Thousands of brews, hundreds of events, dozens of bars: How to survive Philly Beer Week

Philly Beer Week Round Guys
Danya Henninger

Starting Friday, May 29, Philly Beer Week is back for an eighth year, with events held around the city every day through Sunday, June 7. If you love beer, the 10-day brewstorm can be both a blessing and a curse. Blessing: Access to a true cornucopia of rare and specialty beers from around the region, country and the world — possibly more variety than any other festival. Curse: Too much of a good thing — thousands of beers, hundreds of events, dozens of bars and pop-ups.

There are ways to enjoy yourself without letting Beer Week take over or suffering a serious case of FOMO. Here are Billy Penn’s hard-learned tips on how to best navigate the PBW tempest.

Pay Attention to ABV

Sometimes it’s easy to tell when a beer packs a punch, but sometimes — if the brewer is talented — high-octane brews can slide down your throat without announcing themselves. As you’re sipping, take note of the ABV (percent alcohol by volume), especially if you’re at an event touting barrel-aged or rare cellared beers. If the ABV isn’t obvious, just ask — it’s not like high or low is better (they’re just different), so no one should take offense.

Drink Water

Simple enough, but easy to forget. Dehydration is the main cause of hangovers, and all you have to do to avoid it is sneak H2O into your liquid diet. Bring along a bottle if you’re hitting an outdoor festival, or periodically ask your bartender for a water (every two pints is a good measure) — he or she probably won’t mind, because the other thing water does is keep you from getting sloppy drunk.

Example side note: during San Francisco brewery 21st Amendment’s “Strong Beer Month,” customers are not allowed to order a second pint of one of the >8.5% ABV beers on tap without finishing the provided sibling glass of water.

Spread Your Styles

Even if there’s a certain strain of beer you know you love, PBW is the time to branch out. Not only will this help maintain a semblance of sobriety — there’s a big jump between a 4% ABV Berliner Weisse and an 8% Doppelbock — you’ll avoid palate fatigue. Pilsners, goses, wits, saisons, ambers, lambics, porters, barleywines and sours all provide a great contrast to hoppy IPAs.

Power Nap

Whether it’s a weekend or you made the smart choice to take a few days off from work (or if you’re in the industry and PBW is work), a snooze between morning/afternoon/evening events can do wonders. Just make sure you don’t go down for longer than two hours — more sleep than that and you’ll wake up woozy.

Rely on SEPTA

Probably the most dangerous times during PBW are when you’re leaving one event and heading to another in a different neighborhood. You definitely don’t want to get behind the wheel of a car and likely shouldn’t straddle your bike, either. Luckily, there’s public transit. The MFL/BSL are relatively easy to figure out (we only have two lines, after all), but bus schedules can be tougher. Make everything easier by pre-downloading an app. A few choices:

  • The official SEPTA app does an ok job at real-time tracking, but is a bit of a memory hog and isn’t always clear with labeling (Android | iPhone)
  • Transit App is quick and has a nice interface, but occasionally tries to guesstimate times (Android | iPhone)
  • Android users will be pretty happy with SEPTA Instant
  • On the web, is a great resource

Use the PBW App

Speaking of apps, the one for Philly Beer Week (Android | iPhone) has improved leaps and bounds over when it was first released, and it’s definitely worth installing. Pick favorites so you can return to them later, view events by neighborhood, see bars’ locations on a map, view a venue’s Untappd stream and even take your own notes. If you create a login, you can sync faves between the website and app, so your best-laid sober plans don’t get lost in a beautiful brew-induced haze.

Now go out and get some beer!

Photos by Danya Henninger

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