Philly has been associated with beer since its early years, when places such as Tun’s Tavern (birthplace of US Marines), Fraunces Tavern and the Troubled Old Man once existed along the waterfront. After the Revolution American, Philadelphia hosted the Constitutional Convention. After wrapping up the policy at the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Mall), the Founding Fathers headed to the City Tavern to kick off a few rounds. Over time, as the population grew, so did beer consumption. When Prohibition raged, bootleggers like Max “Boo Boo” Hoff made their fortunes bringing hooch to venues and politicians, while honest individuals, such as Smedley Butler, were kicked out of town for trying to keep the city dry.
Over the past decade, neighborhoods such as Brewerytown and Northern Liberties (NoLibs) have become important in attracting beer lovers to areas that were once home to breweries in the previous century. These places, however, have long since disappeared, leaving behind only the names on the facades of the buildings.
Today, most breweries are out of reach for travelers who prefer Olde City and downtown Philadelphia. Yet only a few stations north of these areas are home to breweries that cater primarily to locals. Along Girard Avenue and Spring Garden, which run parallel west to the Delaware River, are the area’s newest breweries.
Sometimes accompanied by brewer Rick Vickers and manager Leah Pizoli (aka Pint-Sized Leah) of South Jersey’s Mechanical Brewery, we decided to revisit and explore the breweries that started in or around Philadelphia and talk about our favorite drinks.
1. Crime and Punishment Brewery
Located in Brewerytown, C&P caters to a younger crowd and leans heavily on the area’s heritage. Think of it as a city hall where you can hear local gossip and neighborhood happenings.
During our visit, I enjoyed both the Florish 4.8%, which is acidic with a taste that is both lemony with hints of raspberry, and the Palinoia 4.8%, which is a pilsner. Both were light and tasty.
Rick started with the 4.8% Kosmo (New Zealand pale ale), which, in his own words, “is a good representation of New Zealand hops.” He followed with Mild Concerns (Mild Dark English) 3.8%, which he thought was the best drink overall. He said it was full of flavor, not thin, and had a distinctive flavor he couldn’t put his finger on.
Leah also had mild concerns and expressed a similar opinion about it, adding that she had great color and was true to style. She added that she rarely drinks English Dark Milds, but it was the first one she revisited due to its mild taste.
2. Restaurant & Brasserie Bar Hygge
Between Girard and Spring Garden runs Fairmount Avenue, which has gained popularity due to its proximity to the Art Museum and Eastern State Penitentiary. Bar Hygge bases its location on the Danish concept of taking pleasure in making ordinary, everyday things more meaningful, beautiful or special. The three of us were curious how this concept translated into their beers, so we stopped by.
Leah had the 5.7% Mellow Cream Ale and said it was not aggressive, just a basic, effervescent cream beer.
3. Meyers Brewery
Meyers is new to the neighborhood, whom I met through a friend who learned of its recent opening. Meyers is a good hangout for recent Philadelphia transplants or those stopping before or after dining at restaurants and joints such as Sancho Pistolas, Pizza Shackamaxon, or Pizzeria Beddia.
My favorite beer was Passion Pucker (sour) 4.5%. Tasty and delicious, it really was like drinking a light smoothie. A good runner up for me was the 5.1% Lightning Lager, which was also light and had a good flavor. If you are looking for something stronger, then the 9.9% (Belgian tripel) heater is a good choice. Solid but not overwhelming, in my opinion it is a solid Belgian.
4. Urban Village Brewery
One of the most popular breweries in the area, Urban Village Brewing is located between Girard Avenue and Spring Garden, in the heart of NoLibs.
Pint-Sized Leah led the way on this one. His celebrity status earned us a mini-tour of the brewhouse. Being a frequent customer, she opted for Audition (pilsner) 4.8%, which she recommended as a light and easy drink that appeals to non-IPA drinkers.
Rick, who had never been to Urban Village, went for the Jump Start (nitro/café cream beer) 4.4%, stating that it had a good balance of coffee and beer, which made it easy to drink.
For me it was the Sex Panther (sour) 7%, which I had a few days before and couldn’t wait to try again. It’s fruity and slowly catches up with you if you’re not careful. I followed it with the seasonal Stingy Jack (pumpkin/yam) 8%, which was also delicious and non-alcoholic.
Spring Garden Street
5. Mixing of construction sites
The ancestor of the local beer scene, there isn’t a local beer drinker in Philadelphia who hasn’t been to Yards. Their move to Spring Garden helped revive the city’s craft beer scene. Many of their products are available at local stores or area bars.
The Founding Father’s Beers (known as the Breakthrough Series) have been remastered from the original recipes of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Ben Franklin. My personal favorites were the slightly malty and satiating Poor Richard’s (Spruce Ale) 5% and the limited time French Toast Bites (ale) 5.5%. You will immediately taste brown sugar and cinnamon, which reminded me of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Rick went with the Brawler (soft English) 4.2%, which he thought had some richness and was also light with a touch of molasses for a nice finish.
6. Triple Bottom Brewing
Another newcomer to the area is Triple Bottom Brewing. As soon as you arrive, the open space and welcoming staff make you feel like you’ve entered a friend’s studio instead of a brasserie. At Triple Bottom, expect to see friends, their pets, and even a few kids. Its mission is to promote equality and balance, which is obvious. Here, expect conversations with multiple generations of patrons and occasional visitors to Philadelphia.
Having been a customer a few times, I went for the newest beers and asked my bartender, Nicole, for recommendations.
Not a heavy drinker, Nicole recommended the Philly Magic (light beer) 5%, if you’re looking for something light, and the Hitchbot (sour) 6% as an option for those who aren’t heavy beer drinkers. The Upswing (pale ale) 5.8% has notes of grapefruit.
I started with the Crinkle (festbier) 5.7%, which was light and a great opener. Taking Nicole’s suggestion, I followed with the Hitchbot, which wowed me with its sweet vanilla and subtle raspberry taste.
Finding myself enjoying my experience, I continued with the Upswing, which was fruity, refreshing, and a good follow-up to the Hitchbot.
7. Liquid Art Barrel House
It’s a good place to watch a local game and eat a hearty meal. This is another place I have visited many times, alone or with small groups.
On this visit, I had the Vanilla Bean Tangerine Sour Ale 4.5% and the Lovitz Watermelon Lager (fruit beer) 4.5%; both had good flavor. My other favorites, aside from the beautifully crafted cans, were the best blonde (lager beer) at 4.5% and Ichabod Crane’s seasonal Midnight Ride (pumpkin/yam beer) at 7%.
8. Love City Brewing
Located right next to Spring Garden, Love City is a popular favorite among locals. It would be safe to say that Love City is heaven for the quirky side of Philadelphia and a pretty good example of what the Eraserhood or North Chinatown has to offer.
Expect to see Quizzo, Dungeons and Dragons, concerts and other community gathering events up front. The bar is quite large, allowing for several bartenders. Rick, Leah and I enjoyed the location.
Rick started with the Sylvie (oatmeal stout) 5%, which he liked because of its clean, crisp taste. He even commented that he would come back for more. Both Leah and Rick enjoyed Deep Cut (pilsner) 5%, which was recommended as the beer brewers are looking for. With their two endorsements, I consider this assessment to be accurate.
I, on the other hand, tried to stick with light lagers. Love City (American golden lager) 4% and Lime City (lime infused lager) 4.0% are go-to choices. Both are light and easy to drink if you don’t want to drink too much.
Philadelphia’s Hidden Gem: The Craft Beer Scene
Philly is often considered a 4-hour destination with the Liberty Bell, Cheesesteaks and Rocky Stairs at the Art Museum on typical visitor routes. This comes with a number of places and destinations that are overlooked. The city’s craft beer scene is one of those secrets that have become part of what makes the City of Brotherly Love a hidden gem. It’s simply a fact that too few travelers look beyond the landmarks to know what the city is really about. All it really takes is a pint with a local.
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