Philly has been associated with beer since its early years when places such as the Tun Tavern (birthplace of the U.S. Marines), the Fraunces Tavern, and the Old Man Full of Troubles once existed along the waterfront. After the American Revolution, Philly served as host to the Constitutional Convention. After wrapping up politics at the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Mall), the Founding Fathers headed over to the City Tavern to throw back a few rounds. Over time, as the population grew, so did the consumption of beer. When Prohibition raged, bootleggers like Max “Boo Boo” Hoff made a fortune bringing hooch to venues and politicians, while honest individuals, such as Smedley Butler, were run out of town for trying to keep the city dry.
Over the last decade, neighborhoods such as Brewerytown and Northern Liberties (NoLibs) have become prominent for drawing beer lovers into areas that once hosted breweries during the previous century. Those places, however, have long since disappeared, leaving behind only the names on the buildings’ facades.
Today, most breweries are out of the purview of travelers who prefer Olde City and downtown Philadelphia. Yet, just a few train stations north of those areas are breweries that cater mostly to locals. Along both Girard Avenue and Spring Garden, which run parallel pointing west to the Delaware River, are the newest breweries in the area.
Sometimes accompanied by brewer Rick Vickers and manager Leah Pizoli (a.k.a. Pint-Sized Leah) of South Jersey’s Mechanical Brewery, we decided to revisit and explore breweries that started in or around Philadelphia and talk about our favorite drinks.
1. Crime And Punishment Brewing Company
Located in Brewerytown, C&P caters to a younger crowd and leans heavily on the legacy of the area. Think of it as a town hall where you can hear the local gossip and goings on in the neighborhood.
During our visit, I enjoyed both the Florish 4.8 percent, which is sour with a taste of both lemon with hints of raspberry, and Palinoia 4.8 percent, which is a pilsner. Both were light and flavorful.
Rick started with the Kosmo (New Zealand pale ale) 4.8 percent, which, in his words, “is a good representation of New Zealand hops.” He followed it up with Mild Concerns (English dark mild) 3.8 percent, which he thought was the best drink overall. He said it was full of flavor, not thin, and had a distinctive flavor that he could not put his finger on.
Leah also had Mild Concerns and expressed a similar opinion about it, adding that it had a nice color and was true to the style. She added that she rarely drinks English Dark Milds, yet this is the first one that she has revisited due to its light taste.
2. Bar Hygge Restaurant & Brewery
Between Girard and Spring Garden runs Fairmount Avenue, which grew in 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 and everyday things more meaningful, beautiful, or special. The three of us were curious as to how that concept was translated into their beers, so we stopped in.
Leah had the Mellow Cream Ale 5.7 percent and stated that it was not aggressive, just a basic cream ale and effervescent.
3. Meyers Brewing Company
New to the neighborhood is Meyers, which I came across via a friend who learned about its recent opening. Meyers is a good hangout for recent Philly transplants or those stopping before or after having dinner at restaurants and joints such as Sancho Pistolas, Pizza Shackamaxon, or Pizzeria Beddia.
My hands-down favorite beer was the Passion Pucker (sour) 4.5 percent. Flavorful and delicious, it truly tasted as if I was drinking a light smoothie. A good runner-up for me was the Lightning Lager 5.1 percent, which was also light and had a good flavor. If you are looking for something stronger, then the Radiator (Belgian tripel) 9.9 percent is a good pick. Strong but not overwhelming, in my opinion, it’s a solid Belgian.
4. Urban Village Brewing Company
One of the more popular brewing companies in the area, Urban Village Brewing sits between Girard Avenue and Spring Garden in the heart of NoLibs.
Pint-Sized Leah led the way on this one. Her celebrity status got us a mini-tour of the Brew Room. Being a frequent customer, she went with the Audition (pilsner) 4.8 percent, which she recommended as a light, easy drink that appeals to non-IPA drinkers.
Rick, who had never been to Urban Village, gravitated to the Jump Start (nitro/coffee cream ale) 4.4 percent, stating that it had a good balance of coffee and beer, making it easy to drink.
For me, it was the Sex Panther (sour) 7 percent, which I had a few days prior and was anxious to try once more. It’s fruity and catches up to you slowly if you are not careful. I followed it up with the seasonal Stingy Jack (pumpkin/yam) 8 percent, which was also delicious and not boozy.
Spring Garden Street
5. Yards Brewing
The granddaddy of the local brewery scene, there is not a local beer drinker in Philly who has not been to Yards. Their move to Spring Garden helped reignite the city’s craft beer scene. Many of their products are available in local stores or bars in the area.
The Founding Father brews (known as the Revolutionary series) were remastered from the original recipes of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Ben Franklin. My personal favorites were the slightly malty and filling Poor Richard’s (spruce ale) 5 percent and the limited-time-only French Toast Bites (ale) 5.5 percent. You’ll immediately taste the brown sugar and cinnamon, which reminded me of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Rick went with the Brawler (English mild) 4.2 percent, which he thought had some richness and was also light with a touch of molasses for a good finish.
6. Triple Bottom Brewing
Another new arrival to the area is Triple Bottom Brewing. Immediately upon your arrival, the open space and welcoming staff make you feel as though you are walking into a friend’s studio apartment instead of a brewery. At Triple Bottom, expect to see friends, their pets, and even a few children. Its mission promotes equality and balance, which is immediately evident. Here, expect conversations with multiple generations of patrons and the occasional visitor to Philadelphia.
Having been a patron on multiple occasions, I went for the newest beers and asked for recommendations from my bartender, Nicole.
Not a big drinker, Nicole recommended the Philly Magic (light lager) 5 percent, if you are looking for something light, and the Hitchbot (sour) 6 percent as an option for those who are not big beer drinkers. The Upswing (pale ale) 5.8 percent has notes of grapefruit.
I started with the Crinkle (festbier) 5.7 percent, which was light and a great opener. Taking Nicole’s suggestion, I followed up with the Hitchbot, which impressed me with its smooth 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
This is a good location to watch a local game and eat a hearty meal. This is another location that I have visited on multiple occasions both on my own and with small groups.
On this visit, I had the Vanilla Bean Tangerine Sour Ale 4.5 percent and the Lovitz Watermelon Lager (fruit beer) 4.5 percent; both had good flavor. My other favorites, aside from the beautifully-designed cans, were the Best Blonde (blonde ale) 4.5 percent and the seasonal Ichabod Crane’s Midnight Ride (pumpkin/yam beer) 7 percent.
8. Love City Brewing
Located right off Spring Garden, Love City is a popular favorite among locals. It would be safe to say that Love City is a haven for the quirky side of Philly and a fairly 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 in the front. The bar area is fairly big, allowing for multiple bartenders. Rick, Leah, and I enjoyed the location.
Rick started off with the Sylvie (oatmeal stout) 5 percent, which he enjoyed due to its neat and clean taste. He even commented that he would return for more. Both Leah and Rick enjoyed the Deep Cut (pilsner) 5 percent, which was recommended as the beer that brewers reach for. With both of their approvals, I see that assessment as accurate.
I, on the other hand, tried to stay with light lagers. Both the Love City (American golden lager) 4 percent and Lime City (lime-infused lager) 4.0 percent 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 thought of as a 4-hour destination with the Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks, and the Rocky Stairs at the Art Museum on visitors’ typical itineraries. With that comes a number of locales and destinations that get overlooked. The city’s craft beer scene is one of those secrets that has become a part of what makes the City of Brotherly Love a hidden gem. It’s simply a fact that too few travelers look past the landmarks to learn what the city is truly about. All it really takes is having a pint with a local.
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