By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The largest beer celebration in America begins today! The 8th annual Philly Beer is back and continues to grow in both size and stature.

Beer Week was a unique Philadelphia event when Mayor Michael Nutter swung the Hammer of Glory –or HOG — for the first time in 2008.

Since then the celebration includes more than 40 breweries and nearly 200 bars and taverns. It has also caught on in cities across the country and throughout the world, says Beer Week executive director Kristine Kennedy:

“Last year we had a journalist come from England who was so excited about Beer Week and what he saw here when he went back to London he started London Beer Week. So he was asking us all kinds of questions about how we set ourselves up and what did we do and things like that.”

Philly Beer Week executive director Kristine Kennedy with the Hammer of Glory. (Credit: Paul Kurtz)

Philly Beer Week executive director Kristine Kennedy with the Hammer of Glory. (Credit: Paul Kurtz)

Among the new events this year — a street pub organized by Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery.

“In terms of beer they’re gonna be bringing a lot of their more rare beers that are hard to find in a bar,” says Kennedy. “And they are shutting down most of 2nd Street down off of South.”

And of course, Kennedy says old favorites like the Throwdown in Franklintown will be back:

“Kite and Key and Yards Brewery go head-to-head in some form or shape of a battle royal. It can be Roman Gladiators, sumo wrestlers. Do they wrestle? They actually wrestle, yes, in big sumo wrestling costumes.”

Beer Week is ten days of pub crawls, festivals, tap takeovers and other events, and it all starts today with the HOG being passed around relay-style from bar to bar until it arrives this evening at the 23rd Street Armory for the ceremonial opening tap.

You can find all the information you need at phillybeerweek.org or check out our guide to Philly Beer Week.

Hear more in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 6:17)…