Philly's a Town Where Life Comes at You in Pints
By Stephen H. Segal
When I moved out of my tiny Center City apartment back in 2010 to see what life would be like up in Northwest Philly, I wasn’t so much worried about the new neighborhood itself—teachers living on both sides promised to make for peace and quiet—or the commute—SEPTA usually gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. One thing I was worried about, however, was what the beer would be like up there.
See, there’s hardly a bar or restaurant I’ve been to in Philadelphia over the years that hasn’t introduced me to a new beer. And a lot of those have been tied to some of the best memories I have.
My first evening out after moving back to the city, my best friends took me out to Standard Tap on a night when the bar was offering Samuel Adams Scotch Ale on draught. We laughed, we took stupid photos of each other, we toasted the future; meanwhile, not only did the beer’s smoky chocolate snap make me an instant fan, it also set me on a long-term quest to hunt down as many more Scotch ales as I could find. That path would lead first to Chestnut Street, where Eulogy’s massive bottle menu included the likes of the delicious Traquair Jacobite, and then—unlikely as it seems—out to Whole Foods’s Cold Point Pub to pick up a six-pack of Old Chub. Yes, the name sounds gross. Yes, it comes in a can. And yet? Surprisingly fine beverage.
Then there was the night I went out drinking at Sassafras with an author whose book I was editing. On tap: Founder’s Breakfast Stout. I’d had stouts aplenty before, but this was a whole new breed of animal—a massively rich coffee-flavored beast that was so filling unto itself that I couldn’t even dream of pairing it with the bison burger the regulars there recommended. Even better, the book eventually turned out great—and the author, beer and culture expert Eric San Juan, joins us in here the Philadelphia Weekly’s pages for the first time this week. (“Brews of Legend,” page 16.)
Philly’s also home to that age-old bastion of journalistic quasi-debauchery, the Pen & Pencil Club: the nation’s oldest press club and a fine place to see reporters with bent elbows. At the P&P, of course, it’s not so much about the fine pedigree of fancy craft beers as it is about pounding a Guinness or three—as a healthier alternative to pounding whichever politician or press flack is refusing to go on the record today.
All of which is to say that life in Philadelphia, as I’ve experienced it, is inextricable from beer. So leaving Center City made me a little nervous; surely this abundance of pub luxury couldn’t possibly extend all the way to the city limits.
I needn’t have worried. Mt. Airy has Earth Bread + Brewery, one of the jumpingest food and drink destinations of recent Philly vintage. Just a few blocks up Germantown Avenue, the Trolley Car Diner boasts one of the greatest road marquee signs I’ve ever seen: on one side, “Best Kids’ Menu in Town!” and on the other, “Over 200 Cold Beers!” Across the valley and down toward the river, Manayunk Brewing Company offers a fresh assortment of ales, lagers and seasonal brews.
Moral of the story: Wherever you go in this town, there’s good stuff to drink. And Philly Beer Week is a brilliant excuse to veer off your familiar routes of life and try something new.
In This Issue:
Philly's Favorite Beer: We could tell you what beers WE like, but instead we asked some Philly celebrities to share their favorite beer and bars.
Our Year of Beer: The city has seen an explosion of craft-beer bars since last year's Philly Beer Week. Our food & drink expert Brian McManus reports.
Brews of Legend: Ever notice how many beers are named afte myths, gods and monsters? There's a reason for that.
Photos: J.R. Blackwell
Model: Brittanny Hennessy
Location: Brauhaus Schmitz
Makeup: Elizabeth Terenchin
Sure, we could give you our two cents about the coolest brews in town and where to drink ‘em—but we know you’d rather know where Philly's celebrities drink. So without further ado, here are 100 drinking tips from some of the city’s beautiful people.
There’s ample evidence of Philly’s Beer Mecca status. There are a lot of new restaurant names in this year's PBW guide. And we don’t just mean new participants of Philly Beer Week, though there are plenty of those, too. No, we mean actual new restaurants. They’ve opened their doors since last year’s PBW, and all have impressive craft-beer programs and multiple taps of stellar product. We’re talkin’ nearly 20 new spots.
In ancient days, triumphant warriors returned home from a day of plunder to down their ale while bragging of victory—intoxication swelling each boast into a bloated, fantastical account of deeds that defy human abilities. Small wonder, then, that so many modern beers are named for creatures and heroes out of myth and legend. The idea of Odin’s Beard coffee or Serpent’s Tail orange juice would strike us as silly, but when it comes to beer, it just seems natural.
PW's Year of Beer: Victory Helios