It’s best not to challenge a Philadelphia beer drinker on the city’s prowess in creating and consuming craft beer (formerly called microbrew). While there are many cities that have laid claim to the title of Best Craft-Beer City in America, in Philadelphia, there is only one that matters. Philadelphians consider their town to be the modern center of craft-beer culture and have, as such, proclaimed it “America’s Best Beer-Drinking City.” Anyone who argues otherwise should prepare to be coaxed (over a locally crafted brew, naturally) to open his/her mind and mouth to the assertion.
Let's Start With the History
Philadelphians have been brewing and drinking beer for more than 300 years and are responsible for the production of lager in America. The nation's founding fathers – many of whom were homebrewers – literally wrote the Declaration of Independence in Philly’s colonial taverns. Yards Brewing brews several styles inspired by their recipes and makes them available at City Tavern, a colonial-era landmark that still operates as a full-service re-creation of the tavern of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin’s day. Yuengling, the largest and oldest operating brewery in the U.S., is an hour's drive from the city. As the masterminds behind the annual ten-day Philly Beer Week (see, they love beer so much they can’t contain beer week within seven days) write on their website, "We were already famous for beer when Milwaukee was a cow pasture."
Philly Beer Week
As the first event of its kind, Philly Beer Week has done nothing less than launch a worldwide beer-appreciation revolution. After its first year in 2008, the regional festival was recognized as the largest event of its kind in the world. Following PBW's success, more than 50 American cities have since launched their own versions. In 2009, PBW boasted more than 700 events in 10 days, and 2010 blew that out of the fermenter with more than 1,000 craft and imported-beer events held at every type of imaginable indoor and outdoor venue across nine counties. It was PBW founders who designated Philly as "America's Best Beer-Drinking City" and hundreds of ensuing local beer-festival organizers since have lived up the promise. Philly Beer Week is held every year in June.
Fermenting with Belgian Yeast
If it weren't for Tom Peters of Monk's Café, we might all still be extolling the virtues of the German Reinheitsgebot instead of marveling at the wild yeast found in a funky Belgian Saison or debating how to define a "Belgian-style" beer. That's because it was Peters, whose iconic beer bar has been named "One of the Top 10 Places in the World to Have a Beer Before You Die" by All About Beer magazine, who can brag that he was one of the first people in the United States to sell Belgian beer (Chimay in 1985); poured the first draft Belgian in the U.S. (Kwak in 1986); and served America's first Chimay on tap (in the late 1990s). Peters is the only person in the world granted the privilege of picking his own wood barrels at the revered Cantillon Brewery in Belgium. Thanks to him and Belgian bar owners who have opened up shop more recently (Eulogy, Beneluxx and The Belgian Café among them), Philadelphia consumes more Belgian beer than any city outside Brussels, and many Belgian brewers send their beer here before shipping it to other states.
In 2009, the region had more than 30 breweries and brewpubs and more than 400 beer bars and restaurants, and the industry employed 6,000 workers. All of those numbers are growing, with half a dozen additional hyper-local breweries scheduled to open by the end of 2011. Philly-area brewers produce more varieties of beer than any other region in America, and Maxim and Gourmet are just two of the many prominent publications that have called Philadelphia the best beer city in the country. Speaking of journalism, no fewer than six of country’s best-known beer writers call the region home, and there’s even a bi-monthly glossy magazine called Philly Beer Scene that can be picked up in bars for free that’s devoted exclusively to … Philly’s beer scene.