You are both eyeing a pair of Philly Roller Girls in their star- spangled shorts who wobble carefully around the uneven sidewalk. You don’t usually start your Friday at a bar, but this is a special day: the opening of Philly Beer Week. This annual celebration of suds every June (May 30-June 8 in 2014) claims to be the largest beer party in the United States, and includes 600 drinking and dining events, not to mention dancing and costumes.
You’re here to meet the Hammer of Glory, the emblem of this hops-infused celebration. This beloved sledgehammer is today passed throughout the city on a bar-to-bar relay. You’ve friended it on Facebook, watched its many YouTube videos, but today you hope to hold it in your hands and wave it triumphantly aloft.
But before that can happen, it’s time for the Hammer to make its journey to the next bar. The bartender clears his throat, ready to hand it off to a roller-skating young woman with these words:
“Noble carrier, we entrust you with the Hammer of Glory, the supreme symbol of our beloved Philadelphia Beer Week. May your journey be safe. Work ye up a thirst. For there will be a beer awaiting you at your destination. Godspeed.”
It’s hard to say exactly what you’ll see as you follow the Hammer on its assigned route. It has been transported in a wheelbarrow, via zipline, on a pogo stick, and in a hearse. George Washington and Rocky look-alikes have carried it, as have young men wearing lederhosen, and bellhops from the Four Seasons Hotel.
But how to get close? No worries there; it’s not coy, and lives for photo ops. In fact, it’s the life of the party at each bar it visits, many of them small, local joints. You might dance the polka with it or waltz while a band of Mummers plays. Or maybe the two of you will belly up to one of the many worn wooden bars it patiently graces.
The day will end with Opening Tap, when the mayor of Philadelphia uses the Hammer of Glory to place a spigot in a firkin of beer. You may be at the back of the crowd, or perhaps you are simply slaking your thirst with a drink from one of the many participating breweries. But no matter—by now you and the Hammer are old friends.
Mara Gorman is an award-winning freelance writer, author of The Family Traveler's Handbook, and blogger at The Mother of all Trips. When she's not on the road with her two school-age sons and husband, you can find her in Delaware. Follow her adventures on Twitter @motherofalltrip.
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5) Dance with the Hammer of Glory During Philly Beer Week