HughE Dillon: Philly Beer Week

Plus: Mayor Nutter taps a keg, the Budweiser Clydesdales clip-clop to town, and McGillin's anniversary party

After the Independence Visitor Center shut its doors Friday to tourists, it opened them again at 7:30 p.m. to kick off Philly Beer Week with about 400 thirsty celebrants. Started back in 2008 with just a handful of beer-related events, Philly Beer Week will have over 1,000 events during this year’s 10-day celebration.

According to Don Russell, also known as beer columnist Joe Sixpack, Philadelphia is the best beer-drinking city in America. Philadelphia’s beer history dates back to at least 1680, when city founder William Penn began work on his brewery. The first American lager is said to have been brewed here in 1840. And U.S. Marine lore holds that the Corps was conceived at long-gone Tun Tavern in the Old City neighborhood in 1775.

ABOVE: Amy Widmayer, Brittney Theimes, Zack Cyphers, Doug Hager, and Alyssa Wener from Brauhaus Schmitz (celebrating its first birthday this month) carried the Ceremonial Beer Week Sledgehammer on the last leg of its tour of the city during which it visited many of the bars and pubs that would be participating in Beer Week.

Mayor Nutter taps the first keg with a giant ceremonial hammer keg. Looking on is Joe Sixpack, Ben Franklin and about 400 thirsty, excited beer drinkers.  Shortly after, the Mayor jetted off to watch the Flyers beat the Blackhawks to tie the series 2-2. Also watching the spectacular game that night was Cherry Hill’s Ali Larter, Pat Sajack, VP Joe Biden and Jill Biden, and Cyndi Lauper. Cyndi was in town to play a 20-minute set at the World Cafe for the WXPN 10th annual Non-COMM.

The crowds swelled to an early guestimated 600. At one point I tweeted that “all the single ladies, all the single ladies need to beat a path to the visitor center as there were a boatload of single men there and the conversation would be nice and easy.”

John S. “Woody” Chandler runs the “the not so Secret Society of Better Beer Drinkers” out of Lancaster, PA, and is excited to be here at another Beer Week Festival. Here he’s chatting with master brewer Beau Baden of Fegley’s Brew Works in Lehigh Valley, as Casey Deceia and Jesse Albertson look on.


McGillin’s Olde Ale House celebrated its 150th anniversary on Sunday, and I stopped by for the party.

McGillin’s opened in 1860. The tavern’s long, storied history is filled with celebrities, ghosts and a tale of survival through not only the current economic recession but also the Great Depression, and even Prohibition.

Not only is McGillin’s a great place to grab a drink, but I eat lunch there about once a week, and Cass Gaffney (right) usually waits on me. Linda McGurk (left), who used to work there, was married in McGillin’s in 1983.

The two-story, inside/outside, ticketed gala featured a three-hour open bar (with craft beer, wine and cocktails), a hearty dinner of comfort foods, and a great Irish band that enticed more than a few people to do an Irish jig. What was really nice is that they limited tickets to 300 so there was ample room to roam.

ABOVE: Chris Mullins Sr. (owner of McGillin’s), Steve Lungo, David Ade (SMP Architects), Paul Steinke (GM at Reading Terminal), and Chris Mullins Jr.

ABOVE: Rose McNamee and Susan Sullivan. Susan was the incarnation of Mama McGillin who would espouse the house rules to the patrons if they got out of hand. 1) Gentlemen were instructed that there would be no discussion of politics or religion in their establishment; 2) There would be no singing or dancing. If either of these rules were broken, patrons would be tossed out. But mama, seriously, no singing or dancing in an Irish pub?

ABOVE: Most creative black-tie dressers of the evening were Carol and Ed Stoudt, Stoudt Breweries, here with Carol Drumstas of Brown & Forman. For the 150th anniversary, McGillin’s created its own 1860 IPA, brewed by Stoudts. Carol tells me that the trio is off to Italy next week for a vacation. Ciao!ABOVE: Leslie Kase (Just in KASE), Andrew Swimney (president of The Philadelphia Foundation), David Ortega (Union League), and Jess Eary (Prudential Fox Roach).

A team of eight Budweiser Clydesdales arrived at McGillin’s at about 6 p.m. Columnist Joe Six Pack climbed aboard carrying Beer Week’s ceremonial sledgehammer—no doubt on his way to today’s Happy Hour Yoga with Mrs. Joe Six Pack, Theresa Conroy at Yards Brewery at 6 p.m.

Check out my personal blog for daily posts or follow me on Twitter @iphillychitchat for up to the minute info on events and who’s doing what.