What's the backstory behind "Beef and Beer" parties?
November 10, 2009 5:50 PM   Subscribe

PhillyFilter: So .... what's the story with the "Beef-and-Beer" benefit parties that I keep hearing about as a new arrival in Philadelphia?

I understand the point (Pay $X.XX at the door, eat as much beef and drink as much beer as you can, proceeds to the designated charity). My question is, is this only a Philadelphia thing? Does anyone know the history of these things, or some other entertaining back story? Or is the Philadelphia "Beef and Beer" the gastronomical equivalent of the Bostoian "wicked" ... just part of the cuture of the place?
posted by scblackman to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a Delaware thing, too. I actually think it's more a Delaware thing than a Philly thing, but I may be wrong about that. And yeah, it's just part of the culture; if there's a back story I don't know it.

Strangely, I never heard of them when I lived in South Jersey... Seems not to have crossed the river.
posted by amro at 5:58 PM on November 10, 2009


I remember reading this a while ago. Sounds similar.
posted by dforemsky at 6:00 PM on November 10, 2009


Sounds like a beefsteak.
posted by xil at 6:01 PM on November 10, 2009


I've lived in Delaware for 2 1/2 years, and I've NEVER heard of this. I must know the wrong people.
posted by JMOZ at 6:10 PM on November 10, 2009


I'm from Delaware County (moderately south and west of Philly), and it seems that every charity my friends support have a beef and beer at least once a year.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 6:24 PM on November 10, 2009


It's a working class white Philly thing. You rent a hall, somebody donates the kegs and the food and you charge admission to raise money to donate to somebody's medical bills or to a scholarship for someone's orphaned kids, shit like that. They're great ways for working class white people in Philly to raise money and awareness in their social networks because working white people in Philly love to get drunk and eat meat. I have no idea where it started but I also get like at least two invites a year to these things. It's like roofers. Why does Philly have so many roofers? I've never known a city that has so many roofers. Are our roofs more fucked up than roofs in other cities? It's a mystery that seems particular to the area.
posted by The Straightener at 6:31 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


They have something similar here in Kansas. It's usually a pig roast, but the same concept. Pay your money, eat your food, and the proceeds go to charity (or to an individual who needs specific help, usually for catastophic medical bills).
posted by amyms at 6:36 PM on November 10, 2009


JMOZ - as The Straightener mentioned, it's kind of a working class thing. Maybe your friends are more white collar than blue?
posted by amro at 6:41 PM on November 10, 2009


Rent Party
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:45 PM on November 10, 2009


Yeah, I can support the assertion that this is a working class thing by pointing out that here in Philly as amyms has found at Kansas pig roasts the big recurring purpose for these is to help pay off the medical bills of the uninsured, which is something you typically have to worry about less as you move up the socioeconomic ladder. Also, the kind of money raised by these things is typically not the kind of money wealthier families would find to be worth the trouble of throwing them, we're talking like a couple grand tops.

In the black community there's a long history of these fundraiser type gatherings in the rent party tradition, and I've worked with people in the black community here who say rent parties still happen.
posted by The Straightener at 6:49 PM on November 10, 2009


Jiiiiiiinx
posted by The Straightener at 6:49 PM on November 10, 2009


Here in Massachusetts, it always seems to be a) a "chicken BBQ" (which, whatever, barbecue purists), b) a "ham and bean supper" (baked beans, not green beans), or c) a "spaghetti supper." Oh, there's also the "pancake breakfast" tradition.

The "beef and beer" seems to be a descendant of the great 19th century "beefsteak" tradition as discussed in the thread xil linked. I suppose we don't have beer here due to Puritan.

I am jealous, because I prefer beef and beer to spaghetti, ham and beans, and grilled chicken.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:05 PM on November 10, 2009


the big recurring purpose for these is to help pay off the medical bills of the uninsured

Around here (and around the little teeny farmtown where I grew up), these charity feeds are often held for medical expenses of people with cancer/kidney disease/birth defects, but more commonly to support small community organizations (Little League teams, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, churches, volunteer fire departments, etc.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:07 PM on November 10, 2009


Probably no surprise, but beer & bbq is a pretty popular fundraiser thing in Texas, not that we need much of an excuse to bbq and drink beer.
posted by MuChao at 7:59 PM on November 10, 2009


So, The Straightener / amro / sjuhawk31: what form does the beef take at a Philly/Delaware Beef and Beer? Is it as ritualized as Jersey Beefsteaks (which sounds to be inevitably buttered tenderloin slices on toast), or is it just more of a catchall term for charity-feed, generally featuring cow-derived meats?
posted by mumkin at 9:38 PM on November 10, 2009


what form does the beef take at a Philly/Delaware Beef and Beer?

I always found it to be thinly sliced roast beef in gravy, which is served on kaiser rolls with provolone or american cheese and maybe some horseradish. Often some meatballs in tomato sauce will also be found, as well as your common deli meat trays, macaroni salad and coleslaw.
posted by orme at 4:16 AM on November 11, 2009


Strangely, I never heard of them when I lived in South Jersey... Seems not to have crossed the river.

Certainly by now it has. I have a coworker in Burlington County who hosted a beef and beer just a couple of months ago. It was a scholarship benefit for the kids of a friend of the coworker's who had recently passed away. Interesting phenomenon, didn't know much about it before that.
posted by graymouser at 6:28 AM on November 11, 2009


Lots of charities and private groups have pancake breakfasts as fundraisers. Sounds like the same sort of thing.
posted by rokusan at 7:09 AM on November 11, 2009


Thanks all for sating my curiosity. The one I was invited to was for a co-worker whose 29-year-old husband was diagnosed with the mother of all metastatic cancers at the same that that his wife (my co-worker) was 6 months pregnant with their first child. I may buy a bunch o' tickets just because of the epic nature of the tragedy. Hopefully I'll have enough appetite.
posted by scblackman at 7:16 AM on November 11, 2009


In northern Rhode Island, fund-rasing parties like this offer "dynamites," which are a kind of spicy [for Rhode Island, which is to say not spicy at all] Sloppy Joe mixture served on a bun. I have seen these done for political fund-raisers, for people hurt in an accident, etc.

As a kid in Minnesota I saw booyas, which were the same idea again but done with an enormous pot of Mystery Stew. *shrug* Seems pretty universal.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:04 AM on November 11, 2009


JMOZ - as The Straightener mentioned, it's kind of a working class thing. Maybe your friends are more white collar than blue? -- posted by amro

Yeah, I'll just go back to my upper-middle class, east-coast, liberal, elitist, Jewish, college professor-shaped hole.

Kidding aside- Yes, most of our friends do skew white collar, and our more working class friends and neighbors are mostly (A) union types who have insurance, (B) transplants from other regions, or (C) blue collar types who are used to interacting with white-collar types (e.g. work at the university). I guess that would explain it. Always interesting to learn new things that are happening, I suppose, all around me.
posted by JMOZ at 11:53 AM on November 11, 2009


upper-middle class, east-coast, liberal, elitist, Jewish, college professor... Always interesting to learn new things that are happening, I suppose, all around me.

Full disclosure: I've never actually been to a beef and beer, but I know about them and heard about them numerous times while living in Wilmington. And one could argue that I am almost all of the things you mentioned above, save for elitist and a college professor. (But my dad was a college professor, so there's that.) At any rate, I bet you start noticing them all the time now.
posted by amro at 7:33 PM on November 11, 2009


Oh, and I never heard about them when I was in college at UD, so if that's where you teach, maybe they're not as big a thing in Newark as they are in Wilmington.
posted by amro at 7:35 PM on November 11, 2009


yeah, I'm in Newark, so I won't hold my breath, but I'll keep an eye open. I'm a bit slow on these things; this was the first year I went to Oktoberfest at the Saegerbund. (That was quite an interesting experience; I wouldn't have thought there were that many pair of lederhosen in the entire state of Delaware).

Also, lest anyone take me overly seriously, I was mostly mocking myself with that list.
posted by JMOZ at 3:18 PM on November 12, 2009


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