Mike Kellett can’t imagine spending the first weekend in June without Philly Beer Week. Since opening Bottle Bar East back in November 2012, he’s only missed the 10-day celebration of beer one time – and he has a pretty good reason.
“We had just opened,” said Kellett, who co-owns the Fishtown bottle shop and gastropub. “We haven’t missed one since. It’s a great opportunity to increase knowledge of your brand in the city, and across the country.”
Kellett is already deep in the planning process for PBW2016, talking to suppliers and taking orders for his third annual Sour Beer Blowout. The event, taking place on June 3 this year, has turned into a source of immense pride and serves as a reminder to previous year’s mistakes. Kellett admits that he overloaded his schedule with too many events in 2013. Not anymore. He has no problems with fancy beer dinners, just don’t expect to find them on his events calendar.
“Learn as you go. You have to plan accordingly,” Kellett said. “You can’t try and plan an event two weeks before Philly Beer Week starts. Our sour beer event has become a tradition and the reaction to it has been overwhelming. We feel the effects and see that repeat business after Philly Beer Week ends.”
Channeling his inner Hannibal Smith, Kellett smiles and puts his thumb in the air when talking about Philadelphia’s passion for craft beer. Bottle Bar East boasts more than 800 varieties of beer and 12 taps, ready to be poured into a custom growler. The vibe inside is that of a neighborhood watering hole, but the bottle list is worldly. It has to be when running a bar in America’s Best Beer-Drinking City.
“People come to Philly to drink stuff they can’t find anywhere else in the country,” Kellett said. “Hundreds of people visit from out of town during Philly Beer Week, so we have to give them a reason to stop in and see us – and keep them coming back.”
This notion is shared all the way across town, in the corners and back alleys around Sansom Street. Brittany Pultz is a manager and bartender at Craftsman Row and Drury Beer Garden in Center City. The way she sees it, Philly Beer Week is a time to educate people about beer while having fun doing it.
“We love helping expand our customers knowledge on beer, and that's a huge reason we participate in Philly Beer Week,” Pultz said. “We like to bring people together over drinks, so why not educate them as well and come up with cool, interactive events to make it more fun -- throwing a party is awesome and essentially that’s what Beer Week is. You have 10 days to welcome people into your business and have an amazing time doing so.”
Pultz is quick to point out that the online buzz, from being listed on the PBW website and from social media, leads to increased business and more foot traffic.
“It’s still shocking to see how many people show up to some events, it's actually flattering,” she said.
Bottle Bar East has seen its business increase “substantially” since 2013. The halo effect the bar gets from participating in Philly Beer Week can last several weeks, sometimes months after the festival ends. Of course, there is one caveat to remember.
“You can’t just pay your money and think you’re going to succeed,” Kellett said. “We don’t just do events to do events. That doesn’t work. You need to identify what you want to do and stay within your strengths.”
Take the Terrapin Turtle Races at Drury Beer Garden, for example. Yes, they “race” live turtles on the patio and guests are greeted by brewers and brewery representatives. Pultz confirmed that they have begun the tedious search for this year’s slow-moving contestants. No small feat considering planning hugely successful events can be very stressful.
“Networking and communication is key to make things run smoothly, but in the end what you put into the event is what you'll get out of it,” Pultz said. “And, let me tell you, it's such an amazing feeling hosting successful events and knowing all the chaos paid off.”