Northeast Philly’s Grey Lodge Pub celebrates its favorite holiday in craft beer style
By Chris Munden
In the 1993 cult classic Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a news weatherman forced to repeat the same day forever. If he found himself stuck at The Grey Lodge Pub on a snowy February 2nd, he may not have minded repeating that day ad infinitum.
Each year on Groundhog Day, beer lovers rise early to flock to this iconic Northeast Philly establishment for an early morning celebration of America’s most bizarre holiday. The festival has been a Pennsylvania tradition since at least the 1880s, and part of Grey Lodge’s annual calendar since 2002.
“We would always have big parties on Firkenteenth,” says bar owner Mike Scoats, referencing Grey Lodge’s tradition of cracking open rare kegs every time a Friday falls on the thirteenth of a month. “But there happened to be a 15-month gap between Firkenteenths. Groundhog Day seemed like the ideal holiday to fill the gap.”
Grey Lodge’s first Groundhog Day included many of the same traditions that continue to this day. There’s always a tasty breakfast menu and an impressive lineup of craft beer, including some one-of-a-kind, aged firkins. Hi-def TVs tune into the ceremony in Punxsutawney, PA, at 7:20 AM to find out if Phil (the groundhog) will see his shadow, thereby predicting a longer winter. There’s a Hawaiian shirt contest, a goldfish (cracker) eating competition and a hula hoop tournament.
Some of the traditions have been added over the years like the puppet-show reenactment of Punxsutawney Phil’s prognostication, a tradition that began when February 2nd fell on a Sunday. State law didn’t allow bars to open until 11AM. Scoats made all his own puppets for this humorous re-creation of the early morning ceremony. Last year’s version included Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump.
Grey Lodge’s rearranged Sunday schedule even helped alter PA laws. “The state had changed the law to allow 9AM Sunday openings,” says Scoats. “But we had our local state representative come to a Groundhog Day celebration, and I asked if he could make it even earlier, which he did.” Opening time is now 7AM, so it’ll be business as usual next time February 2nd falls on a Sunday.
This year, Groundhog Day falls on a Friday, which will guarantee a vibrant turnout. “There’s a line out the door waiting to get in when it’s on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday,” says Scoats. “I can guarantee that we’re the fullest bar in the city at 7AM!”
Some people have been coming to the annual event for over a decade, dressed in their best (or worst) Hawaiian shirts, drawn to the impressive craft beer lineup. “We try to balance crazy, high-octane small pours with session beers,” says Scoats. “There are always some that get people very excited.”
This year will be no exception.