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PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - Wielding a ceremonial hammer, Mayor Michael Nutter will tap the first keg on Friday for Philly Beer Week, an event that bolsters the city's claim to be the best beer-drinking town in America.
The Opening Tap ceremony will sample Brotherly Suds 1, an English-style ale that plays on Philadelphia's sobriquet as the "City of Brotherly Love."
Five local brewers created it to exemplify Philadelphia's vibrant beer culture.
Philly Beer Week features about 1,000 tastings, talks by local, regional and national brewers, and pairings of beer and food by local bars, restaurants and breweries in about 150 locations in and around the city.
The number of events is about three times what it was when Beer Week began in 2008.
"It's always been a beer kind of town," said Don Russell, the executive director of Beer Week. "In the tight-knit, row-house neighborhood, the local bar is always the center of the community."
The festival, which runs until June 13, showcases the city's growing number of local craft breweries. It also attracts brewers, beer distributors, bar-owners and drinkers from across the United States and overseas.
Zythos America will celebrate Belgian beer with about a dozen of Belgium's brewers discussing their craft and offering sample at the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Brewers from Scandinavia and California will also be at the Philly Beer Week.
Russell attributes its success to a spirit of cooperation between the brewers, distributors and bar owners, and to Philadelphia's blue-collar neighborhoods where the local bar is traditionally the place for people to meet.
Beer has always been the drink of choice for people on limited incomes, according to Russell.
"Anybody can afford the greatest beer in the world," he said, adding there has been a resurgence in local brewing that has resulted in beer bars springing up all over the city.
Local restaurants, including the city-center eatery Tria, are increasingly pairing their food with beer.
Local beers that will be featured at the festival include "Citra of Brotherly Love" from Troegs brewery in Harrisburg, and "Exit 6", named after an exit on the New Jersey Turnpike, which is made by the Flying Fish brewery in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
The ceremonial "Hammer of Glory" that the mayor will use to tap the first key will be carried Olympic style throughout the city by a bicycle convoy, a hearse and roller skaters.
"Our participants have outdone themselves this year, dreaming up wacky new ways to get it to the opening tap," Russell said.