With more beers than ever for Brewvi VII, the panel grew to 12. This year, aside from assessing the newest and sourest offerings, our judges also came with handy recommendations for their favorite local craft beer classics.
Brian "Stillwater" Strumke, this year's special guest out-of-town brewer, takes "out-of-town" to a new level. A former electronica DJ, he has a brewery in Baltimore, Stillwater Artisan, but is actually a gypsy brewer who travels the world producing unorthodox Belgian-style Stillwater- branded beers from Denmark to Spain. Favorite local standard: Victory Prima Pils is "the quintessential 'American Pilsner.' It takes its roots from German heritage, but its crisp body and aggressive hopping make it a true American original and benchmark."
Jon Myerow is the beer mind (and former Russian scholar) behind the highly curated brew lists at Tria Cafes and Taproom, which he co-owns. Favorite classic Philly beer: Yards ESA, "due to its great balance and full flavor. I yearn for the day when beer lovers gravitate toward British-style British ales."
Matt Guyer is owner of the Beer Yard in Wayne, one of the area's leading beer distributors, who was selling craft brews long before it was trendy. Favorite local standard: Sly Fox Pikeland Pils for "its crisp, clean, balanced flavor."
Glen Macnow is best known as a 94 WIP sports talk radio host but has become quite the hop head in recent years as co-host of the Bar Talk podcast and part owner of the Conshohocken Brewing Co. To avoid conflicts, Glen did not taste or vote on any CB Co. beers. Favorite local standard: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, "because it's hoppy and bitter and sweet, piney and citrusy. A monstrous IPA on steroids."
Meredith Rebar is co-creator of Home Brewed Events, an education and beer event company, a certified cicerone, homebrewer, and member of the Pink Boots Society, who has also worked at Origlio Beverage, Tröegs, and Appalachian Brewing. Favorite local standard: Neshaminy Creek's Churchville Lager because "it's a classic example of a Vienna lager with a solid malt backbone and German Tettnanger hops to balance it out."
Ben Keene is managing editor of BeerAdvocate magazine and has contributed to The Oxford Companion to Beer. Favorite local classic: Weyerbacher's Merry Monks, "a strong, aromatic Tripel many a monastery would be pleased to call their own, a beer I enjoy revisiting year after year."
Felicia D'Ambrosio is a veteran of the Philly restaurant scene for the last 20-plus years, working as a journalist, Yelp community manager, and the communications voice of Federal Donuts. She now fills many roles at the Belgian beer shrine Monk's Cafe. Favorite Philly classic: Yards Love Stout: "It's a great example of a classic dry stout, easy to drink and a great pair for food."
Judy Parsons manages the Bethlehem branch of Keystone Homebrew, where the former dairy farmer has been since 1998. She is also a nationally certified beer judge. Favorite local classic: Free Will's C.O.B. (Coffee Oatmeal Brown) because of "the light creaminess that the oatmeal gives with the distinct coffee flavor and underlying chocolate notes from the brown ale that's not overly sweet."
Josh Weikert is a professor of political science at Villanova and West Chester Universities, but he leads a double life as a "grand master" beer judge who is also a two-time Eastern Pennsylvania homebrewer of the year, and author of the blog beer-simple.com. Favorite Philly classic: Nodding Head's Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse because "I'm a big small-beer fan, and you can easily drink pints of this one. The grainy and tart flavors are a perfect match. Nothing better to drink on a warm day!"
Harold Brubaker is an Inquirer business writer but also a serious beer fan. A longtime homebrewer, Harold fell in love with good beer during his junior year abroad in Germany, which explains his enduring preference for lagers. Favorite local classic: Sly Fox Pikeland Pils is "an awesome North German-style pilsner I never tire of drinking. It's floral and spicy with malty depth."
Rick Nichols, Inquirer food columnist emeritus, has played the role of lovable Brewvi curmudgeon since its creation, though when it comes to sour beers, a dose of sweet woodruff syrup will make him smile. Favorite local classic: Sly Fox's Royal Weisse, "a soft, friendly, nicely carbonated, mildly fruity, minimally hopped wheat beer that at 5.4 percent alcohol is a good daytime choice as well as an after-dark beer, especially if it's going to be a long evening.