Over 6 years ago I had an idea for a new kind of beer festival. Well, not actually a beer festival, but a food festival involving only great beer. There were plenty of beer festivals at the time, as there still are. But back then there were none where food was anything more than an after thought on the part of most festival organizers.
I envisioned a gourmet food festival, with great beer, that did not yet exist.
Like most of my ideas I was able to package it up with a name, concept and logo, but at that point I needed some capable hands to do the heavy lifting of planning and organizing to bring “” to life. I found those eager and capable hands at Fair Food, a local non-profit that helps to build markets for local farmers and producers. Fair Food’s mission was ideally supported by an event like this that could bring small-scale producers (brewers, growers and restaurants) to the attention of a consuming audience. Bridget Croke was the one-woman dynamo there that took The Brewer’s Plate concept and enthusiastically ran with it.
Starting with nothing, we needed credibility to actually sell tickets to such an event, and we scored the quality food cred we needed when Paul Steinke of Reading Terminal Market embraced the idea and offered up his temple of tasty stuff as the event’s home for a day.
A large aspect of the role Bridget and I played that first year was as ‘matchmaker’ between brewers and chefs as the concept has been to allow brewers to sign on two beers of their choice for chefs to be inspired to pair dishes with. Though it can devolve into an ‘anything goes’ tasting experience for guests who choose to play it that way, The Brewer’s Plate remains a purposefully structured cuisine and beer paired event. Some of the best culinary minds in Philly continue to make it an inspired event each year.
Year one went well even according to the high standards that we frenzied event midwives had going into it. All tickets were sold, some beer lines got long, but everyone ate well and had a great time. We also birthed a serious fundraising baby for Fair Food. I am proud to say that The Brewer’s Plate raises about 10% of the operating budget for this worthy non-profit.
We eventually grew out of space at Reading Terminal Market. Our home is now the Penn Museum for the second year and this year’s list of participating restaurants is a who’s who of Philly’s culinary kings and queens.
Over five years I have been rewarded with the chance to conspire and collaborate with such great brewers as Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery) and Sam Calagione (DogFish Head Craftbrewery). On the food side, the experience has been equally rich, working with Chef Terence Feury of Fork, Emilio Mignucci of DiBruno Bros, Chef Jenny Harris of Tria and the brothers Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont (http://www.jasperhillfarm.com).
Marnie Old, a nationally-renowned sommelier, author and wine educator, (http://www.marnieold.com/) has proven herself to a mountain of enthusiasm and real value to myself, other organizers and the public she has entertained over the last three events. This year she and I will be doing “old world / new world” beer tutorials in the VIP area and I am completely looking forward to that!
So even though the focus is food, I think it’s evident you can’t really enjoy the great experiences of food and drink without great people. This is really a cool event where so many come to share their passion for great food and great beer, often with surprising results.
I recall in 2006 when an attendee was more than a bit surprised to see Carol Stoudt (Stoudt’s Brewery) and I behind the same beer taps offering Victory Prima Pils and Stoudt’s Fat Dog Stout. While she was trying to convince him to try Prima with London Grill’s grilled octopus and white bean salad, I was pressing him to indulge in her Fat Dog Stout that London had done up ham and Chinese pork roll ‘Saigon Subs’ with. The poor guy stammered “but… you two are COMPETITORS!?” Carol and I got a great laugh out of that, raised our glasses in toast to one another, and encouraged him to join us for both pairings!
Come on out on March 14 to help us make more great memories at The 6th Annual Brewer’s Plate.
All the best,
Co-Founder and Brewer