The last three years have seen the growth of “beer weeks” in Philadelphia, and New York. These events started out as organized “pub crawls”, an effort to build closer relationships between restaurants, pubs, bars and taverns with distributors and brewers. It has also introduced many “mainstream” beer drinkers to brews that they may not have tried otherwise.

The do-it-yourself format resulted in the development of the concept of the beer “passport” a printed booklet that allowed the consumer to seek out special brews at particular restaurants, pubs, bars and taverns that featured those brews for the week. Of course these “passports” also serve as guidebooks for locals and tourists interested in finding good beers in cities they might not be familiar with. It also allowed restaurants, pubs, bars and taverns to present their “beer friendly” lists to consumers that might not have stopped in.

The founder of the New York City Beer Week, Josh Schaffner, explains… “The first one was developed in about four months and it was relatively small in scope. It didn’t have any events. It was organized into different neighborhood pub crawls.

The notion being, if we can bring some excitement to beer for one week of the year, and by extension bring excitement to the places that serve that beer, we would have a mission accomplished. It’s been going fantastically since then, especially with the inclusion of events.” Schaffner notes that since the first year the Passport concept has been an essential addition to the program. “A large part of that is a production of the passport. The passport allows people to appreciate beers at different venues on their own during the week. The passport is something we think is very important. It allows people to have a long-standing connection not just with the beer week. When people come to visit they will bring their passports and use it as a resource guide to find of the best places to drink beer in that city. This year there were parts of the passport that were actually available for use year-round. Next year we hope to have even more of that.”

What is Schaffner looking forward to regarding the 2011 “Beer Week”?

Schaffner confidently notes, “I’m really looking forward to having better connection with the other beer weeks. We’ve been at it for three years, Philadelphia’s been at it for three years, and San Francisco’s going into their third in February. San Diego’s going into their third. We are all getting together during the Craft Brewers Conference and comparing our different weeks, hearing about some of the more successful events, hopefully being able to have a more cohesiveness among the beer weeks so that regardless of where people are coming from expectations for the individual beer weeks can be met. At the very least it will be a chance to insure we will be able to run our beer weeks in a more effective and efficient manner based on experiences from the other cities.”