Lions, Tigers, and BEERS, Oh my! Finally I have the chance, between vacation, work, and family craziness, to publish this piece. Usually I try to get these out within the week but this time that just wasn’t possible.
On June 23, 2018, we once again had the chance to take part in the Philadelphia Zoo Summer Ale Festival!
Interactive adult-themed animal learning and exhibits, live music and entertainment, and some of the best craft beer the world has to offer, all in one place.
Properly documenting this festival is incredibly difficult. This of course is a feature, not a bug.
The event is so large, and there are so many beers, that you really can’t be expected to do it all, and by the time you get to the end, you are pleasantly intoxicated, even if you tried your hardest to be selective.
This is really what makes this event a CAN’T MISS every single year. It still holds its place in my heart as the top beer festival on the entire eastern seaboard, thanks to it’s unique nature and scale (see map below).
It was just happy people everywhere. Not drunk happy, mind you, but actual, child-like glee, as people couldn’t help putting down their beers and focusing on the exhibits for a while, visiting an animal feeding, making friends with the free-range peacocks, or having a fun chat with some of the zookeepers and guides out with adult animal trivia and games.
As guests make their way through the Zoo, visiting all the animals and drinking beers the best local and national brewers have to offer, the event hits a fever pitch in the final zone (the Impala Lawn), where a live band (The Seven Band) played covers, pop favorites and deep dives alike, from the last 20 years.
The seven of them really did put on a great show – be sure to check them out if you are looking for live music for your event.
By the last hour of the event, the entire final tent area is packed with people, music bumping, the party is on in full force.
And yes, as the night goes on, my digital camera cannot handle the lighting changes, and lighting under the tents is always trouble at beer festivals, the photos just don’t do the ambiance any justice (I am working on a new photo setup which should alleviate this in the future).
Even just strolling around the zoo at night is spectacular, a chance to see some of the more nocturnal animals that you always seem to miss during the day.
Find a quiet spot, sit back and relax with a beer in hand, or head to the rocking party on the other end of the park. Anyone can have a good time at this event.
Featured Craft Beers
Love City Brewing Unity IPA
“An assertive, yet highly drinkable American IPA. Double dry hopped with Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe for a robust citrusy and moderately resinous hop character. Light malt backbone and a long, hoppy finish.” -Love City
A gorgeous, deep, mildly hazy yellow-gold beer from Love City Brewing. This seems to be an amalgam of IPA styles, with pine and tropical citrus scents blending well as I breathe it in. The taste follows the nose, starting out with the resinous pine, leading you to tropical fruit flavors like guava, mango, papaya, and passionfruit.
A medium mouthfeel, slightly creamy with a dry finish. Love City is definitely added to the long list of breweries I still need to visit.
Red Lion Brewery A Bustle in your Hedgerow
“Brewed with lots of wheat and oats then hopped with Galaxy, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops.” -Red Lion Brewery
This is an incredibly dangerous beer. I say that, because it is a 10.2% Triple IPA that is incredibly drinkable. It was hard to limit myself to just one glass of this intoxicating beer from Red Lion Brewery.
The generous aromas and flavors of guava, mango and ripe tropical fruits appear over a mild bitterness and smooth, creamy mouthfeel. And yes, I could taste the pink starburst hiding in there, too. It is now my mission to stock my fridge with at least a few of these.
Bolero Snort Crooked Labulls Imperial IPA
“Paying homage to the many, many, many hand applied bottle and can labels that we’ve managed to apply in a less than uniform manner we have a one of our favorite DIPAs – Crooked Labulls. Clocking in at 8.5% and profusely hopped with Mosaic and Zythos in the kettle. Kissed with Idaho 7 and Citra both during and post fermentation then hit again with more of the same – sticky, resinous, and dripping with ripe mango, tangerine and orange marmalade.” -Bolero Snort Brewing
I’ve come across Bolero Snort, a Garden State (New Jersey) gypsy brewery, just twice now. The first time was at the Wildwood Beer Festival, when I was able to try their very unique (and pretty tasty) OVB Creamsicle IPA (yes, that’s CREAMSICLE, review coming soon), I now had the chance to try Crooked Labulls, their 8.5% ABV Imperial IPA.
This is a slightly hazy orange-gold beer, this time featuring oranges and melons predominantly in the aroma. It’s quite on the fence between sweet and bitter, both ebbing in and out as you drink in the sweet oranges, melons, and tropical citrus hops. Smooth citrus brew, medium-bodied with mild carbonation.
Wyndridge Farm Tropical Berliner Weisse
“Tart and refreshing, this wheat beer is loaded with real tropical fruit. The beer was naturally soured then aged with real Mango, Payaya, and Guava puree.” -Wyndridge Farm
This beer, part of Wyndridge Farm’s 2018 Hunt Series beer line-up, is one of six seasonal farm-crafted beers and ciders in the collection. This is a beer WAY outside my wheelhouse, but as they describe (I can’t do any better) – this is incredibly tart and refreshing.
Although my initial response on the first sip was off-putting, given what I had been drinking so far that evening, but as I kept going, this definitely grew on me.
Urban Village Brewing Company Fresh Kicks Double IPA
“Amarillo, centennial, enigma & simcoe hops give this IPA a tropical citrus aroma that is supplemented with a small amount of spruce tips. Malt bill includes heavy amounts of wheat, oat & flaked rice.” -Urban Village
This hazy, straw-colored brew from Urban Village is another stellar combination of resinous pine and tropical citrus, all backed by the generous wheaty malts. Sure, it hits you with an 8.5% ABV, but it is still quite smooth, with a wonderful balance between the sweet malts and bitter hops.
Neshaminy Creek Keep It On The DL Session IPA
“Unfiltered Session IPA dry hopped with Azacca, Citra, and Kohatu hops.” -Neshaminy Creek
An absolute winner from Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company. A yellow-golden pour, with aromas of pineapples, candied lemons, passion fruit and dank resinous goodness. This session IPA is incredibly full-bodied for a session IPA, but still immensely drinkable with the flavors of pineapple, passionfruit, grapefruit and dank pine hops in front of the bready backbone, supplemented with candy sugars.
Finishing with a welcome and lasting oily grapefruit flavor, I think this actually gives The Shape of Hops to Come (another favorite of mine from Neshaminy Creek) a run for it’s money. Especially since I can have a few more of these on a summer day at 4.5% ABV.
There are beers you should still take the time to check out. I wish I could include them all, but if I did, I’d never finish this post.
- Naked Brewing Company Missionary Impossible IPA
- New Holland Brewing Passion Blaster Rose Ale
- Lord Hobo Brewing Company Virtuoso Imperial IPA
- Cape May Brewing Company Always Ready NE IPA
- Dock Street Brewing Company Bohemian Pilsner
- Sterling Pig Snuffler IPA
- Full Pint Brewing Chinookie IPA
- Spellbound Brewing Citra Pale Ale
- Fishtown Brewpub Down Under IPA
- Conshohocken Brewing Company Summer Madness
- Crime and Punishment 5 Favorite Things
- Robin Hood Brewing Company Blue Sky-PA
- Flying Fish Brewing Company Outside IPA
- Twin Lakes Brewing Company Greenville Pale Ale
I have to include an extra special shoutout to The Lion Brewery, one of Pennsylvania’s oldest breweries. I grew up drinking Lionshead Pilsner, mostly when we needed a decent beer at an affordable price, always much cheaper than a case of Yuengling, which was another go-to for us.
For a while I admit I just didn’t pay much attention to the Lion Brewery – I didn’t know that in the background, they had been brewing for other beer brands for years, able to keep costs down so as to turn a profit, and recently investing nearly 7 million dollars back into their brewing equipment, as well as new hires of brewers with some extensive positive experience in the craft beer industry.
Now they’re turning this expertise to their own beer stable, finally coming out with an IPA that, if the price differential from other brands is anywhere near what it was before, will immediately be a local favorite for tailgating and other events where beer flows a bit more freely, but we don’t want to subject ourselves to the bloat and general lack of flavor that comes along with a macro lager.
This is a perfect IPA for the serious, if maybe budgeted, beer drinker, an excellent introduction for macro drinkers to craft IPAs as well. With the brewing process calling for a quarter ton of hops, you definitely get the bright citrusy cascade hop aromas right in front, but a wonderful malt sweetness is balancing out the flavor, making it very drinkable, even at 6.7% ABV.
Their next beer they’ll be working on is a Belgian White Ale, and I very much look forward to trying it. They will be promoting their beers across 17 states in this new push, although I do not have that list right now. I’d expect a focus on the eastern seaboard, but wouldn’t be surprised if a state like California was included.