Philly Beer Week 2011 celebrated Philadelphia, beer, tourism and the grand traditions associated with Philadelphia’s long history in this northeastern U.S. metropolis of 1.5 million people. The 10-day June Beer Week included more than 1,000 functions, book-ended by the arrival of the Hammer of Glory at Opening Tap in the Philadelphia Independence Visitors Center and T.T.U.D., “That Totally Unnecessary Drink” night, at Fergies Pub on Sansom Street.
Big events, such as the Forum of the Gods, the International Great Beer Festival, and Zythos America, anchored the week, while specials dedicated to local collaboration beers, beer dinners, and celebrity brewers provided the chance to attend multiple functions in one day. But only one was totally focused on women: The Ladies Beer Tea at the Belgian Café in the Fairmount region of Philadelphia.
The ladies’ Sunday afternoon luncheon has become a Philly Beer Week ritual for women who love beer. In its fourth year, the Ladies Beer Tea is organized by Nancy Rigberg of Home Sweet Homebrew, a homebrew supply shop that Nancy runs with her husband George Hummel. Some of the ladies even wore hats.
The women were welcomed with Dogfish Head Sah ‘Tea, a playful choice that focused on the charms of “afternoon tea” with its infusion of black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and black pepper. Based on a ninth century Finnish beer recipe, Sah’ Tea is fermented with German Weizen yeast; then gets a toss of juniper berries for added spice.
Along with a plate of savory canapés, the ladies were treated to Iron Hill Saizanne, a collaboration brew between Suzanne Woods, the Beer Lass at Sly Fox, and her beau, Chris Lapierre, Head Brewer at Iron Hill Brewery in Maple Shade, New Jersey. Lapierre focused on Saison, a style that won him a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2008. Suzanne contributed Sly Fox Saison yeast. The couple then agreed to add green and pink peppercorns for a touch of zestiness on the tongue. The pepper merged Woods’ hobby of collecting pepper-mills with the official colors of the Women’s IPA Club of Philadelphia, which Suzanne founded in June of 2006. The result is a beer that is fruity, merges well with light fare, and provides just a hint of heat in the back of the mouth. Suzanne Woods herself was on-hand to introduce the beer and add her charismatic charm to the afternoon.
What is tea without “tea sandwiches”? A varied assortment touched the flavor wheel on all sides. FromsSmoked salmon to arugula & goat cheese, they married well with Bière de l’Amitié, a Friendship Brew collaboration between Green Flash of San Diego and Brasserie St Feuillen of Le Roeulx, Belgium. According to Chuck Silva of Green Flash Brewing, this one-off beer is “a convergence of great Belgian tradition and Green Flash innovation,” a merging of traditional Belgian Strong Blonde Ale with American Amarillo hops in the kettle, followed by innovative West Coast dry hopping.
The ladies finished off with Crème Brûlée from Southern Tier of Lakewood, New York, a creamy-in-the-mouth Milk Stout with flavors of vanilla bean and toffee that aligned with the flavors of berries and cream. Timmermans Framboise, of Brouwerij Timmermans St-Martin of Dillbeek-Itterbeek, Belgium, brought tart raspberry flavors into the sweet-ending, lighting-up the flavors of chocolate, lime, and coconut.
Enthusiastic comments flowed from the ladies in attendance who gladly left their impressions in my writer’s journal. Although there were many, I could not resist sharing some of these precious thoughts:
“This is my 3rd beer tea. It’s always great fun and great beers. I’m on-call as a physician, but I still couldn’t miss beer tea…”
“Although I practically pay rent in Belgium, I’m a Ladies Beer Tea virgin. I love it already!”
“Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better environment for the ladies of the Belgian Café and those we welcome with open arms from nearby parishes & villages. If there’s one thing that brings women (real women) together, it is beer (real beer). I am honored to be part of this year’s beer tea and look forward to many in the future…”
“Women, friends, beer and conversation. Tea has certainly evolved – has it not? Thank you for the opportunity to be part of a women only event – See you next year…”
“Lovely to be surrounded by strong and interesting women…”
And from Jenny at the Association of Beer Vixens (ABV), Chicago: “I am a visitor to your city. I cofounded a women’s beer club in Chicago & happened to be in town for this event… we love connecting women who love beer with women friendly beer events, so this warmed my heart!”
Photos are (from top): Ladies enjoying Ladies Beer Tea Event; LBT Founder Nancy Rigberg, Sebbie Buhler of Rogue Ales, and Suzanne Woods, Beer Lass & Founder of the Women's IPA Club of Philadelphia; Suzy Woods engages a guest in conversation; Dessert Course: Berries and cream, lime tart, chocolate, coconut, and beer