On Saturday morning, I went over to Sidecar Bar and Grille for its “Let’s Do Breakfast with Founders” event, which was run in conjunction with the Craft Beer Express. With the bar opening at 10:30 a.m., one would reasonably believe that getting there at around 10 a.m. would be quite early enough. Wrong. By 9:15, over an hour before the event, there were already twenty people in line. By 10 a.m., the line was seventy deep. To wait in line to drink beer on a nice Saturday morning.
Of course, it wasn’t just any regular beer. Founders, a relatively small brewery based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of the most well-respected breweries in the world. It only brews about 30,000 barrels yearly, but its entire lienup is highly regarded in the beer drinking community. Fortunately, Pennsylvania is one of the sixteen states to which it distributes. And while Founders has a nice selection of beers available year round, it also has special, limited release beers that draw beer enthusiasts like opening day sales of new versions of iPhones.
The big draws on Saturday morning were Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS), an imperial stout currently rated by Beer Advocate as the 4th best beer in the world; Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS), another top imperial stout; and Blushing Monk, an extremely rare Belgian strong pale ale. CBS, in particular, is so limited in distribution that Sidecar gave out tickets at 10 a.m. for its 55 pours. The tickets ran out before the end of the line, leading to several disappointed people actually leaving the line to plan to go to another bar on the Craft Beer Express.
For those fortunate enough to be there when the bar opened, the beers were well worth getting up early to get in line. The CBS, which ran after the tickets were used, is an amazing tasting stout. It features a blend of coffees and imorted chocolate and is aged in spent bourbon bottles. At 10.6 percent ABV, CBS packs quite a punch. The taste is both rich and complex. There is no doubt it’s one of the best beers in the world.
The KBS soon followed the CBS in being kicked. It’s similar to the CBS in its quality and taste with its coffee and chocolate flavor. The aroma is amazing, and it is a beer to savor.
As far as the Blushing Monk, it completely contrasts the stouts with its fruity, raspeberry flavor. It’s very smooth, and despite the 9.2 percent ABV, I could probably drink the beer all day.
What’s remarkable is that special beer releases such as this Founders event happen with some relative frequency in Philadelphia. Russian River Brewing, a California brewery which produces some remarkable beers, distributes to California, Oregon, Colorado, Washington and one location in the East Coast: Philadelphia. Every spring, several area bars obtain the extremely limited Pliny the Younger, rated the No. 1 beer in the world by Beer Advocate, leading to advance ticket sales. Then, of course, during Philly Beer Week in the summer, bars featuring special events are packed.
We should count our blessings that we have access to such terrific beers.