A city known for their brutal and unwavering honesty, Philadelphia has had a huge impact on American craft beer. For the past 30 years, a large number of American and European breweries have sent their beer to Philadelphia, more than any other city, because beer drinkers in Philly came to know the difference between great beer and the bottom of the barrel. Today, as the beer industry goes through major changes of “selling out” to major foreign conglomerates and Wall St. investment firms that will soon be looking for, by any means, their “return on investment,” it’s that Philly attitude that’s needed more than ever to save quality.
On Tuesday, May 3rd, at Coeur Restaurant in Philadelphia, a meeting of two of the country’s most awarded brewers will take place to pour good, honest beer. Jeff Bagby, of Bagby Brewing in San Diego, California who has won over 40 Great American Beer Fest (GABF) medals and 10 World Beer Cups (WBC), and Bob Barrar, of 2SP Brewing in Delco, Pennsylvania who has amassed 20 GABF and 10 WBC will be sharing their best beers during the Craft Brewers Conference for an event that will give Philly what they always want and the direction beer needs to go towards. Good beer, no b.s.
Bagby and Barrar have storied careers, but both are surprisingly little known outside of a small circle of brewers. Starting at Stone Brewing, Bagby saw firsthand a brewery attempting to create their own interpretation of styles and mark them as uniquely their own. As opportunities presented themselves, Bagby took them first at Oggi’s and then Pizza Port, where he brewed alongside Tomme Arthur, who later started Lost Abbey. Bagby was able to learn and work with some of the most influential West Coast brewers.
Eventually, Bagby became Director of Operations at Pizza Port, a position that was integral to making Pizza Port nationally recognized . In his new position he and his team of brewers won Small Brew Pub of the Year at the GABF for an unprecedented 3 consecutive years. On top of this, Bagby won 20 GABF medals for his own beers, solidifying his reputation as one of the best beer craftsman in the country.
Barrar began his career by chance in the late 90s with Red Bell Brewing in Philadelphia at the age of 24. The opportunity to brew was offered to him while he worked for a contractor doing renovations on the Red Bell brewery, the owners seeing potential with his meticulous eye for detail. After brewing there for 4 years, Barrar took the opportunity to brew for the highly regarded Iron Hill Brewery. He would spend the next 15 years at their Media, PA location, brewing beers with an unparalleled attention to detail and, like Bagby, a dedication to following beer style guidelines and brewing the best version possible. Barrar was able to perfect his beers and win 20 GABF Medals and 10 World Beer Cups, making the bearded goliath a familiar face on the national and international podiums.
While the craft beer industry continues to grow, large foreign conglomerates and Wall St. now buy independent craft breweries and marketing and novelty are outpacing the dedication to quality. Together with Coeur restaurant, which is becoming known in the Philly scene as a place that cuts the fat and pays respect to the best, the two breweries will give drinkers an opportunity to try beer without any marketed frills or false promises. Both Bagby and Barrar’s beers speak the same language and we want to drink to that. No bullshit. Just Good Beer.