On February 22, 2014, the Third Annual Philly Bierfest was held at the German Society of Pennsylvania in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. A beautiful spring-like day along with dirndls and lederhosen as far as the eye could see assured the long line of eager beer drinkers that it was going to be a wunderbar day even before the doors opened.
The event celebrated Pennsylvania’s German heritage, serving primarily German-style lagers and pilsners, weizens and kölsches, alts and bocks from both German and Pennsylvania breweries.
There was a Pennsylvania Beer Hall in the Spring Garden Building including breweries like Appalachian Brewing, Barren Hill, Free Will, Lancaster, Neshaminy Creek, Nodding Head, Penn Brewery, Philadelphia Brewing, Round Guys, ShawneeCraft, Sly Fox, Stoudts, Tröegs, Victory, and Yards, among others. A few celebrities in the beer world, including Lancaster Brewing Company Brewmaster Bill Moore, were on hand to serve thirsty patrons.
A second building was added for this year’s beer fest, and this was where the German Beer Hall was located. Some of the German brews on hand included beers from Bitburger, Kölstritzer, König Ludwig, Warsteiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner, Hofbräuhaus Traunstein, Kloster Andechs, Neumarkter Lammsbräu, and Würzburger Hofbräu.
As a tasty bonus, the Köstritzer Schwarzbier was paired with a Black Forest Butter Cake. Also, there was an array of cheese samples offered by the Di Bruno Brothers.
The Shelton Brothers, beer importers out of Massachusetts, served and impressive line-up of German beers from Freigeist, Kulmbacher, Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe, Mahr’s, Döllnitzer Ritterguts, and The Monarchy. My personal favorite beer of the entire festival was Kulmbacher’s Reichelbrau Eisbock, a 9.2% ABV freeze-concentrated doppelbock.
The Foodery was also present in the German Beer Hall offering up samples from many German imports at their Import Bar including beers from Ayinger, Bräuhaus Faust-Miltenberger, DAB, Dinkelacker, Früh, Hofbräuhaus Wolters, Hofbräu München, Pinkus, Radeberger, Sünner, Stiegl, Tucher, Veldensteiner, and Weltenburger Kloster.
Throughout the event there were several events in which attendees could participate. Two events that challenged drinkers to test their strength were the Brauhaus Schmitz sponsored ‘Hold Your Beer’ challenge with Beer-Jello Masskrugstemmen, and the Philly Roller Girls sponsored arm wrestling challenge.
A brewer’s discussion panel was held towards the end of the bierfest in the Bierfest Academy where attendees who were “thirsting for beer talk” could listen to brewers discus this rise and fall and rise again of German-style brewing.
Music from the soulful bluegrass sounds of Keystone Mountain Boys and both traditional and modern takes on polka from Polkadelphia filled the halls. Traditional Schuhplattler Dancers and Berlin-Style BEERlesque dancers were also on hand providing entertainment. The BEERlesque show starred Reggie Bugmuncher, Nina de Voix, Miss Theresa and Maria Bella.
For those interested, there was also a Learning Lounge sponsored by Kulmbacher with interactive education stations about beer basics and beer history of Germany and Pennsylvania. Visitors learned about the differences between lagers and ales, beer ingredients, Franconian brewing (including the region’s famed Schwarzbier), and Pennsylvania’s German-style brewing history.
Reading Terminal Market’s Wursthaus Schmitz offered tradition German platters for sale including brats, kraut, German potato salad, and beer cheese soup. Free desserts and coffee were available as well.
VIP ticket holders enjoyed early access to the beer halls and collectable beer mugs. There was also a VIP lounge and a VIP beer pairing seminar with nationally-renowned sommelier, author and wine educator, Marnie Old. Free child care and discounted designated driver tickets were offered.
Overall, a feeling of gemutlichkeit filled the beer halls, and for just one day, everyone in attendance was German.