Nickel is not exactly the traditional tenth anniversary gift (that would be tin or aluminum) but it’s pretty close. And to celebrate 10 years of Philly Beer Week — aka the nation’s first festival of its kind, which has spurred close to 100 copycats over the past decade, and runs from June 1-11 this year — the Philly Loves Beer board treated their beloved mascot to a shiny new coat of nickel plating.
Which makes sense, because the mascot isn’t a cute fuzzy animal or even a pint glass. It’s… a hammer.
While that might seem somewhat odd — why not a mug, or a tap handle, or a bottle? — the Hammer of Glory has become the most recognizable symbol of the 10-day event.
It’s the single most photographed and tagged Philly Beer Week item on social media, according to organizers, and it’s enough to draw long lines of people willing to wait for a chance to hoist it high in the air, pretend to smash it on friends’ toes or balance beers on its head. It’s been replicated in miniature, as a bottle opener, and in the form of a delicious chocolate treat.
The HOG is also used by the mayor to tap the first keg at Opening Tap and kick off PBW every year — but only after it’s been transported around the entire city via methods as creative as possible. Past years have seen crews shuffle the HOG around via rollerblade, horse and carriage, kinetic sculpture, motorcycle, zipline, popemobile and pogo stick. Holla: This year Billy Penn gets to do a leg of the relay, and our planned method of transportation is an MC Hammer-themed desk chair race. (See below for the full 2017 route and schedule.)
If it all sounds very silly, that’s entirely on purpose.
The idea for the HOG originated during a 2008 conversation between Standard Tap’s William Reed and Mike “Scoats” Scotese of the Grey Lodge Pub. The first Philly Beer Week had just concluded, and although the two beer-loving publicans had enjoyed it, they felt it was missing levity.
“Beer Week is too serious,” Reed and Scotese agreed that day nine years ago. “It needs more stupid stuff.”
The Summer Olympics were in full effect, Scotese recalled, “so we came up with the idea of a relay. William thought that instead of a torch, a giant hammer of the kind you use to tap firkins [noncarbonated beer casks] would be funny.”
Reed met with his friend Warren Holzman, a metalworker who runs the Iron Studio in Kensington. Holzman made some sketches on the back of coaster, got approval sign-off, then came back a few weeks later with the real thing. A steel 18-inch head sat atop a thick wood handle, emblazoned with the words “Philly Beer Week.” At the time, Scotese was reading Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, Bound for Glory, which he used as inspiration for the name. And so the HOG was born.
When PBW 2009 came around, Reed and Scoats were ready. They’d enlisted a dozen or so bars around the city to participate in a relay, and on the first day of the festival, the Hammer of Glory made its inaugural journey.
When it arrived at Opening Tap, it was handed to Mayor Nutter — who appeared surprised by the big beast of a mallet, but ultimately kept his cool.
“I remember Nutter’s reaction,” Reed remembered. “No one had told him there would be anything different from the year before, so he’s on stage, wondering what he’s supposed to do. But he got the idea pretty quick; he figured it out.”
Over the years, the HOG has gotten lost numerous times — Casey Parker of Jose Pistola’s once found it under his couch while looking for his remote, Reed said — and it was once actually stolen. That was back in 2013, when it suddenly went missing from its booth at the Fishtown Festivale, where attendees were posing for photos. Reed even filed a police report for the MIA mallet.
“At the police station… Making a statement. Kind of surreal,” he wrote via text that evening.
The mascot, which was found discarded beneath an I-95 overpass the day after it was stolen, does have an official resting place: The Hammer of Glory Hold, which sits on the wall next to the front entrance at Standard Tap. But it’s not often there; these days it’s in high demand to show up at beer events throughout the year.
Before it was refinished in nickel earlier this year, the wear and tear definitely showed. But now its surface smooth and supple, “almost like a mirror,” Reed said. It also got a new handle, at Holzman’s behest.
“Apparently the original handle was actually an axe handle, not a mallet handle,” Reed explained. “I liked it — it was curvy and kind of had a Norse god look.” But Holzman, being an actual blacksmith, was offended by the error, and had always wanted to switch it out for a straight one.
As it turns out, the HOG as depicted in the tenth anniversary PBW logo has a straight-edged handle, so now the actual object is in tune with the design.
If you want to join the fun and tag along with the Hammer of Glory on June 1, as it makes its way to Opening Tap, there’s a double-decker sponsored by SugarHouse Casino. You can jump on and off as many times as you want with the purchase of a $10 ticket.
Or you can just plan to meet it at one of the locales near you:
- Hop Angel Brauhaus, 7980 Oxford Avenue, 9:00 a.m.
- SawTown Tavern, 4717 Princeton Avenue, 9:33 a.m.
- Grey Lodge Pub, 6235 Frankford Avenue, 9:56 a.m.
- Bonk’s Bar, 3467 Richmond Street, 10:24 a.m.
- Philly Brewing Company, 2439 Amber Street, 11:02 a.m.
- Evil Genius, 1727 North Front Street, 11:31 a.m.
- Saint Benjamin, 1710 North 5th Street, 12:00 p.m.
- London Grill, 2301 Fairmount Avenue, 12:33 p.m.
- The Belgian Café, 601 North 21st Street, 12:52 p.m.
- Billy Penn, 1429 Walnut Street, 1:30 p.m.
- Jose Pistola’s, 263 South 15th Street, 1:46 p.m.
- Garage Passyunk, 1231 East Passyunk Avenue, 2:07 p.m.
- Varga Bar, 941 Spruce Street, 2:35 p.m.
- Fergie’s Pub, 1214 Sansom Street, 3:03 p.m.
- Opa & Drury Beer Garden, 1311 Sansom Street, 3:25 p.m.
- Tiki, 102 South 13th Street, 3:39 p.m.
- TIME, 1315 Sansom Street, 3:53 p.m.
- Craftsman Row Saloon, 112 South 8th Street, 4:16 p.m.
- El Camino Real, 1030 North 2nd Street, 4:59 p.m.
- Heritage, 914 North 2nd Street, 5:13 p.m.
- Standard Tap, 901 North 2nd Street, 5:27 p.m.
- Yards Brewing, 901 North Delaware Avenue, 5:50 p.m.
- Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Avenue, 6:13 p.m.
- Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 Frankford Avenue, 6:27 p.m.
- Garage Fishtown, 100 East Girard Avenue, 6:41 p.m.
- The Fillmore (for Opening Tap; tickets here), 29 East Allen Street, 6:59 p.m.