"AMERICA'S BEST Beer-Drinking City."
Surely, there is a bit of hubris in the slogan of Philly Beer Week. The organizers - myself included - don't intend any disparagement of other great elbow-bending burgs. But gazing at the schedule for the world's first-ever citywide beer extravaganza, it's hard to even imagine who's in second place.
Philly Beer Week is coming March 7-16.
And before you pull out your calculator, that's actually 10 days of festivities. There are so many dinners, tastings and festivals, a week wasn't enough time. In fact, the entire event unofficially kicks off the week before, on March 1, with the second annual Philly Craft Beer Festival at the Philadelphia Cruise Ship Terminal.
More than a week of beer-drinking, what are we thinking?
Mainly, that it's about time this city dumped its we-are-not-worthy attitude and beat its chest over something that we have every right to take pride in. I gripe as much as the next guy about our lousy sports teams, politicians, crime, litter, and the Parking Authority. But when it comes to beer and the places to enjoy it, Philly is world-class.
Here's what we've got going for us:
_ Tradition. We were making beer in this town before William Penn even stepped foot on dry land. The Declaration of Independence was practically written in our Colonial taverns. The nation's first lager - the most popular style in America - was brewed in Northern Liberties. Beer is in our DNA.
_ Diversity. We enjoy more styles of beer than anybody else. Other beer towns are so parochial, they boast that they won't drink anything but their own; Philly sucks down everything.
The Belgian beer trend? It was invented here.
American craft beer? Every American microbrewer sends its beer here, or wishes it could.
Local beer? Our breweries produce award-winning versions of practically every beer style known to man.
_ Taverns. This is Philly's trump card. That corner bar you take for granted is what makes the city unique.
In most towns, beer joints have as much atmosphere as a T.G.I. Friday's. Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and that's never more true than in its tavern scene.
Think of Standard Tap, the Khyber, McGillin's Old Ale House, Eulogy, South Philly Tap Room, Grace Tavern. Whether they're Irish, German, Belgian, Italian, Polish or good ol' American, our joints not only serve great beer, they are real and vibrant reflections of the city.
Philly Beer Week will celebrate it all. Unlike other festivals that focus on beer and the craft of brewing, this one is about the enjoyment of great beer in a great city.
The highlights include:
March 7: Joe Sixpack's Philly Favorites
The kickoff event, at the new Marketplace at East Falls, will feature a single beer, handpicked by yours truly, from each of more than 20 Philadelphia-area breweries. And no wimpy pours, either!
This event will also serve as the official launching of "Joe Sixpack's Philly Beer Guide: A Reporter's Notes on the Best Beer-Drinking City in America" (Camino Books, $14.95).
March 9: The Fourth Annual Brewer's Plate
This flavor-filled event at Independence Visitor Center has quickly become one of the city's most popular beer events, matching local restaurant dishes with Philly brews.
March 11: Meet the Brewer
A citywide event in which local, national and international brewers will hold down the fort at more than a dozen local taverns, serving and chatting about their own distinctive beer.
March 14: A Tribute to Michael Jackson
A sit-down dinner in the Chinese Rotunda at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in honor of the late British beer writer.
March 15: 19th Annual Penn Museum Tutored Tasting
Jackson, who led this tasting each year, sadly is gone. This year I'll be leading a panel of experts with a focus on Jackson's legacy in the world of beer.
March 16: The Philadelphia Real Ale Festival
Real ale is naturally carbonated beer served at cellar temperature; it's the best way to enjoy traditional beer. This event will be held at the new home of Yards Brewing in Northern Liberties.
There are many other events, including nightly tastings and dinners at Monk's Café, homebrewing featured at Jose Pistola's, a tour of the growing Main Line beer scene led by beer scribe Lew Bryson and a ladies beer tea.
You'll be hearing more about the individual events in coming days. The Daily News will publish a Philly Beer Week guide on March 7 that will be distributed citywide.
You can find a full calendar at www.phillybeerweek.org, but make sure you check back often; more events are being added.
And, to whet your thirst, drop in at the next Full Moon free beer tasting from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday at the Marketplace at East Falls (3747 Ridge Ave., East Falls).
These tastings, held each full moon, are sponsored by Total-Bru and the Philly Craft Beer Fest. This one features samples of the best from Stone's, Southampton, Troeg's, Iron Hill and Woodchuck. *