For many Philly sports fans, few things compare to taking an afternoon off from work and heading down South Broad for the Phillies' home opener. No one needs any reminders that winter can be brutal here, and one weekday afternoon, even when it happens to be chilly and rainy, is still the mile marker where our lives switch back to a pattern of proper outdoor drinking that can last straight through Eagles season.
These days, the tailgating season opens even earlier for those of us who are five-for-five fans, with the Union starting their campaigns at PPL Park every March. Whether or not soccer's your thing, the tailgating they do in the lots along the banks of the Delaware is a great time. This Saturday, the Union faithful will file in to open the club's fifth season, fire up the grills, kick the ball around, and throw down a few brews. With the weather expected to be near 60 degrees and precipitation-free and the Union brimming with a new level of talent, we're ready to fill the cooler and throw some meat on a tiny grill.
Steve will be along with a look at how the U match up with the New England Revolution, but to get a jump on the weekend planning, we're gonna start with our recommendations for some great local beer options to kick off the season. We're not going to bog this post down with tasting notes, mouthfeel, nose, and ingredients lists—just why they merit a spot in your Igloo.
A new addition to the local scene, Cultivator is Tröegs' latest seasonal offering.
Why We Like It: This is a crowd pleaser, smooth and malty. The label chats up the fresh hops that mark the season, but don't brace for the bitterness this may evoke, as Cultivator trends more toward its toasty grains. A perhaps underrated style, bocks are very accessible, yet when done this well, can satisfy a refined beer palate.
ABV: A deceptive 6.9%
Pair With: Your face.
Sly Fox Pikeland Pils
A new-world take on an old-world classic.
Why We Like It: Here at The700Level, we're NOTHING if not responsible, respectful tailgaters. And nothing packs out easier than craft brew cans, a trend gaining popularity around the country and spearheaded locally by Sly Fox. Last year, they introduced a rebellious full-mouth can. While packaging gimmicks like the swirl-neck Miller Lite bottles are kind of a laugh, this one is relatively functional. Oh and the beer is damn good too. Also very accessible, this 2-time GABF Gold and 1-time Bronze Medal winning German malt/Czech hop combo should work well for most crowds.
Pair with: Other Sly Fox canned heat. Want something with more bite? Climb the hop ladder to Phoenix Pale Ale and 113 IPA. Or, take it down a notch to the delicious Helles. Another Helles on this list? Hell yes.
The boys from Downingtown took their time in crafting a new full-time hopmonster, and it was worth it. You know your beer speaks for itself when you can have "dirt" in its name without concern.
Why We Like It: Because we love hops, and this is packed with a spectrum from floral to citrusy to piney, all at once. It's hard to live up to the expectation level Victory set with its longstanding regulars, seasonals, and specialty brews, not to mention taking the masterful Hop Wallop out of circulation for a few years to make room for this newcomer, but DirtWolf hits the mark for us.
Pair With: Don't bother. Your tongue, gums, and the roof of your mouth will be soaked in Citra, Simcoe, Chinook, and Mosaic. Or, you can go with what Victory recommends, which just so happens to be what you're likely to have on hand anyway: burgers, BBQ, and... hard cheeses.
Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale
A Philly classic and regular award-winner since 2000.
Why We Like It: YPA (not to be confused with YSA) brings tasty Simcoe and should satisfy all but the ardent hop haters in your game of washers, coming in well below the IBUs of the increasingly pungent I-PAs gaining popularity these days.
Pair With: Your undying need for refreshment.
(Side Note: Yards recently introduced a Rye IPA, but we haven't been able to get our hands on it yet. If you're bringing it to the lots, save one for us and you could have a beer bottle you once owned featured on Instagram.)
Philadelphia Brewing Company Kenzinger
Our list a bit stuffy for you? Kenzinger should loosen things up a bit.
Why We Like It: Straightforward, without an ounce of pretension. A light, crisp pilsner, it meets the style we like for some day drinking, and won't cost as much as some of the other options. Yeah we loaded this list up with the Helles variety, but it's a great style for tailgating, and trying this side by side with the others on this list will show you how far that term is being stretched on this side of the pond.
Pair With: A shot of whiskey.
Photo by Tin & ZZ
Dogfish Head Burton Baton
The easiest way to add variety to this Helles-laden list is to bring Sam Calgione into the mix.
Why We Like It: It's big, it's boozy, and it's blissful. An English-style old ale and an imperial IPA are brewed and fermented separately, then blended in an oak tank. Burton Baton almost shouldn't work, but somehow the hops still pop despite the blend drawing out the flavors of the wood vessel. And at 10%, it's quite… functional. Not your traditional tailgater, but not everyone wants to slam the lighter end of the spectrum before filing in. We originally thought to put the seasonal Piercing Pils on this list, but it may be hard to find this side of February (fresh, anyway).
Pair With: A comfortable chair.
Finally, a Nod to Our Opponents' Regional Beer
Boston has no shortage of good brewing going on, but to represent the New England beer Revolution on this list, we're going a bit farther north. Several hours farther up 95, actually, to Portland powerhouse Allagash Brewing Company. Although their brand new Saison offering is tops on our list of beers to try as soon as we can, it's not on the market yet, with a public launch of March 21. We're putting it here as a bookmark to come back to for the second home match, March 29 hosting Montreal. Allagash has gotten blissfully easy to find in Philly and its burbs. Their White is remarkably approachable, as are their Dubbel and Tripel, but the Curieux, Confluence, and Interlude will class up your tailgate in a hurry. Elite bottleshops and growler fillers like nearby Pinocchio's in Media and 320 Market in Swarthmore should have some of these, without the need to buy a whole case.
This is by no means a "Top 6" but rather a list of beers we really, really want to drink tomorrow that are made within a reasonable drive, and should pretty easy to get your hand on before you get to 291. We're not beer experts. Hell, we're not even sports experts. But we love 'em both, together whenever possible.
So what are you planning to bring?