After months of taking on the important issues, I’d like to address a subject far more universal in our society than politics: beer.
Yes, the sweet, simple beverage whose daily reward has made mind-numbing toil all too bearable. Social lubricant, engine of the American workforce, and finely crafted delicacy, beer is a delightful chimera.
For those of you enrolled at Temple under the age of 21, who have obviously never been able to taste beer before due to legal restrictions, it should be said that the beverage can be quite delicious when made by the right people. Philadelphia has had a strong tradition of brewing throughout its history, in part because of an influx of German immigrants in the 1800s. They made beer, and they made it right.
But in recent years we have been deprived of all but foreign brews, often of inferior quality, thanks in part to prohibition and the general decline of industry in the city. From hundreds of small breweries in the beginning of the 20th century, the city was all but dry by the 1990s. Then came a miracle: Yards. Our first microbrew, and still a champion of local brewing.
Now a brewery has emerged out of the ranks of Yards, the Philadelphia Brewing Company.
They embody one of the oldest industries in the city, and also one of the few that has been able to find a place in today’s economy. They exist in part because they value quality. But more importantly, they provide us some small identity for ourselves, something that is patently ours.
The sense of place is important to a city – its sense of being different from any other place. It brings a kind of pride and morale that seems trivial when viewed in pieces. Who cares that Philly is known for cheesesteaks or Rocky? On their own, they mean little. But they are part of a social tradition, a face to the city that says “Philadelphia.” Our beer is a part of that too. Yards doesn’t come from anywhere else but Philly, and no one drinks Yards more than Philadelphians.
Now we have a new piece of our community identity with the PBC. It seems like something small, but without our local anomalies we’re just another town.
PBC exemplifies the integration of an industry into the community. They employ residents of their hardscrabble Kensington neighborhood, host monthly community meetings, and renovated a massive old brewing facility in the area. In turn they have gathered dedicated advocates throughout the community. As Nancy Barton, a co-founder of the company puts it, “We support them and they support us.”
The same task falls to us. While the PBC will certainly supply us with fine ales, they also supply us with something more intangible. A continuation of a tradition stretching back hundreds of years, another small detail to give our city more definition, a rallying point for a beleaguered neighborhood.
Their first cases will hit the beer distributors in the first week of March. Go forth and celebrate your identity as a Philadelphian. Preferably in a responsible and legal fashion.
Ryan Briggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.