The Beer Fox Interviews Michael Lawrence

Less than two weeks ago, eight illustrious celebrity judges identified another passionate beer lover and embraced him as their own in the ”City of Brotherly Suds.”  On that starlit night in Center City, Michael Lawrence was named 2013 Philly Beer Geek at the Field House.  His fan club, which included his Jenn, his Mom, and dozens of supporters, was a rowdy bunch, stirring up plenty of emotion to propel him to victory. And what about that zombie brother of his?

Carolyn Smagalski, Beer Fox and co-founder of the Philly Beer Geek Competition, could hardly wait to interview the champ.  By midpoint intermission, Mike Lawrence was oozing with confidence. He had already won intermission kudos from Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer, for the work he did on his movie, “Beeradelphia.”  He had nailed the mini-tasting, and it could only get better from there; but competition was tough, and it was anyone’s guess as to who would be named the winner. There was nothing easy about it.

Click here to read the three part interview that opens up the real Philly Beer Geek to the world:
Philly Beer Geek 2013 Mike Lawrence – Interview
Mike Lawrence Aces the Competition – Interview
The Serious Side of Mike Lawrence – Interview

Hoparazzi Videographer Wins 2013 Philly Beer Geek

For most videographers who live behind the lens, competing in front of an audience and camera can be a bit unnerving. Not so for Mike Lawrence, who dramatically seized the stage in his self-styled rendition of “Night of the Liquid Bread,” capturing the title as 2013 Philly Beer Geek on Thursday, June 6th at the Field House in Center City Philadelphia.

The noise from the wired-up fans was deafening as a million stars lit the sky through flashing lights and pounding music.  At least, that’s how it felt to Lawrence, as his name flowed through surround sound announcing him as Philly Beer Geek 2013. The excitement was infectious. In a Facebook thread, one woman wrote, “It was so exciting that my husband ran up on stage like he knew Michael for years!”

Continue reading:  Hoparazzi Videographer Wins 2013 Philly Beer Geek

Philly Beer Geek 2013 – Inspiring the American Dream

Philadelphia, PA— Beer in the City of Brotherly Suds has inspired the American Dream for a biochemist, a documentarian, and a former veterinary technician, along with three other professionals. Each has a burning desire to become Philly Beer Geek 2013.  Ready to prove their mettle, these six Finalists will stand face-to-face at the Field House in Philadelphia on Thursday evening, June 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm in the 2013 Philly Beer Geek Finals Championship.

Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company/Sam Adams Beer – yes, “the guy in the commercials”- will also be making an appearance at the 2013 Philly Beer Geek Championship as an honorary judge and the ultimate Philly Beer Geek of them all.  His former Sam Adams Brewpub on Sansom Street was the first brewpub in the city, making Jim Koch’s role as a true Philly Beer Geek a solid claim to fame.

Finalists appearing onstage this year are: Michael Soo, Michael Lawrence, Colin Presby, Aimee Richard, Andrew Pope, and Jessica Streeter. These geeks represent bars or brewpubs from every segment of the metropolitan region or suburbs, and each has the opportunity to win a 2013 Prize Package worth over $5000 this year, the biggest win since the competition began in 2008.

The 2013 Beer Geek also has the honor of serving on the jury of celebrity judges in the 2014 competition, designing the 2014 Philly Beer Geek Beer, and adding a brass-and-wood plaque to his/her wall of accomplishments.  Their sponsor is honored with a matching plaque.

If you can spell the Latin word for Ale yeast or know what style of beer is associated with Burton-on-Trent, you might have what it takes to become next year’s Philly Beer Geek.  In fact, watching the competition this year is like going to Prep School for Beer Geeks.

The three-hour competition promises to be a rowdy combination of beer trivia, beer tasting, opinion and laughs traded among 8 judges and the 6 finalists.  Philly Beer Geek Grodzinski, the second official collaboration beer of Philly Beer Geek, will be on tap.  Grodzinski was designed and brewed by 2012 Philly Beer Geek Steve Mashington and Head Brewer Doug Marchakitus of Manayunk Brewery.

During the competition, the finalists will be addressed solely by their newly embraced stage names, monikers that represent who they are in the world of beer:  A Brewer Named Soo from Dock Street Brewpub in University City; Bockman from Standard Tap of Northern Liberties; Pope from Iron Abbey of Horsham;  Professor Jess-ter Foole of Ales from Sly Fox in Phoenixville,  PA; Dr. Decoction from Time Restaurant & Whiskey Bar from Center City; and Hoparazzi from The Grey Lodge Pub in Northeast Philly.

The fun-filled competition focuses on both serious and comedic aspects of Philadelphia beer, and fosters overall knowledge and understanding of beer as an age-old, artisanal product.

A star-studded line-up of well-known beer personalities will serve on the Illustrious Panel of Celebrity Beer Judges in the Finals Competition.

The 2013 Illustrious Panel of Celebrity Beer Judges for the Finals – Jim Koch, Founder of Boston Beer Company and creator of Sam Adams Boston Lager; Steve Mashington, 2012 Philly Beer Geek Champion; Scoats, Philadelphia publican of the Grey Lodge Pub and Hop Angel Brauhaus; Lew Bryson, Philadelphia Beer Writer and blogger of As Seen through a Glass; Rosemarie Certo, Owner of Dock Street Brewery in Philadelphia;  Marnie Old, Beer and Wine Sommelier, author, writer and educator; Erin Wallace, Owner of the Old Eagle Tavern, Devil’s Den and Barren Hill Brewpub; and William Reed, Owner of Johnny Brenda’s and Standard Tap.

For additional info, interviews, or photos contact Carolyn Smagalski at 215.767.9671 and email: carolsmagalski@comcast.net , Jason Harris jasonh@keystonehomebrew.com , or Steve Hawk at shawkenator@gmail.com.

Philly Beer Geek is a three-part competition – Contestants must win a Preliminary Qualifying Round held at a sponsoring bar, brewpub or restaurant or be personally selected as one who has a high level of beer knowledge – then move on to the Semi-Finals, and ultimately, to the Finals where an illustrious panel of celebrity judges select and crown the Philly Beer Geek in this annual championship.

The annual Philly Beer Geek Competition began in 2008 as part of Philly Beer Week, a 10-day celebration of “Philadelphia, the Best Beer Drinking City in America.”  Co-founders Carolyn Smagalski, the Beer Fox of BellaOnline, and Jason Harris, Owner of Keystone Homebrew Supply in Montgomeryville and Bethlehem, PA, started the competition to reward “the individual who exhibits the greatest universal knowledge and passion for Philadelphia Beer.”

Are you following the Hammer of Glory?

The Route for the Hammer of Glory in Philadelphia, PA, USA

9:30 a.m. – arrives at Hop Angel Brauhaus (7980 Oxford Avenue); departs via Philly Roller Girls;

10:55 a.m. – arrives at Grey Lodge Pub (6235 Frankford Avenue); Another Beer in the Wall. Grey Lodge Pub will recreate the bad old days of fizzy yellow lager as they build a wall of macro beer in front of the Grey Lodge. The Philly Roller girls will appear to smash those bad old days of beer away. HOG will depart via Bike Caravan;

11:45 a.m. – arrives at Philadelphia Brewing Company (2439 Amber Street); departs via Kinetic Sculpture;

12:10 p.m. – arrives at Johnny Brenda’s 1201 Frankford Avenue); departs via Pedal Powered Cargo Bike;

12:30 p.m. – arrives at Bar Ferdinand and El Camino Real (1030 North 2nd Street); departs via TBA;

12:50 p.m. – arrives at The Foodery (837 North 2nd Street); departs via Stoudtsmobile;

1:00 p.m. – arrives at Standard Tap (901 North 2nd Street); departs via Love City Roller Girls and Imperial Shuttle;

1:30 p.m. – arrives at Yards Brewing Company (901 North Delaware Avenue); departs via The Widow Maker Kinetic Sculpture;

1:45 p.m. – arrives at SugarHouse Casino (1001 North Delaware Avenue); departs via Double Decker bus with the SugarHouse Sweeties;

2:20 p.m. – arrives at Brauhaus Schmitz (718 South Street); departs via Horse-drawn Carriage;

2:40 p.m. – arrives at 12 Steps Down (767 South 9th Street); departs via Rolling Staircase;

3:00 p.m. – arrives at Varga Bar (941 Spruce Street); departs via Speed Walker;

3:30 p.m. – arrives at Nodding Head (1516 Sansom Street); departs via the Blockley Pour House Brass Band Second Line with Nodding Head Mascot;

4 p.m. – arrives at Fergie’s (1214 Sansom Street); departs via Wee Motorcycle;

4:15 p.m. – arrives at Time (1315 Sansom Street); departs via Motorcycle Convoy;

4:40 p.m. – arrives at the Free Library of Philadelphia (1901 Vine Street); will be wheeled through the Brewed in Philly display on the second floor via decorated book truck;

5:00 p.m. – arrives at Kite and Key (1836 Callowhill Street); departs via Something Epic

5:20 p.m. – arrives at Belgian Cafe (601 North 21st Street); departs via The Reckoner

5:50 p.m. – arrives at The Institute (549 North 12th Street); departs via Wheelbarrow

6:30 p.m. – arrives at Opening Tap (Independence Visitor Center, 6th and Market Streets); will be used by Mayor Nutter for the ceremonial first tap of PBW 2013

At each location, as the H.O.G. is handed off to its next guide, the previous caretaker will offer a solemn toast: “Noble carrier, we entrust you with The Hammer of Glory, the omnipotent symbol of our beloved Philadelphia Beer Week. May our journey be safe. Work ye up a thirst, for there shall be a beer waiting for you at your destination. Godspeed!”

For people who would like to follow the Hammer of Glory, the SugarHouse Double Decker bus will be following the H.O.G. on May 31 throughout the day and provide free transportation to each stop.

Philly Beer Geek Championship Shows Philadelphia Pride

On May 14th, 2013, nineteen competitors came together at Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant in Philadelphia in hopes of moving one step closer to winning the title as 2013 Philly Beer Geek.  The title alone is one that commands respect in the Philadelphia region.

Philadelphia, known as the “Best Beer Drinking City in America,” and possibly the world, draws thousands of tourists in pursuit of the liquid bread we know as beer.  The metropolitan area and the surrounding region overflow with award-winning breweries and brewpubs.  Because of its dense population and location on the east coast, the Philly region is also privy to a diverse array of international beer.

Monk’s Café and Eulogy are largely focused on Belgian beer; Brauhaus Schmitz serves up German beer, including many exclusive releases not available anywhere else in the U.S.; and City Tap House, Blue Dog, Teresa’s, STPR, Time – along with numerous others, tap a rolling portfolio of beers from across the country and the world, including regions in Denmark, Austria, France, England, Japan, and Italy.  Some, including Standard Tap, Jose Pistolas, and Varga Bar, lean on the local element as their strong points.

Along with all this variety comes sophistication that can tell the difference between clean and tainted beer lines, wet-hopped and dry-hopped beers, or Gose and Gueuze.  If a beer-drinker’s knowledge needs development, many bartenders and servers are willing to help the process along, without being pompous or arrogant.

Philly beer drinkers are proud of their knowledge.  Their geekiness often includes personal knowledge of brewing, vacations to Belgium and Bavaria, or the ability to talk about beer until others’ eyes glaze over.  Carolyn Smagalski and Jason Harris, the founders of the Philly Beer Geek Championship, understand this propensity toward acquiring the highest level of beer knowledge in the world, and they want to reward it.  The Board of Directors of Philly Beer Week have heartily embraced the competition, as well, proud of the fact that Philadelphia beer lovers have both knowledge and passion for Philly’s beer.

Six Finalists were chosen out of the nineteen Semi-Finalists to move on to the last leg of the competition on June 6th at The Field House in Philadelphia.  Before a field of eight Illustrious Celebrity Judges, these Select Six will prove their mettle in a match that promises rewards of over $3,500 in beer-centric prizes, the privilege of designing the Philly Beer Geek Beer for 2014, and a spot on the panel of judges in 2014.

The Finalists, along with their stage names are:

  • A Brewer Named Soo from Dock Street Brewery in Philadelphia:
    • MICHAEL SOO
  • Bockman from Standard Tap of Philadelphia:
    • COLIN PRESBY
  • Dr. Decoction from Time Restaurant and Whiskey Bar in Philadelphia:
    • AIMEE RICHARD
  • Hoparazzi from The Grey Lodge Pub in Philadelphia:
    • MICHAEL LAWRENCE
  • POPE from Iron Abbey Gastro Pub in Horsham, PA:
    • ANDREW POPE
  • Professor Jess-ter Foole  of Ales from Sly Fox in Phoenixville, PA:
    • JESSICA STREETER

The panel of Judges, selected for the finals competition includes a special guest appearance by the ultimate Beer Geek himself, Jim Koch, founder of The Boston Beer Company, Sam Adams Beer.

The seven other Illustrious Celebrity Judges include:

Steve Mashington, 2012 Philly Beer Geek and current Manager of Growlers Bar, Philadelphia

Lew Bryson, award-winning author and drinks writer, “As Seen through a Glass”

Will Reed, co-chairman of the Philly Beer Week Board of Directors and co-owner of Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda’s, Philadelphia

Erin Wallace, member of the Board of Directors of Philly Beer Week and owner of the Old Eagle Tavern, Devil’s Den, Philadelphia, and Barren Hill Brewpub, Lafayette Hill

Scoats, member of the Board of Directors of Philly Beer Week and owner of The Grey Lodge Pub and Hop Angel Brauhaus

Rosemarie Certo, owner of Dock Street Brewery and one of the earliest microbrewers in the country

Marnie Old, author, speaker and Cheap Buzz columnist, and award-winning app writer and designer at the “Digital Book – World Publishing Innovation Awards” for her newest project, Wine Simplified.

Are we proud to be beer people in Philadelphia?  You bet we are!

2013 Philly Beer Geek Semi-Finals Hits High Mark

The 2013 Philly Beer Geek Semi-Finals Competition roars in on Tuesday evening, May 14th at Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant’s 2nd floor River Club with a cast of characters as different as the Cheers bar of famous sitcom fame.  All of the Philly Beer Geek competitors are highly competent players, vying for one of six spots in the Finals at The Field House on June 6th, during Philly Beer Week.

Competitors have seized their opportunity by either being identified by their sponsor as a highly competent Beer Geek, or by proving themselves in a field of competition by winning a Preliminary Round at one of the sponsoring brewpubs or restaurants in Philadelphia or the outlying suburbs.

The 2013 Philly Beer Geek Semi Finalists and their sponsors are:

Greg Piotrowski – Blue Dog Tavern in Chalfont, PA

Guy Jurvich – Brauhaus Schmitz in Philadelphia

Dan Obermeier – City Tap House in University City, Philadelphia

Greg Bishop – Devil’s Den in Philly

Michael Soo – Dock Street Brewery in Cedar Park, West Philadelphia

Amy Nichols – Doobies Bar, Philly, & Doylestown Brewing, Doylestown

Trevor Fitzgerald – Garrett Hill Ale House in Bryn Mawr

Michael Lawrence – Grey Lodge Pub in Mayfair, Philadelphia

Andrew Pope – Iron Abbey Gastro Pub in Horsham, PA

Chris Smith – Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Maple Shade, NJ

Mike Seamen – Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant in Manayunk, Philadelphia

David Wood – Old Eagle Tavern in Philadelphia

Jesse Andreozzi – Philly Beer Scene Magazine in Philadelphia

Paul Staudt – Prism Brewing in North Wales

David Politz – Rock Bottom Brewery in King of Prussia

Dan Brett – Round Guys Brewing in Lansdale

Jess Streeter – Sly Fox Brewing in Phoenixville

Colin Presby – Standard Tap of Philadelphia

Aimee Richard – Time Restaurant & Whiskey Bar in Philadelphia

The competition, focused on knowledge and passion, promises to roll along through rounds of Trivia Checkers – in which the contestants themselves will be the board pieces – beer tasting, free form questions from celebrity judges, and a final opportunity to make each one memorable.

An illustrious panel of Celebrity Judges will observe and challenge the contestants, before being sequestered to choose the final six.  These six will gain the opportunity to take home a package including:

  • A GRAND PRIZE of more than $3,000 in gift certificates and beer‐centric prizes
  • AN ENGRAVED PLAQUE proclaiming the winner Philly Beer Geek 2013
  • HONOR of creating the collaborative 2014 PHILLY BEER GEEK BEER
  • PRESTIGE & HONOUR of being PHILLY BEER GEEK 2013
  • OFFICIAL T‐SHIRT commemorating PHILLY BEER GEEK 2013
  • HONOR of being on the ILLUSTRIOUS PANEL OF BEER GEEK JUDGES 2014
  • AN ENGRAVED PLAQUE proclaiming the winner’s sponsor as Home of the Philly Beer Geek 2013

The 2013 Philly Beer Geek Championship promises to strengthen the position that Philadelphia has taken as the U.S. leader in beer sophistication.  Judges are Amicus Curiae and are not compensated for their service as Philly Beer Geek Judges. These individuals have made a significant mark in the industry and are honored as the most dedicated people in the business of beer.

The 2013 Illustrious Panel of Philly Beer Geek Semi-Finals Judges are:

Joe Bair, Solar Homebrewer and Owner of Princeton Homebrew, Trenton, New Jersey

Alchemist/owner of Princeton Homebrew who adds a whole new meaning to the term “mad scientist.”  Formerly in the Molecular Biology Department of Princeton University, Joe Bair creates the “greenest beer on the face of the planet.”

Doug Hager, Co‐owner of Brauhaus Schmitz and Wursthaus Schmitz, Philadelphia, PA

In 2009, Doug Hager competed in Philly Beer Geek as Finalist Mad King Dougwig.  Currently, he is co‐owner, with wife Kellyof Brauhaus Schmitz on South Street, listed as one of the city’s best restaurants in Philadelphia Magazine.  Brauhaus Schmitz showcases foods by Chef Jeremy Nolan, a 2013 Rising Star,  Hager is also owner of Wursthaus Schmitz in the Reading Terminal Market.

Doug Marchakitus, Head Brewer of Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant and Lead Collaborator

of the Official Beer of the Philly Beer Geek Competition since 2012, Philadelphia, PA

Doug Marchakitus is Head Brewer of Manayunk Brewing Company.  Formerly a homebrewing geologist from Virginia Tech, he fell into the competent hands of Larry Horowitz at Iron Hill Brewery in North Wales who got him hooked on the artisanal aspects of brewing.  With Horowitz, Marchakitus won a Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival 2008 for Abbey Dubbel.

Steve Mashington, Prestigious Philly Beer Geek 2012 & Manager at Growlers Bar, Kitchen & Living Room, Philadelphia, PA

Smashington, as he is affectionately called, has been at home in the beer world, from Stewarts to Triumph in Old City Philadelphia to Yards, primarily in Sales and Marketing.  He is the current Manager of Growlers Bar, Kitchen and Living Room in the Bella Vista region of Philadelphia.

Tara Nurin, Freelance Journalist & Epikur Writer of the Year, Camden, NJ

Tara Nurin was named Epikur Writer of the Year, and is an award‐winning freelance journalist, specializing in craft beer and sustainable food and drink.  She is a former TV news reporter, Ale Street News columnist, and Cicerone Certified Beer Server.  As a leader in the women’s beer movement, she is founder of Beer for Babes and is the official historian for the Pink Boots Society.

Keith Wallace, President & Founder of The Wine School of Philadelphia, Author, and Publisher, Epikur Magazine, Philadelphia, PA

As the President and Founder of The Wine School of Philadelphia, Keith Wallace authored Corked & Forked: FourSeasons of Eats and Drinks, ©2011, by Running Press.  He is Publisher of Epikur Magazine, and has served as both a beer and wine judge throughout the country.

Beer Drinking Turns Profitable in City of Brotherly Suds

Who would have thought that drinking beer could be a profitable venture? Apparently, this is not a crazy idea to Philadelphia’s brightest and best. Just ask those who have reached the Semi-Final level in the annual 2013 Philly Beer Geek Competition.

One is a filmmaker, two hold doctorates, several are homebrewers, and at least one holds Cicerone Certification. Some teach, others write. One trained a 3-legged goat against-all-odds and won … twice. Together, they concur that beer holds high stakes in the city of Brotherly Suds.

Tuesday evening, May 14, 2013, nineteen of the city’s most well-versed beer aficionados will duke-it-out at the 2013 Philly Beer Geek Semi-Finals Competition. Before a panel of six celebrity judges, they will demonstrate their knowledge and passion in fun-filled rivalry – each with the goal of winning one of six spots in the Finals, opening their opportunity to capture a prize package worth over $3,000.

And that’s not all. The 2013 Philly Beer Geek Champion earns the right to collaborate with Doug Marchakitus, Head Brewer at Manayunk Brewery, in designing the 2014 Official Philly Beer Geek Beer. The chief geek will also sit on the illustrious panel of Philly Beer Geek Judges in the 2014 competition.

According to Steve Mashington, 2012 Philly Beer Geek Champion, Philadelphia has finally earned its title as Best Beer Drinking City in America. “Nowhere else will you find such a large metropolitan area where beer is as celebrated, revered and enjoyed as it is by the people of the Greater Delaware Valley,” he says.

Carolyn Smagalski and Jason Harris, founders of the Philly Beer Geek competition, agree. The Philly Beer Geek Championship, now in its 6th year, seeks to identify and reward the individual with the greatest knowledge and passion for Philadelphia beer.

“Through the support of our great beer community, it carries on, year after year,” says Smagalski. “Our sponsors, competitors, judges, the beer press – and Philadelphia media – all contribute to what has grown into a fertile “Philly beer geek atmosphere.” We want the term “Philly Beer Geek” to become synonymous with excellence, no matter where we are in the country – like Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Philly Cheese Steaks, or Philly Soft Pretzels.”

This year’s competitors demonstrate the foothold beer has taken in Philadelphia. “Our Semi-Finalists are sponsored from every region of the city and suburbs,” says Smagalski. “Center City, Northern Liberties, West Philly, South Philly, Olde City, Mayfair, and Rittenhouse Square,” she continues. “That’s not all. Bars or breweries in Phoenixville, King of Prussia, Chalfont, Hatboro, Lansdale, North Wales, Doylestown, and even Maple Shade, New Jersey have also become sponsors.”

The six Semi-Finals Celebrity Judges include:
• Steve Mashington, 2012 Philly Beer Geek Champion
• Doug Marchakitus, Head Brewer at Manayunk Brewing Company
• Joe Bair, Solar Homebrewer and Owner of Princeton Homebrew of Trenton, NJ
• Keith Wallace, President and Founder of The Wine School of Philadelphia, Author of Corked and Forked, and Publisher, Epikur Magazine
• Doug Hager, Co-owner of Brauhaus Schmitz and Wursthaus Schmitz
• Tara Nurin, Freelance Journalist & Epikur Writer of the Year, Camden, NJ

The annual Philly Beer Geek Competition began in 2007 as part of Philly Beer Week, a 10-day celebration of “Philadelphia, the Best Beer Drinking City in America.”

Carolyn Smagalski and Steve Hawk, Philly Beer Geek 2010, will emcee the adrenaline-filled Semi-finals at Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant, 4120 Main Street, Manayunk on May 14, 2013 at 8:00 pm.

For additional info, interviews, or photos contact Carolyn Smagalski at 215.767.9671 / email: carolsmagalski@comcast.net or Jason Harris at 215.855.0100 / email: jason@phillybeergeek.com or Steve Hawk at shawkenator@gmail.com.

Philly Beer Geek is a three-part competition – Contestants must win a Preliminary Round or be hand-selected to represent a sponsoring bar, brewpub or restaurant – then move on to the Semi-Finals on May 14th, 2013. Judges will select six Semi-Finalists to compete for the Grand Prize in the Final Competition on Thursday, June 6, 2013 during Philly Beer Week.

First Peek at Philly Beer Geek Beer 2013

On April 27, 2013, Doug Marchakitus, Head Brewer at Manayunk Brewing Company, presented a surprise pre-Philly Beer Geek release of Grodzinski , designed as the special collaboration beer  with Steve Mashington, Philly Beer Geek 2012.  Grodzinski shines like gleaming flaxen straw, with a lean eggshell-white head.  Its body is light and crisp, with an underlying body of wild smoke.  Based on a historic German beer style that experienced brief extinction, Grodzinski has been resurrected in recent years by dedicated Beer Geek brewers both in the United States and Germany.

Manayunk Brewing Company is the “Official Brewer for Philly Beer Geek.” 

Grodzinski 2013 – A Philly Beer Geek Beer Resurrection

Smashington: Designing a Great Beer

“My beer philosophy has been shaped over the past 13 years,” said Steve Mashington, 2012 Philly Beer Geek Champion.  “Working in and around beer, while traveling the world, has opened my eyes to so many different avenues,” he continued.  “The cultures that are created around beer in different parts of the world and the value system that is placed on it is incredibly unique.”

It is just such a connection to world cultures that inspired Mashington in designing the Philly Beer Geek Commemorative Beer for 2013 with Doug Marchakitus, Head Brewer at Manayunk Brewery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

While working at Yards in 2009, “Smashington” (Steve’s Philly Beer Geek moniker) was involved with a collaborative Philly Beer Week beer in which Yards and Iron Hill Brewery revived Grodzinski, a beer style that was nearly extinct.  Steve had first seen reference to this style in Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion while reading up about various smoked beers.

“I approached Justin Sproul from Iron Hill Newark about doing a collaboration with this style of beer and he was all for it,” Smashington said. “Randy Mosher had some information on it from one of his home brew books.” Mosher commented that, to his knowledge, it had never been commercially produced in the U.S. The Iron Hill/Yards collaboration was the first reincarnation of the style in America. “We actually had to have Percy St. smoke some wheat malt for us,” Mashington said.

Grodzinski, from the town of Grodzisk in the province of Wielkopolski in western Poland, had been popular in the 15th century.  The town was also known as Grätz (when the region was part of western Prussia, due to constantly moving borders).  In Grätz, this same beer style was known as Grätzer.

Documented in 1470 by Polish priest Jan Dlugosz, an indigenous style called Grodzinski (Grodzisz) was crafted using wheat malts that were smoked over oak.  The only other ingredients mentioned were hops and water.  Yeast was an unknown at the time, and beer was naturally fermented through the perception that God was bestowing his blessings upon the beer.

The style’s popularity peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  By the mid 1990s, the desire for this smoky session beer had all but disappeared, receiving a final blow when Lech Brewery bought the only commercial brewery still producing Grodzinski.  Lech made the decision to cease production of the style soon afterward.

Head Brewer Doug Marchakitus (standing) and Brewer Bill Young tend to the details

Marchakitus liked the background behind the beer.  “The idea was so intriguing that I had to brew it,” he said.  As a lover of smoked beers, Marchakitus had already designed a rauchbier and a smoked porter for the Manayunk portfolio of beers, but this was something new.  At only 3.8% ABV, it was sessionable.  The smoking over oak set it apart from other beers that typically used beechwood, peat, juniper or alder wood.  This imparts a very light smokiness, not typical of the Rauchbiers of Germany.

The style is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.  In fact, Weyermann now produces this smoked-wheat malt for enthusiasts of revivalist beers.

Mashington and Marchakitus are excited about their new Philly Beer Geek Beer, which is happily bubbling away in the fermenter.  Although the new baby doesn’t have a name yet, “it will be available for the semi-finals,” promises Marchakitus.

Is Philly ready for such a “geeky” beer?  “The one thing that consistently comes back to me is how the beer culture in Philadelphia is simply unrivaled anywhere else in the world. I’m not saying there are no other great beer towns, but the vibrant, rich culture that Philadelphia enjoys is unparalleled. Nowhere else will you find such a large metropolitan area where beer is as celebrated, revered and enjoyed as it is by the people of the Greater Delaware Valley,” said Steve Mashington.  This 2012 Philly Beer Geek seems certain the Philly fans are, indeed, ready.

Are You As Passionate As This Guy?

I heard a crazy story the other day, and it reminded me of Philly Beer Geek.  It was about making the commitment to go after your dreams, those dreams of winning the prestigious title as the 2013 Philly Beer Geek.

The story goes like this:

Philly Beer Geeks and Supporters

Philly is Filled with Beer Geeks ready for action

There are all sorts of people who say they want something, but how much do they want it?

  • A guy wakes in the middle of the night and says, ‘I want a soda.’  He gets up, goes to the window, pulls open the shades, and sees it snowing outside.   He puts on his robe, goes downstairs, and settles for a glass of water.
  • Another guy wakes in the middle of the night and says, ‘I want a soda.’  He gets up, goes to the window, pulls open the shades, and sees it snowing outside.   He puts on warm clothes and boots, goes out to his car and clears it off.  He tries to start his car, but the battery is dead.  He walks to the corner store, and finds it closed.  He walks back home, and settles for a glass of orange juice.
  • Another guy wakes in the middle of the night and says, ‘I want a soda.’  He gets up, goes to the window, pulls open the shades, and sees it snowing outside.   He puts on warm clothes and boots, goes out to his car and clears it off.  He tries to start his car, but the battery is dead.  He walks to the corner store, and finds it closed.  He walks another block and finds that store closed, too, but it has a vending machine.  The vending machine is empty.

    But he doesn’t give up.  ‘I WANT a soda,’ he thinks to himself … and he wants it BAAAD!  He sees a light in the haze, and walks another half mile, but that store is closed, too.  But he keeps on trying, and walking, and trying, and walking, trudging through the snow.  Finally, he finds an open store!  The owner is so delighted to see a stranger come in from the cold that he insists on giving him a soda.  They begin talking, and the guy explains, “I just decided:  I HAD TO HAVE a soda, and I wasn’t giving up.

    Inspired by his story, the owner also gives him VIP passes to the local Film Festival and he adds an extra bonus … a case of his favorite craft beer. Then he drives him home.

Our guy feels like he was born to win!

And THAT’S what true Philly Beer Geeks do. They NEVER give up. Some get it on their first try, but others win through sheer commitment and determination.

PHILLY BEER GEEK 2013.  Will it be you?  Show your passion!