Nickel is not exactly the traditional tenth anniversary gift (that would be tin or aluminum) but it’s pretty close. And to celebrate 10 years of Philly Beer Week — aka the nation’s first festival of its kind, which has spurred close to 100 copycats over the past decade, and runs from June 1-11 this year — the Philly Loves Beer board treated their beloved mascot to a shiny new coat of nickel plating.
Which makes sense, because the mascot isn’t a cute fuzzy animal or even a pint glass. It’s… a hammer.
While that might seem somewhat odd — why not a mug, or a tap handle, or a bottle? — the Hammer of Glory has become the most recognizable symbol of the 10-day event.
It’s the single most photographed and tagged Philly Beer Week item on social media, according to organizers, and it’s enough to draw long lines of people willing to wait for a chance to hoist it high in the air, pretend to smash it on friends’ toes or balance beers on its head. It’s been replicated in miniature, as a bottle opener, and in the form of a delicious chocolate treat.
The HOG is also used by the mayor to tap the first keg at Opening Tap and kick off PBW every year — but only after it’s been transported around the entire city via methods as creative as possible. Past years have seen crews shuffle the HOG around via rollerblade, horse and carriage, kinetic sculpture, motorcycle, zipline, popemobile and pogo stick. Holla: This year Billy Penn gets to do a leg of the relay, and our planned method of transportation is an MC Hammer-themed desk chair race. (See below for the full 2017 route and schedule.)
If it all sounds very silly, that’s entirely on purpose.
The idea for the HOG originated during a 2008 conversation between Standard Tap’s William Reed and Mike “Scoats” Scotese of the Grey Lodge Pub. The first Philly Beer Week had just concluded, and although the two beer-loving publicans had enjoyed it, they felt it was missing levity.
“Beer Week is too serious,” Reed and Scotese agreed that day nine years ago. “It needs more stupid stuff.” The Summer Olympics were in full effect, Scotese recalled, “so we came up with the idea of a relay. William thought that instead of a torch, a giant hammer of the kind you use to tap firkins [noncarbonated beer casks] would be funny.”
Reed met with his friend Warren Holzman, a metalworker who runs the Iron Studio in Kensington. Holzman made some sketches on the back of coaster, got approval sign-off, then came back a few weeks later with the real thing. A steel 18-inch head sat atop a thick wood handle, emblazoned with the words “Philly Beer Week.” At the time, Scotese was reading Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, Bound for Glory, which he used as inspiration for the name. And so the HOG was born.
When PBW 2009 came around, Reed and Scoats were ready. They’d enlisted a dozen or so bars around the city to participate in a relay, and on the first day of the festival, the Hammer of Glory made its inaugural journey.
When it arrived at Opening Tap, it was handed to Mayor Nutter — who appeared surprised by the big beast of a mallet, but ultimately kept his cool. “I remember Nutter’s reaction,” Reed remembered. “No one had told him there would be anything different from the year before, so he’s on stage, wondering what he’s supposed to do. But he got the idea pretty quick; he figured it out.”