When we last saw our intrepid craft beer bloggers, they had survived another Philly Beer Week Open Tap. And for most years that would have been enough for us, but the next day I woke up to find that Co-Admin Patrick Huff of the Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers was getting together an event to travel into Philly for Varga Bar’s Craft Beer Block Party. It sounded like a fun crowd was going and, quickly getting the nod from Tracey, we decided to tag along for the day.
This was our first time at Varga Bar, a well known craft beer haven on Spruce Street, and we were not disappointed. True the “block party” was a little smaller than I had anticipated, it filling only a little more than the length of the bar’s outside facade. The street area contained some tents and tables (and a dunking booth, only the second beer event I’ve ever been to that had one) but for the most part served as an area for people to mingle and converse.
The energy was nice, with people eagerly heading to the beer tent that was selling the likes of 21 First Amendment, Sly Fox, Otter Creek, Sam Adams, Abita and Round Guy’s “The Inquire’s Brewvintational” third place new beer winner, Fear of a Brett Planet – all in cans (No bottle snobs here please); or to the bar itself, which although crowded, was pouring awesome drafts (heavy on New Belgium) of beers we don’t normally see in Delaware like Avery’s “White Rascal” Witbier and Left Hand “Nitro” Milk Stout, which was REALLY good. We made several trips inside to partake of their offerings.
As always click on any picture to see them full size in gallery mode.
After a few hours we were ready to move on and Patrick was keen to walk down to the Tria Cafe. We only stayed for a couple of beers but figured some snacks wouldn’t be a bad idea after a few hours of drinking so Robert and Patrick ordered a plate of figs and cheese; and Dana ordered some rosemary potato chips. There are several potato based provisions that I hold in high esteem; the garlic fries at Brewer’s Art and the Pommes Frites at Monks (more on those later) just to name a few, but you can add Tria’s rosemary chips to the list. Serious snackage.
But this isn’t The Dogs of Chips, so lets talk about the Dock Street Summer Session, The Deschute Black Butte Porter and the Doctor Fritz Briem’s 1809 Berliner Weisse, that all got passed around. Or better yet, lets just look at more pictures! Oh, and a nod to the most courteous staff I’ve encountered in a long time. Really, these guys were just great!
Remember the subtitle for my previous post, “Wrong Turns, Great Beers and Mussels”, well here we go. We left Tria with the intention of finding another place to call our temporary craft beer home when Tracey pointed out that we were only about five blocks from Monks Cafe and, reminding me that we had been denied mussels the night before, suggested we stop there for dinner. Unfortunately this wasn’t just Monks, it was Monks during Philly Beer Week and we had to admit that getting a table might be damn near impossible.
Luckily, while we did encounter an hour and a half wait (time we killed at the Fox and the Hound), we finally did get a table and after some seat shuffling, and menu scanning, Dana enthusiastically stated, “Hey Ed, they have Damnation on draft!” (I was wearing my Damnation shirt). My eyes quickly found the beer but quickly got pulled to the beer below it, “They have Pliny the Elder on draft!”. And after a few more seconds Dana responded, “They have Blind Pig at the back bar!”
While it doesn’t require anything to make a meal of mussels better, two Russian River beers I’ve never had (Damnation, Pliny), and one that I had and really enjoyed (Blind Pig) would certainly do just that. Once we got confirmation from the waiter that the beers were still available, we sent him away with a request of two each of the Damnation and Pliny, plus a couple of orders of pommes frites. – sadly to the bewilderment of Rob, who somehow had been forgotten in the ensuing commotion of ordering.
And I told you we’d get to the pommes frites, or Belgian fries, a classic (and some say original) take on the well known French fry. Monks makes an awesome pomme frites (sadly not served in the classic newspaper cone, but still) that is served with a culinary condiment that is probably made from ingredients that represent the most vile and unhealthy things found in creation – you know, things like mayonnaise, lard, Justin Beiber melodies and the tears of unloved puppies, yet stills manages to taste really good on a finger full of fried potatoes. So in other words, good eats!
I wish I could give you a mouth watering description of this mussels/frites/Russian River beers feeding frenzy, but unfortunately at that time we were all too focused on our hunger and talking about the beers. We destroyed three orders of frites, two pots of mussels, and multiple beers in what just may have been a record time. If Monks kept track of those sorts of things. Which they should. But they don’t.
But I will say this about the fabled beers of Russian River, they are VERY good. I personally favored Damnation, an awesome golden strong ale which thrilled me to no end; and not just because of the shirt, although I’ll admit that being able to say “yes” to the continued question, “Did you like Damnation”, is a great relief. Next I’d go with the Blind Pig, which I’ve had thanks to a bottle gift from tDoB co-founder Chuck. Chuck and the Beer Goddess were both very adamant that Blind Pig was a better beer than the fabled Pliny the Elder. And I’d agree with them – but damn is it close! The Elder is nothing to sneeze at. A finely made DIPA to be sure. I’d love to try this line up again at the beginning of a day of drinking instead of more towards the end. Probably would appreciate them more, if that’s even possible.
After a meal of great food and beer it was, of course, time to call it a night and head home, which of course means that instead of walking to the car, we walked over to Samson Street’s Nodding Head Brewery. I’ve always enjoyed going to Nodding Head, even back when the space housed the Samuel Adams Brewhouse. Unfortunately they didn’t have the beer on draft that bears one of my favorite names, Monkey Knife Fight, but they did have their Grog, an English brown ale (so good), and their Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse.
Now it really was time to go home. Tracey and I would like to thank DCBaWL members Patrick for putting the event together, a huge thanks to Rob for being the driver for the day (and getting us in and out of Philly with no wrong turns) and Dana, for well, just being Dana. Without this event, the Opening Tap would have been the only time we spent at Philly Beer Week, and thanks to it, we know we want to spend more time in Philly for next year’s.