Since its inception Evolution Craft Brewing has made beer with food in mind, beers designed to be menu-recommendation friendly. As Evo went from a local to a more regional brewery, it did so on the strength of this food-centric consideration and made a lot of restaurant friends along the way. Recently, a bunch of those restaurant friends came down from Philadelphia to brew up a beer for Philly Beer Week and the collaboration process says a lot about how Evo is starting to exert its local influence regionally in new ways.
Evo is pretty widely available in Philly and the surrounding area and Lot 3 has been a consistently favorite beer. This makes sense because it is the kind of ubiquitous IPA that is only going to improve most meals, but especially the kinds of pub foods Philly’s restaurants and bistros tend to emphasize.
The popularity of this IPA led some of its biggest fans who also ran restaurants in town, to suggest doing a collaboration beer that was a special release for Philly Beer Week. Philly Beer Week is the oldest event of its kind, celebrating its 10th year this week, so they wanted to make kind of a big deal about it. After kicking it around awhile it was decided that Evo would do a special, super-Philly-centric beer for Philly Beer Week based on Lot 3. The result was Lot 215 (the Philadelphia area code).
Mike Piorunski, Evo’s head brewer, said the conversations about what that beer would taste like were all over the map. They kicked around the idea of doing a pretzel beer that would have been bready and salty, and a ton of other beers. What they settled upon, though, was even more basic. Starting with the names of the streets that some of the participating restaurants were on, they came up with a street name themed beer, specifically, Cedar, Spruce and Cherry.
The premise is the beginning, though, not the end of a good collaboration. Mike spent a few afternoons driving around looking for cedar and spruce trees that had the flavor character he was looking for. The cedar he eventually found on a friend’s farm, but he still was strapped for a spruce tree that had just the right amount of sprucey-ness.
We’ve all had the experience where once we notice a thing, say a kind of car, we seem to see them wherever we turn. It was the same for Mike, who went decades without noticing spruce trees and then reach the point where that was all he saw. Once he turned that corner he found the perfect one just steps from his house.
With the ingredients collected, the next step was to have a brew day, so repres from the restaurant and brewery got together to do the beer. As they were talking about it over lunch, one of the participants suggested smoking the cedar and spruce tips along with the dried cherries. More than nearly every other industry, brewers are governed by a “Why Not?” approach to their craft, so Mike threw the ingredients in the smoker. The result was a beer with a smoke sense, but without the smoky bite. It is in the difference between the taste and flavor of the beer. You taste the smoke, but you don’t really smell it, is the best way to put it.
The Philly restaurant folks brought ingredients to share as well. They also brought the Hammer Of Glory, the iconic Philly Beer Week symbol, that’s used to kick off the event. The Hammer of the Glory was inaugurated as a way to inject a little silliness into Philly Beer Week, so it was appropriate to keep the brew day from getting too serious as well.
Evo borrowed the Philly “Love” emblem for the beer’s tap handle logo and married it with the Lot 3 look to make this beer. And while it isn’t available here on the Shore, it is a testament to the respectthe Shore has regionally as a beer-producing destination.
Here’s the video of the big release: