Alexandria, Virginia, by Terry Hawbaker, and, for a time, the house brews at drama central Farmer’s Cabinet, were otherworldly. But, like Ian Curtis, they were also not long for this world, as liquor law hijinks in Virginia led to a “dozen or so” batches being dumped. Unknown pleasures, indeed.

9. Tröegs’ Perpetual IPA: Had my first taste of the Harrisburg brewery’s new imperial IPA at a bar in Cambridge, Mass., called Lord Hobo. While the bar name was indeed part of the highlight, I also like what it says about the reach of regional beers.

8. Tired Hands Brewing Company’s The Everyday Complications of Modern Human Life: Met a friend in Ardmore to toss back a few beers at this newish brewpub and was pleased not only with the poetic beer names (which included some Halloween seasonals like Ghost, Creature and Werewolf), but with the quality of the beer and absolutely delectable bread and butter appetizer (for real).

7. Dogfish Head’s White Lodge, Black Lodge and Grey Lodge: A pair of Twin Peaks-inspired collaborative brews from Dogfish Head’s head brewer Ben Potts and Grey Lodge Pub owner Scoats. Black Lodge incorporated Agent Cooper faves cherry puree, coffee and Douglas Fir needles while While Lodge, a smoked vanilla cream hefeweizen, was said to represent “garmonbozia,” or “pain and suffering.” A blend of the two created the exquisite Grey Lodge.

6. Philadelphia Brewing Company/Commonwealth Ciders’ Traditional Dry: One of the great things about Philly beer is that most days around quitting time you can walk into Atlantis: The Lost Bar and drink a PBC with the people who make it. This year, PBC spun off Commonwealth Cider and launched its first excellent offering, Traditional Dry.

5. Allagash’s Old HLT: Brought this exquisite wild sour cherry ale purchased on vacation in Maine to a sour beer-tasting party/fish fry on a South Philly roof deck in the middle of the summer. Sours are getting big in Philly.

4. Great Lakes Rally Drum Red Ale: You had to go to the Great Lakes brewpub in Cleveland to get this beer brewed for the Indians’ opener. Oh, or you could get it if you were at Springfest, a top-notch, 51-brewery (!) beer festival at Merchantville, New Jersey’s Blue Monkey Tavern, a real across-the-river, under-the-radar gem of a beer bar. Of course, I almost killed myself trying to bike back to PATCO—was I that hammered or did those bike lanes actually disappear?

3. Dogfish Head’s Noble Rot: A fantastic example of when the “let’s see what happens when we do this crazy shit” attitude at Delaware’s Dogfish Head goes very, very right. Brewed with must and fungus, Noble Rot’s an uncanny joining of beer and wine. And really tasty.

2. Yards’ Hoppy Lil’ Hudson: Only available on cask at Callowhill’s Prohibition Tap Room (which is dangerously close to where I work), this full-bodied IPA is a monument to the wonders of cask conditioning, and could be the best beer Yards makes.

1. Prism Brewing Company’s Bitto Honey IPA: This could just as easily go to any of the 13 (give or take, but probably give) beers I tried on Friday, Jan. 13th, at The Grey Lodge Pub’s Friday the Firkinteenth, but since Prism’s honey IPA is local and really good, let’s go with that. The backstory: Every Friday the 13th, the Grey Lodge in the Great Northeast holds an event where they bring in 25 or so firkins of cask-conditioned beer and then challenge its clientele to finish them (as cask-conditioned beer is best consumed upon tapping). This was my first such event, and as such, I took a half day off of a job I was fairly new at to attend. Like other social media, Untappd awards badges for certain kinds of activity, and on that Friday at around 3 p.m., I earned my “Beer Party” badge, my “Winter Wonderland” badge and, most embarrassingly, my “Drinking Your Paycheck” badge, all of which went right to my Facebook and Twitter for any of my new co-workers to see. Modern living! Of course, after consuming all that liquid, the long slog home on SEPTA from Frankford and Harbison to South Philly required Herculean feats of bladder control and featured me forgetting at which station you transfer from the El to the Broad Street Line. Long night. So, um, yeah, it was my 2012 beer-drinking highlight—all that, and I didn’t get fired!

What were your local beer highlights?