The Philadelphia Zoo 3400 W. Girard Ave Philadelphia, PA 19104
Reported by: Pretzel
Reviewers: Pretzel, The Stoutmeister, Queen of Funk, B3, Princess, The Good Neighbor, Nanny Franny, The Mole Slayer, The Rabbit, The Wrangler
OMG!! The Beer Posse was so excited to hear that the Summer Ale Fest was back! This has been one of our favorite (at least top 2) of beer fests, and thanks to Covid, we have been deprived of this fantabulous event since 2019. So needless to say, we were all pumped, including our esteemed Designated Drivers (DD’s). We also brought along a couple friends – Marvin and Michelle, proprietors of The Swedesboro Brewing Company.
As we all met up outside the front gates, we waited with bated breath for the VIP session to start. Once we got through security, had our ID’s checked, and got our tasting glasses, the entire group abandoned the Stoutmeister and I! It has come to the point where that is expected. For beer fests, I am decked out in my beer wardrobe – beer glass overlay, hand-painted beer shoes, beer socks, beer earrings, beer shorts, and my beer hat. And no, I do not have any beer underwear, YET! As B3 historically warned The Beer Posse, “You don’t want to hang out with Pretzel at a beer fest, unless you want to become a celebrity photographer!” He had to learn the hard way at one beer fest years ago. The Stoutmeister is kind of obligated, as he is my husband. But then again, even my sister, Queen of Funk ditched me!
So the breweries are spread out across the zoo in clusters. The band was rocking in the field near the entrance, circled by many brewery tents. So as B3, Queen of Funk, Marvin, and Michelle headed to the back of the zoo, The Good Neighbor, The Rabbit, and The Wrangler headed to the nearest brewery tent since The Rabbit did not want to wait for a quick tasting! Princess and Nanny Franny (DD’s) went strolling to check out the open animal exhibits. The Stoutmeister and I got off to a slow start, as many of the zoo staff needed a picture with me. Luckily Suzanne, one of the event organizes, gave us some good tips and recommended we head down the left path, where the best brew offerings were down near the giraffes. Bonus! But first we had to stop at the port-a-potties for The Stoutmeister, who now refers to IPA as “I pee a-lot! So we ambled down the left hand side of the zoo, tasting samples, and taking pictures. When we took a picture with Sheila and Lakota, I noticed they had large tasting glasses, while ours were the typical 4 oz taster. They informed me that the vendors got large glasses! Wow! Who knew? Along the way, we found a photo booth, and stopped to get a frame picture of the two of us. Then we found absolutely, the best Milk Stout I have ever tasted. Kalapa Milk Stout from Aristaeus Craft Brewing Co. in Langhorne, PA. It’s a sweet milk stout with a light taste of coconut. Delicious! The Stoutmeister loved it, and he’s quite picky about his stouts!
So The Stoutmeister and I leisurely made our way to the back of the zoo, I was surprised when we met up with B3, Queen of Funk, Marvin, and Michelle. So B3 tells me that hanging with Marvin is as bad as hanging with me. He doesn’t have to take photos, but Marvin has to stop and talk shop with every single brewer. (Ha Ha, serves him right). Soon, The Good Neighbor, The Rabbit, The Mole Slayer, and The Wrangler joined up with us as well. The Stoutmeister told them about the Aristaeus Milk Stout, and they all vowed to try it. Well it turns out the Milk Stout was the favorite beer of the night for most of The Beer Posse. The Rabbit and The Good Neighbor later bragged that they went back to Aristaeus 3 times. (Hmmm, might have to make a road trip to Langhorne in the near future). B3 warned me about hanging with Marvin. Being a brewery owner, he decided he needed to talk shop with every single brewery representative they come across. B3 said it significantly slowed down his progress. He knows, if you want to focus on quantity over quality, you need to hang with The Rabbit! Meanwhile, The Stoutmeister and I had met some great people and had some great conversations. John is a Philly food and lifestyle blogger. You can check out the link below. I have to try some of the hidden gems he blogs about. Then we had a great conversation with Michael from Germany, who gave us good tips on Oktoberfest and other beer fests in Germany. It’s still on my bucket list, since it got canceled out from under me these past 2 years. Thanks again COVID! Soon, we all split up again, and started trekking to other key beer areas.
As we meandered back toward the entrance area, we noticed the lines we getting longer. Yes, they let the huddled masses of the general admission ticket holders into the venue. Sigh! One thing I noticed was that most of the vendors did not have signs for their brewery on the tents or attached to the tends. When we came to a more crowded area, it was hard to figure out which vendor was which, and which line to get in for the best options. So it was a total guess. Just get in a line, and figure it our when you get up to the front. But hey, everything is good, fun, and tasty. One trick I learned, was to pull out my bubble gun, and entice or should I say distract people with pictures, good conversation, and bubbles, while The Stoutmeister eased himself into line to get up some beers. It’s amazing how adults are enthralled with bubbles! It’s not for kids, bubbles are for adults!
Nearing the end of the evening, we made our way to the bandstand, where the music was rocking, and there were still a lot of tents available with delicious beer-tasting opportunities. Of course we had to first make a stop at the port-a-potties for The Stoutmeister once again. I found a bench nearby and plopped my tired ass down, and I think I was done for the evening. Not so, I still had a lot of people asking for pictures! Meanwhile, The Stoutmeister attempts to get some snacks at a nearby food truck, but at this point, the line was just too long!
I get a text from B3, saying he lost the Queen of Funk. I’m not sure how he became her babysitter, but no worries, we agreed to meet at the entrance for our ride home anyway. We’ll meet her at the gate. So as they announce the end of the Summer Ale Fest, we make our ways to the entrance and wait for Queen. I’m getting no response from repeated texts and phone calls to her, but she finally reaches out and says she is at the entrance. I don’t see her any where, so I question her regarding her surroundings. She insists she is at the entrance. Again, I ask about her surroundings, and she says she is at the Impala Pavilion. Ok, so I tell her that is not the entrance. Now she says she doesn’t know how to get to the entrance, and I have to tell her to follow the hoards of people, all leaving the zoo. Finally, she shows up. Next time, I will attach one of those Apple locator tags to her before we go. So off we went, headed to home after another fun evening at the Summer Ale Festival. Can’t wait until next year!
- Venue – A beautiful large venue, with breweries and food trucks spread out across the zoo. It allows for plenty of walking to give you a break between beers, and helps you burn off some of the effects of over-imbibing.
- Animals – The ability to view the outside zoo animals. I enjoyed watching the giraffes, kangaroos, rhinos, zebras, and the one lone monkey I spied in the overhead animal paths.
- Food Trucks – There was a very nice variety of food choices from the food trucks including Mediterranean, Latin, Italian, Caribbean, Mexican, comfort food, sandwiches, and finger food.
- Attendees – Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming. People were patient when waiting in line, and often started conversations with other festival attendees.
- Breweries – There were over 66 breweries, and a plethora of brew offerings along with seasonal ciders and seltzers
- Parking – Free parking at the zoo parking garage!
From a Designated Driver’s perspective:
Reported by: Princess
Here are some of the activities I remember from years past:
- Riding the mechanical bull
- Zoo handlers showing off various animals up close and personal
- Zoo employees running some educational games (like pin the penis on the animal – one had to guess which penis belonged to which animal and it was very difficult, but funny)
- Temporary tattoos
- Henna tattoos
- Caricature drawings
- Petting the goats
- Photo booth (they did have a magic mirror this year that sent your pictures virtually)
- Lawn games like cornhole (I believe the organizers of the event did pull these out after we asked about games)
Sadly, due to Covid, this year wasn’t as much fun for the DD’s. There were a lot less animals to see and any up close and personal interactions were nixed. I never made it to the front gift shop to see if it was open, but the one in the middle of the zoo, was not.
There were a fair number of food trucks for this year, but they could have used more. By the time I got hungry, the lines were so long that Nanny and I searched for one that was less crowded, even if it wasn’t the kind of food we wanted.
Kudos to the organizers for offering free pretzel rods. We only found out about this via word of mouth, but it did stave off the hunger a bit and definitely was beneficial for the beer drinkers to have something in their stomachs. Also thanks for the bottle of water given to the DD’s. I think there were places to refill, but I never needed to.
Suggestions for next year (hoping Covid is less prevalent)…
- Streamline the entry. There was quite a bit of confusion this year. In the past it was a little better organized.
- Let people bring in water bottles (plastic, metal or bottled). One lady in the restroom complained because she had to leave her water bottle behind while she saw that Fran was able to bring hers in.
- Encourage more food trucks that can handle a large crowd quickly
- Offer other games or entertainment for fest attendees – see past experiences above.
Favorite Beers of the day:
- Pretzel – Aristaeus Craft Brewing Co’s – Kalapa Stout, mike stout (ABV: 5.5%)
- The Stoutmeister – Aristaeus Craft Brewing Co’s – Kalapa Stout, mike stout (ABV: 5.5%)
- The Rabbit – Aristaeus Craft Brewing Co’s – Kalapa Stout, mike stout (ABV: 5.5%)
- The Good Neighbor – Aristaeus Craft Brewing Co’s – Kalapa Stout, mike stout (ABV: 5.5%)
- The Good Neighbor – Du Claw – Strawberry Letter 23 sour IPA (ABV: 7.1%)
- Queen of Funk – My favorite??? I don’t know, I had too many to remember.
- The Mole Slayer – (No response, so he’s on my sh*t list)
Additional Posse Comments:
- The Rabbit – The venue was a nice change in pace from other beer fests. I thought the venue was definitely large enough to accommodate the number of people in attendance
- The Rabbit – It would’ve been nice to see some of the zoo employees walk around with animals.
- The Good Neighbor – The Summer Ale Fest seemed to run pretty smooth for the amount of people.
- Nanny Franny – The didn’t have any of the non-drinking activities they had in previous years such as henna tattoos, caricature drawing, and mechanical bull riding.
- Nanny Franny – Kudo’s to the zoo personnel as they were all very friendly!
- Nanny Franny – There was also some lady wearing a beer hat and cape who looked very suspicious. Just saying!
- The Philadelphia Zoo: https://philadelphiazoo.org/
- Summer Ale Festival: https://philadelphiazoo.org/events/summer-ale-festival/
- Aristaeus Craft Beer Brewing Company – https://www.aristaeusbrewing.com/
- Josh eats Philly on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/josheatsphilly/?hl=en