Beer Tasting with Michael Jackson

No, it’s not that Michael Jackson. It’s this one:

For seventeen years this Brit has been visiting our shores and educating people about beer. This year the theme was extreme beer, something that’s become easier to find here in the States than in Europe, especially in the Philadelphia area. We’ve become home to some of the newest, best microbrews as well as the oldest brewery in America. This was my first year and I deeply regret missing the previous sixteen.

The event started out with a guided tasting of a broad selection of beers, mostly local but a few imports, from the extremely hopped up to the extremely alcoholic, from crystal clear to muddy dark, from malty to fruity. Two local brews garnered the highest ratings, and all but one were very drinkable. (I’ve found the beer equivalent of fried shrimp heads. Bleh!) I’ll blog about the beers themselves another time.

Mister Jackson is a colorful character with lots of great stories about beer and its evolution from the cradle of civilization 5,000 years ago to the Cradle of Liberty today. He alluded to some long-standing involvement by Penn’s Antiquities department; Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch came out of a Penn professor’s investigation of Minoan artifacts for instance. Dogfish Head’s founder, Sam Calagione, was on stage with Mister Jackson and helped keep the guided tasting on track; an improvement over previous years according to MB because of Mister Jackson’s tangential tendencies.

Afterwards came two hours of open tasting with several dozen booths and about a hundred beers. So much beer, so little time! I found a handful of amazing beers and surprisingly a few of them were fruity wheat beers. Generally I prefer beers that must be chewed, but these are well-balanced and refreshing; they will definitely grace my refrigerator during summer. My memory’s a little hazy towards the end–two hours of sampling beer will do that–but I did take notes. Hopefully they’re readable!

This will definitely become a regular event for me, and the organizers of the tasting are talking about expanding it from a one-day event to a week-long festival. Looks like I’ll have to block off another week for vacation along with the film festival.

— blogged from the Cosi at 12th and Walnut

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