America’s self-proclaimed “best beer-drinking city” gets its cred not from a surfeit of breweries, but from the many pubs where you can actually enjoy all that good beer. While early adopters like McGillin’s Olde Ale House, Monk’s Café and the Khyber Pass first welcomed craft beer and promoted small breweries, thirsty enthusiasts are now heading to hundreds of taprooms in repurposed rowhouses and gritty-yet-friendly river wards. There, they discover that the city’s best beer destinations aren’t really destinations; they’re the corner bars and restaurants that are an organic part of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
A bicycle or running shoes are the preferred forms of transportation to this production brewery/ taproom along the well-traveled Schuylkill River Trail to Valley Forge. Weekend warriors and shuffleboard players re- fresh themselves with an English-style ESB among other hoppier favorites. 739 E. Elm St., Conshohocken; conshohockenbrewing.com
Expect to meet new friends at communal tables in this no-reservations 30-seater in the museum district. That’s OK, because pizza—especially these glorious, chewy, richly topped pies—was meant to be shared and paired with beer. The savory, doughy, mortadella-and- ricotta rotolos will sop up anything from the list of 30 American and imported craft cans and bottles. 1939 Callowhill St., pizzeriavetri.com
A bar with the look of a Berlin subway stop serving Pennsylvania-centric taps only makes sense if you know the Keystone State’s reputation for German lagers. Fresh pils, dunkel, weizen and Dortmunder from Sly Fox, Neshaminy Creek, Troegs and Victory cool down the hot-and-loud live rock ’n’ roll in this underground Center City venue. 1320 Chestnut St., ubahnphilly.com
Beast & Ale
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Its neighborhood, Manayunk, is the old Lenape Native American word for “where we go to drink,” today evidenced by dozens of bars serving teeming crowds of college students. The hand pump dedicated to British ale from Forest & Main brewpub is a mandatory stop before a climb to the top-floor deck for an inexpensive menu of glorious double-decker burger patties and pork belly fries. 4161 Main St., beastandale.com
Named for the three forms of fermentation that dominate its menu (beer, wine, cheese), the small Center City chain offers an imaginative draft selection at this tight spot off Rittenhouse Square. The walls are stripped to the bricks and the tap wall is lit like a post-Impressionist piece from the city’s Barnes Foundation museum. Patrons consult computer tablets for descriptions of unusual Italian imports and high-end domestic crafts. 2005 Walnut St., triataproom.com
Cresheim Grain Exchange
In Mount Airy, one of America’s most racially integrated neighborhoods, stalwarts McMenamin’s Tavern and Earth Bread + Brewery were joined last year by this comfort-food-focused dining room. Shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and mason jars filled with layered root vegetables complement a tightly curated American craft tap selection in a casual, kid-friendly atmosphere. 7152 Germantown Ave., facebook.com/cvgrain-exchange
A seasonal waterfront location in the shadow of the majestic Ben Franklin Bridge beckons drinkers to this vibrant, shaded outdoor space. Under its visiting chef program, Nicholas Elmi of “Top Chef” fame this summer is expected to create dishes meant to be paired with local favorites from Yards, Saint Benjamin and Dock Street. 221 N. Columbus Blvd., morganspier.com
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
A familiar sight in the nearby suburbs, the award-winning Iron Hill chain finally set up shop inside city limits at the top of Chestnut Hill, a bastion of wealth and unfortunate preppie fashion choices. In warm months, the windows open onto the busy avenue of boutiques and bistros, allowing brewer Chris LaPierre to lure the gentry from their gin and tonics with his trademark Belgian-style Cannibal golden ale. 8400 Germantown Ave., ironhillbrewery.com/chestnuthill
City Tap House
The well-stocked, 40-tap gastropub sandwiched among Center City’s skyscrapers feels like it’s all business until the lively after-work scene gives way to Philly’s diehard sports fans glued to a mega multiscreen TV. Nearly every new American craft beer to hit Philly makes an early stop here. 2 Logan Square, citytaphouselogan.com
Interstate Draft House
Once home to a brawl- ing nuisance bar, this Fishtown watering hole pokes fun at its history with Two-Fisted Wednesdays ($10 burger and beer). Hidden among rowhouses near a rumbling trolley line, its small outdoor space is a surprising oasis serving pints of longtime local favorite Kenzinger, as well as newcomers from the area’s HiJinx and Naked breweries. 1235 E. Palmer St., interstatedrafthouse.com
2nd Story Brewing
Step inside this decidedly modern, sleek-looking brewpub, and it’s easy to forget you’re bending an elbow along a historic Old City cobblestone street where the Founding Fathers once gathered. These days, a stylish, late-night crowd grazes on a locally sourced menu that favors small plates, washing them down with four-buck brewpub drafts, including a colonial-style porter and a classic English mild ale. 117 Chestnut St., 2ndstorybrewing.com
HUNT THESE TAPS:
As the lone East Coast city where Russian River distributes, Philly draws near-ravenous crowds from far and wide for monthly Pliny the Elder deliveries. (For a delicious DIPA made a bit closer to home, seek out Evolution Lot 6.) Hopheads also freak for Troegs Nugget Nectar, which is more readily available in the city thanks to the brewery’s recent expansion; watch for anything in Troegs’ Scratch Beer Series of experimental brews, too. Come spring, Weyerbacher releases its 11.3% bourbon- barrel-aged imperial Sunday Morning Stout, which is nearly as popular as the brewery’s fall Imperial Pumpkin Ale. But the true prize for Philly beer hunters: Hill Farmstead. The noto- riously tough-to-score Vermont-made beers land in the city two or three times a year— but once they’re gone, they’re gone. One of the best resources for tracking what’s flowing through the city is phillytapfinder.com, maintained by local fanatics Jared and Kristy Littman.
When in the City of Brotherly Love, don’t forget to pick up souvenirs to share with your pals back at home. Keep an eye out for lambics and a forthcoming kriek from Perkasie, Penn.-based Free Will; a recent peach version highlighted local Buck’s County fruit. A stellar citrusy ESB from Conshohocken Brewing is also a local favorite in 22-ounce cans. New this summer, Manayunk’s Summer Paradise, which was formerly a spiced wheat beer, gets the sour kettle treatment and emerges as a canned Berliner weisse.