A variety of local craft beers were on tap at the 14th Annual Manayunk Brew Fest this weekend, hosted by the Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant on Main Street.
The festival included about 20 breweries from the tri-state area. Each brewery had a table with tapped kegs for sampling. For the $45 ticket price, participants received a glass and could sample one to three ounces of each beer.
“The festival is an opportunity to showcase the area’s beers,” said Doug Marchakitus, head brewer at Manayunk Brewing Co. “The beauty of the craft industry is that there are a wide variety of beers.”
Marchakitus, who has been brewing for 10 years, says the brewery reaches out to fellow brewers to participate in the festival because they share in their passion for their craft.
“We’re not competitors – we’re colleagues,” said Marchakitus.
This year’s theme, “Beers Gone Wild,” is a take on a trend in using wild yeast or “bugs” during the brewing process.
“We can isolate certain strains of the wild yeast,” said Bill Young, assistant brewer at Manayunk Brewing Company.
Evan Fritz, assistant brewer at Manayunk Brewing Company, says one of his favorite wild yeast beers is Manayunk’s “Grand Cru Flanders Red Ale.” The beer features several strains of wild yeast and has a slightly tart, wine-like flavor.
Marchakitus says the “bugs” add an unpredictable element to brewing.
“It takes some of the science out and puts in some magic,” said Marchakitus.
Sharing the craft
Brewers from Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant in Chestnut Hill were enthusiastic to be a part of the event. Assistant brewer Derek Testerman says the Chestnut Hill community has embraced the new brew pub and its focus on craft beer.
“This festival is a chance for us to all come together and share what we love,” said Testerman.
Two of his favorite beers from Iron Hill are “Kryptonite” – an American Double/Imperial IPA and “Lex Luthor,” whose name is derived from the supervillian character, a Tripel IPA.
The “OQ Coffee Porter” from Harvest Moon Brewery and Cafe, which hails from New Brunswick, NJ, was a crowd favorite. To create this adaption of “coffee beer,” the brewers teamed-up with a specialty coffee roastery in the area, OQ Coffee Company. OQ’s website deems the beer a “stimulant and depressant brewed into one beautiful incongruity.”
“Craft beers are about quality and really the experience of pairing different flavors,” said Kyle McDonald, head brewer at Harvest Moon Brewery.
Home brewers unite
Word was buzzing at the festival about Barley Legal Homebrewers, a group of over 200 home brewers from South Jersey. By using the term barley, which is an ingredient used to brew, the name is a witty spin on their inability to make any profit on their beers, at least until they receive a state liquor license.
Dave Houck, a member of Barley Legal, says the group is not just a way for brewing hobbyists to share, it’s also a tight-knit community.
“We’re like a family,” said Houck. “We had a member who was diagnosed with cancer and lost his job, so we all pitched in and raised money for him – it’s an amazing group of people.”
Fritz, of Manayunk Brewing Co., is also the president of Barley Legal. He says he hopes the group will one day come together to get a license and create their own brew pub.
Tips from the Manayunk brewing team
For aspiring home brewers out there, the brewing team at Manayunk Brewing Co. has some sound advice.
SANITATION: The brewers said that the most essential thing all brewers should know is to be sanitary with their equipment because any contamination can ruin an entire batch.
BREWING AS A SCIENCE: They recommend purchasing what they call the “brewers bible” – “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing,” by Charles Papazian. All agreed that there is a real science to brewing and that no one should “wing it.”
EXPERIMENT: They said experimentation and variety are two things to consider when brewing. They recommend working with different tastes and blending different ingredients in order to find the perfect combination.