By Ryan Hudak
with photos by LeeAnne Mullins
Sunday marked the seventh annual Brewer’s Plate in Philadelphia, a fundraiser for Fair Food and an event to celebrate local and sustainable breweries, restaurants, farmers and other artisanal producers—all of which are independently owned and located within 150 miles of Philadelphia. The options were seemingly endless as every available space had some kind of artisanal cheese, chocolate, dessert, gourmet food or craft beer. More times than not, the food and beer were specifically paired with each other for a one-of-a-kind collaboration between restaurants and breweries.
The beginning of the event was slow going after fellow Town Dish writer LeeAnne and I met up with our friends Sean, Jason and Dorrie. I had to decide which breweries were most important to hit—I wanted to avoid any beers I’d already had to minimize time waiting in line. I also had to figure out how to juggle the Brewer’s Plate pamphlet, my pen, the complementary beer glass and any food I was going to eat. Taking pictures, unfortunately, would require a fourth hand and was out of the question. Especially with the massive pulled pork “slider” from Royal Tavern. This thing was easily the size of three regular sliders and difficult to eat. But, it was as delicious as it was difficult and worth the struggle.
My first beer of the event was the Sly Fox Gang Aft Agley, a Scottish Ale/Wee Heavy that turned out much sweeter than I had expected, and minus any kind of smokiness (I’m told this is because it was served on cask). It was paired with a lamb which was marinated in the beer for three days from Rembrandt’s, which was also a stand-out. My first disappointment came when I saw Dogfish Head’s offerings for the event were the Midas Touch and the India Brown Ale—both extremely good beers, but I had expected at least one rarer or more outlandish offering from the brewery. I guess I have it pretty good when I can complain about having to choose between two solid offerings from one of the best craft breweries in the country.
The next stop was Nodding Head, a brewery that seems to be constantly talked about but I’ve never really caught on to. The food is fair and the beers I’ve had have never stood out to me, so I’ve written them off lately. Wanting to see what the fuss is about, I dove into their two selections—BPA and Rufus—which weren’t bad. I don’t think they were anything amazing, but tasty nonetheless. They were, however, overshadowed by their food pairing: Southwark did a hoagie with hop salami from La Divisa Meats. Hop salami! While the pickled red onions on the hoagie overshadowed the salami a bit, when it was eaten on its own, the subtle hop flavor came forward and it was delicious.
With four hours of food and beer to go through, there were plenty of highs and lows. We were proud to hear our friends at Prism were the first brewery to kick their kegs, using the word-of-mouth hype for the Love is evoL strawberry jalapeno brown ale to drive their beer to the end. I was also happy to get a big IPA, with Fegley’s BrewWorks’ Hop’solutely triple IPA being the only one present—and the only one necessary. The two other beers I feel were worth mentioning would be my first taste of Flying Fish’s Exit 9 hoppy scarlet ale and Weyerbacher’s smoked imperial stout Fifteen, which marked the brewery’s fifteenth anniversary in a hearty, smoky fashion.
The easy winner food-wise was the turkey meatball and chana masala from Bindi. A huge portion for an event such as this, it was warming and spicy and absolutely delicious. It didn’t hurt that only a few steps away were Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse and Shellbark Hollow, known for their goat cheese. The Drumm that Bobolink was featuring—in a young as well as an aged form—was so good it made LeeAnne and I stop in our tracks, especially when paired with the bakery’s cranberry bread.
The night was eventually ended with a quick treat from Chef Terrence Feury of Fork, who mixed Victory’s Festbier with Green Meadows’ marjoram for a refreshing treat, which was exactly what the night needed to be topped off. And while there were a few low points (not enough tables to eat/drink at, lack of bathrooms), the night as a whole was a great time—and all for a good cause. Make sure to keep an eye open for next year’s event and get tickets, especially since it is really growing and picking up steam, so it’s likely tickets will sell out even earlier next time around.