Letter from the Editor: Celebrating Craft Beer and Craftsmen in Philadelphia Vol: 97

February 2013

The upcoming 2013 StarChefs.com Philadelphia Rising Stars Gala culminates more than three weeks of tasting in the City of Brotherly Love. And this January, the StarChefs team had the privilege of returning to Philly one last time to taste with the area’s best brewers. Starting north of town, we made our way from recently opened Vault in Croydon, Pennsylvania, to Flying Fish in New Jersey, out to grandpappy-of-them-all Victory in Downingtown and back to the city for a tasting at Yards. In all, we visited 10 breweries—some small brewpubs, others up-and-coming production houses, and a few of the most established breweries in the land.

We drank English-style cask ales, heavenly hopped pilsners, funky Belgian ales, and a bacon-infused stout—all with our intrepid in-house beer expert, Alex Kalaf, sussing out styles, hops, malts, and fermentation temperatures with little more than a whiff and a sip of each brewski. You can read about our favorite Philadelphia beers in his assessment of the market.

As with the strong brewing communities we encountered in cities like Portland and Austin, StarChefs will honor a Philadelphia Rising Stars Brewer at this month’s gala. The candidates include:

Join us, along with Philly’s mentor brewers, at the awards ceremony and gala on Thursday, February 21 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts to find out the winner and sample some of the best beers we discovered across the market.

One of the most refreshing qualities of Philly beers is their departure from the big alcohol, heavily hopped West Coast-style brews that have grown to dominate the national market. Philadelphians not only crave quality beer; they want quantity, a demand satisfied by a number of the region’s flavorful, session beers.

We're convinced Philly is one of the top beer cities in the country, but a town needs great food to sustain its liquid assets. This winter, we ate a number of hearty and meat-heavy dishes in Philadelphia. But instead of weighing down our palates and pummeling our appetites, local chefs used big, bitter flavors to balance their dishes.

Balance is a constant for the 2013 Rising Stars Artisans that we’re featuring this week. Their kitchens are rooted in the the past, but as chefs, they can't help but innovate and push forward their crafts. Confectioner Davina Soondrum has developed a thoroughly modern, all-American candy bar with her Whirly Berley Bar, and Le Virtù Chef Joe Cicala saved an Abruzzese pasta technique from the brink of extinction.

Soondrum and Cicala are only two of the young industry leaders we’ll celebrate at the upcoming Philly Rising Stars Gala, so purchase your tickets now before they sell out!

In the meantime, send us your nominations for Rising Star chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, mixologists, and artisans for New York City, San Francisco Bay Area, Coastal New England, and the Carolinas. And you can always keep up with our travels on Facebook and Twitter—or just follow the empty pint glasses.


Caroline   Hatchett
Features Editor