Forest & Main is a study in dualities: One brewer makes English-style ales; the other makes Belgians. The chef ties it all together with the best of both worlds.
Like a batch of English pale ale invaded by wild yeast, Forest & Main could have gone really bad, really fast. The concept—a suburban Philly brewpub with two leaders, Daniel Endicott concocting English-style beers and Gerard Olson doing Belgian styles—is the kind of thing business management textbooks warn about. You half wonder whether, in the race to brew the better beer, Olson might plant Cascade hops where the Challengers should be, or if Endicott might poison a saison with a handful of roasted malt.
But the idea of a rivalry makes Endicott laugh. “It’s not as separate as most people think it is. Depending on who’s available each day, sometimes I’ll end up doing a saison, he’ll be brewing a bitter.”
Friends with Olson for a decade now (both trained brewers, the two became partners when they wanted breweries of their own; they joined forces to open Forest & Main last spring), Endicott says the unlikely model works because both English and Belgian brewing traditions share an artisanal, local ethos, and that they combine to form a range of beers that has something for everyone.
And virtually everyone flocks to this quaint 19th-century house; elderly couples and picnicking families by day, and a vibrant younger set at night. The beers—five on tap, three on cask, and always changing—are as diverse as the crowd, presenting a spectrum of colors and flavors that always includes at least one sour. Olson’s Solaire, a 4.5%-ABV saison, usually anchors the lighter end, while the hand-pumped Kinch IPA (an Endicott creation) sits opposite with 7% ABV. Both are best-sellers.
Chef Kaylin Miska’s menu of seasonal American fare with heavy European influences puts the liquid in context; hazelnut gnocchi, mussels in chorizo broth and confit chicken leg over grits send home the idea that culinary traditions often work better in pairs. “A lot of our beers are Old World styles with an American twist,” says Endicott. “We do the same thing with food.”