We love our lagers. That much is always clear at Marnie Old's annual Philly Bierfest at the German Society of Pennsylvania. The event, which will have its seventh annual run Feb. 24, is always a perfect reminder of how strong this region's brewers really are at crafting the cold and crispy pilsners, bocks, and helles that pay homage to the region's German roots. (For more proof, just take a look at the special lager category we judged at last year's Inquirer Brewvitational.) At least 20 local brewers will be pouring at the fest.
What's equally intriguing, though, is the opportunity to taste the wider range of beers now emerging from Germany, which is famous, of course, for its 500-year-old beer purity laws (just water, malt, hops, and yeast allowed, with few exceptions) but which is also undergoing its own craft brewing movement, channeling both hop-centric creativity and a back-to-tradition push. Some of the newcomers have been strongly influenced by American trends, like the aggressively dry-hopped Progusta IPA from BraufactuM, an amber ale that pops with the exotic fruit and floral notes of American Citra and German Hallertau hops over a deeply malty background. Festgoers will also get an opportunity to taste beers that are thoroughly traditional but made at a smaller craft scale than is more typically available from some of the more familiar industrial breweries. One of my favorites is this zwickel bier from Zoller-Hof, a sixth-generation brewery in Sigmaringen, in southern Germany. True to the style, which is similar to keller, the beer is an unfiltered helles that is refreshingly light and quaffable. The unfiltered haze brings on creamy grain biscuit notes with every sip, but it's also brightened by a citrusy tang and herbal zing that reminded me of fresh ginger. If you can't wait for Bierfest, Philly's best German beer bar, Brauhaus Schmitz, frequently has both available.
— Craig LaBan