Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tapestry's Cirque de Saison Offers Good Beer, Lots of Fun, yet Unmet Expectations

I’m going to be honest: When I decided to hit up the South Street area’s Tapestry for my first event of Philly Beer Week, I was expecting something a little…bigger. I believe that is a little bit my fault. I chose the place because it was advertised as an outdoor street fair. I figured that if I was going to choose a Beer Week festivity to go to with my wife and kid in tow, an outdoor one with a balloon-animal maker seemed like a good one.  But, you see, it has been a while since I have been downtown. I had my Philly topography all screwed up. Where I was picturing some sort of expansive, whole-block-encompassing shindig, what I got was the side street outside of the restaurant blocked off for bystanders. While I was figuring there would be a station for all of the different Saison makers to dispense their products and, perhaps, share a bit of a lark about the brewing process, it was actually just behind the bar inside, and procurement of said suds was anything but easy-going, what with a veritable gaggle of partygoers fighting for elbow room around the tiny establishment’s bar. This being said, it was still a very enjoyable day, albeit one with serious caveats.

Let’s first cover the main attraction at any Beer Week event: the incredibly awesome blues band Tapestry got to provide entertainment (oh, you thought I was going to say the beer? I’ll get to that in a moment). Usually, when you go to an event like this, the entertainment is just another thing that blends into the background. Mostly because it is invariably a grubby-looking hippy with a single acoustic strummer. But these guys (I don’t even remember their name) had the crowd totally engaged, minus some of the usual hipster detachment. They had a comically out-of-place-looking drummer, a bass player in the John Entwhistle “I’m not going to move one inch while playing this thing” mode, a guitarist who shredded like crazy and looked like he could kick just about anyone’s azz in a fight, and a front man who told the crowd how much he enjoyed being there after every song and played about twenty different versions of mouth harp. All of them in a way that seemed three parts soulful, and one part “this sh*t could fly off the hinges at any moment.” As these guys rocked out from everything to Muddy Waters to Sam and Dave to That Other Blues Musician Who I Am Nowhere Near Cool Enough to Recognize, I was blown away. If I had elected to stay any longer, they would have been the reason, not the beer.

And it wasn’t like the beer was bad. In fact, it was quite good (two out of three at least). But I do think there were some fundamental flaws in the event’s program. I’m not really sure that the place was ready for the crush of folks that descended on the scene. When I saw the event in the Beer Week lineup, it jumped out as one of the coolest-sounding events in the mix. Thirty different Saisons. Barbecue sandwiches available outside. A face painter for the kiddies. A juggler on a unicycle. A dreadlocked gal who sort of played with fire on a hula hoop and stuff while looking somewhat high (a seemingly dangerous combination, I might add; I was literally shocked that all the gathered kids escaped without being set ablaze like the warlock on the Game of Thrones season finale). You had to know that this event was going to get slammed and this place wasn’t equipped. It took 15 minutes or so to get a beer. When you did order one, it was frequently pre-poured in a pitcher to ensure that your request could be fulfilled quicker, something that couldn’t be great for the beer’s presentation. Then there is the price. For an 11 oz. glass (I don’t know what was up with that; maybe it was to make sure they didn’t run out), you paid anywhere between 7 and 9 dollars depending on the label. I am a beer enthusiast. I have no problem paying a hefty price for good beer. But $9 for a plastic cup is highway robbery, even if it is made from an Italian brewery whose name I couldn’t pronounce in 15 tries. (It should also be said that my wife checked the price for the barbecue sandwiches and they were upwards of $10 apiece. They may have been spectacular, but we passed.)

While at the event, I tried three different beers. After my first request of Stillwater Premium was denied (they had either run out or the keg had to be changed; it was a bit loud), I went with Bruery Saison de Lente. A friend of mine had once done a review on the site of a beer from California’s Bruery. He slammed it hard. This kind of made me want to try their Saison, I guess. I wanted to see if his slag was warranted. Oh, that and the fact that it was one of the cheapest options on the menu and I was reeling from the thought of how much money I might spend on this day. In any event, I didn’t love the Bruery Saison. It contained some of the earthy notes you expect in a Saison, but it was a little thin and lacking in flavor. After a quick break to visit the ever-classy South Street staple Copabanana, we returned to the scene and I ordered a Ron and the Beast Ryan Saison by Denmark’s Evil Twin Brewing. I had much more success with this one. Complex, crisp, and oddly medicinal, it had a bitter yet appealing taste. With the pregnant wife running out of patience (bless her heart) and the little guy running out of steam, I was allowed one more sample: While I had wanted to try more by Baltimore, Maryland’s Stillwater Artisanal Ales (of which the bar was offering four on this day), I instead went with one that I heard the bartender recommend to a fellow patron: Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse. This took the bitter vibe of the Evil Twin and kicked it up another level. The sourness popped in both scent and sip and its golden color shone in the afternoon sun (sorry for that poetic moment). Personally, I picked the Evil Twin as my favorite for the day, but I could see why serious sour beer fans would want to go running for the German offering.

Tapestry on Urbanspoon


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