William Reed, owner of Standard Tap in North Philadelphia, holds the Hammer of Glory. Credit: Charles Mostoller/METRO
It's no Liberty Bell, but the Beer Week "Hammer of Glory" is on its way to becoming Philadelphia's next icon.
The Hammer of Glory (HOG), which will be used on Friday for the seventh annual Beer Week's inaugural keg-tapping at First Troop by Mayor Nutter, has famously been photographed in hundreds of selfies, ripped off by bartenders in Baltimore, stolen from Johnny Brenda's, recovered under I-95, and been established as a bona fide Philadelphia celebrity.
But few people know where the famed Hammer came from.
"Beer Week needs some more dumb s—," were the words during a Gmail chat between co-creators William Reed, co-owner of Johnny Brenda's and Standard Tap, and Mike "Scoats" Scotese, owner of Grey Lodge, that incited the hammer's forging in 2009.
It was around 4:15 p.m. one day, the first Beer Week had just ended, and Reed and Scotese, who have since become Beer Week board members, were concerned that the event, which is sponsored by Interstate General Media, owner of the Inquirer and Daily News, was too focused on "meet-the-brewer" formal events and local craft beer tasting parties.
"For a lot of us, every day is Beer Week, so the question is 'How do you share some of that fun with everybody?'" Reed said.
Neither Scotese nor Reed remembers who thought it up, but the idea came of a heroic-proportioned hammer, as a quasi-symbolic mascot for Beer Week.
"It just had to exist," Reed said simply.
Forger Warren Holzman of the Iron Studio was called in and given the cocktail-napkin diagram. From February to March 2009, the approximately 10-pound-plus custom iron hammerhead was forged and attached to a roughly two-foot ax-handle.
The hammer's popular success was virtually instant.
"There's something about it that people just instantly get -- like, 'Oh yeah, the Beer Hammer!'" explained Reed, who stores the hammer in a display case at Standard Tap. "A hammer is like the beer of tools. It's got that slightly oversized manner. It's got an honesty, like beer. It's like, 'Yeah! Ok!'"
"The HOG definitely speaks to people, no doubt," Scotese said in an email. "The number of people who get their picture taken with it is staggering."
Prior to the Mayor's keg-tapping, the hammer will get paraded between more than 20 bars as part of the "Hammer of Glory Relay," which is based on the Olympic Torch ceremony and requires carriers to get creative.
Some of the creative means of transit Reed has previously used to get the hammer from bar to bar include ziplining it across Poplar Street, and Pogo-sticking it from bar to bar with lit fireworks tied to his legs. He has also brought it skydiving.
"William Pogo-sticking with fireworks attached to his ankles was definitely a sight to behold. I was jealous that it was so awesome. I definitely upped my game after that," Scotese said. "That's one of the great things about the Philly craft beer scene, we push each other to get to the next level and we respect each others growth in making s--- weirder."
Scotese noted as unique a relay transport undertaken by The Kite and The Key, who recreated "George Washington Crossing the Delaware," with the hammer in a boat on wheels being pushed down the street by the Father Judge wrestling team. Police didn't order them to get off the road until they were just feet from their final destination, the Four Seasons Hotel.
Another memorable relay also involved staff from The Kite and The Key, who pushed an imitation 'Animal House" parade float down the street with the hammer, as no one, not even police, noticed them or bothered to interfere.
"I've never felt so proud to be a Philadelphian," Scotese said.
Each relay participant makes the same "hand-off toast" when they pass off the Hammer: "Noble carrier, we entrust you with The Hammer of Glory, the omnipotent symbol of our beloved Philadelphia Beer Week. May your journey be safe. Work ye up a thirst, for there shall be a beer waiting for you at your destination. Godspeed!"
This Friday the Hammer will be transported by the Philly Roller Girls, Fishtown Beer Runners, SEPTA, kinetic sculpture, motorcade, human chain, and many other wild and creative means. This year's Beer Week is also special because it marks the premiere of the Beer Hammer miniature chocolates, created by Franklin Fountain.
It all goes toward spreading the joy and spirit of the local craft beer scene.
"There's just something about beer. No one ever says, 'Let me buy you a glass of wine,'" Reed said.
A hammer, wrongfully taken
One act that Reed and Scotese hope won't happen this Beer Week is the theft of the Hammer, which occurred last year. As Reed recalled, the hammer was left out at Johnny Brenda's as people took selfies with it; it wasn't being closely supervised; and suddenly, it was gone.
"It was a crime of opportunity by a rather drunk patron," Reed said.
Reed ended up leaving the bar for East Detectives where he had to file a missing hammer report and answer the embarrassingly obvious question, "Have you drank alcohol in the last 24 hours?"
Ultimately, the thief is believed to have woken up with the Hammer in his possession, and in a spasm of guilt discarded it under I-95, accounts say. Luckily, once the thief's roommate discovered what had happened, he re-secured the hammer and returned it to the nearest local bar, according to Reed.