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Beertown, U.S.A.: Philadelphia

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CATEGORIES: Beertown   Feature   Travel  

The City of Brotherly Love’s also enamored of beer: Experience the city’s art, history and locavore culture, stein in hand.


Philadelphia was among the earliest adopters of the farm-to-table movement, and now it’s leading the locavores. You can’t miss Reading Terminal Market (Center City, readingterminalmarket.org), one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers markets; between booths of Lancaster County poultry, pickles and pretzels, stop at wall-less Molly Malloy’s (Center City, mollymalloysphilly.com) to sip from mostly regional taps. Really get a glimpse of local brew on the Philly on Tap (Center City, philadelphiaurbanadventures.com) walking tour, where you can hoof it through the city’s rich brewing history. After working up an appetite, the 20 tap handles and 1,000-plus takeout bottles at homey Hawthornes Beer Boutique & Gourmet Eatery (Bella Vista, hawthornecafe.com) will tempt you as much as Welsh rarebit topped with cage-free eggs, homemade fontina cheese and Boulder Obovoid sauce made from ingredients sourced next door at the 130-year-old outdoor South 9th Street Italian Market (Bella Vista, italianmarketphilly.org). Fresh Italian Market ingredients also pop up at dog-friendly Standard Tap (Northern Liberties, standardtap.com), credited as the first gastropub in the States and Philly’s first bar to serve exclusively local beers. Learn which farm raised your dinner at White Dog Café (University City, whitedog.com), an elegant row house serving all-regional beer and wild game. JG Domestic (University City, jgdomestic.com) is also farm-fresh; servers carry tin pails of modern peasant food seasoned with herbs from Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Luna Farm (Bucks County, garces-group.com/lunafarm). Garces also grows veggies, fruits, eggs and honey there for menus all over Philly. Kennett Restaurant (Queen Village, kennettrestaurant.com) isn’t just Philly’s first bar to pursue the highest standard for green building design: It’s co-owned by a former Yards tasting room manager, has Yards on cask and serves sustainably sourced wood-fired pizzas. On balmy weekend nights, Talula’s Garden (Washington Square, talulasgarden.com) terrace is an organic Eden with a beer list presented in order from “refreshing” to “complex.” To taste the city’s life after dark, the candelabra-lit Victorian dining room that is The Farmers’ Cabinet (Center City, thefarmerscabinet.com) pours rare Belgian sours and experimental Scandinavian IPAs from one of the East Coast’s largest selections of European bottles.


The construction of the Barnes Foundation (Art Museum District, barnesfoundation.org) last year catapulted Philadelphia into the global fine-arts scene; its sunny, sleek Garden Restaurant also delivers greats like Dogfish Head Namaste and Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout alongside cheese plates and sandwiches. Though you’ll be leaving the arts district, make a noontime trek to neoclassical Philadelphia Art Alliance (Rittenhouse Square, philartalliance.org), one of the oldest art centers in the country, where galleries focus on modern design; adjoining, understated Rittenhouse Tavern (Rittenhouse Square, rittenhousetavern.com) exhibits beers like Allagash Dubbel Ale and Sixpoint Bengali Tiger to complement contemporary American cuisine. After lunch, head back to the Art Museum District, where the Paul Cret-designed Ben Franklin Parkway ends at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Art Museum District, philamuseum.org), a neoclassical landmark. On Fridays, catch Art After 5 to sip beer or wine, stroll the galleries and catch eclectic acts like Ethiopian pop and Japanese gypsy punk. When the festivities end, grab a beer at McCrossen’s Tavern (Art Museum District, mccrossens.com), a cozy post-Prohibition pub where beer dinners and contemporary twists on Continental dishes lure patrons from all over the city. For after-dinner brews, head north to Bridgid’s (Fairmount, bridgids.com); after a few pints from dedicated Yards gravity taps, you’ll have the liquid courage to take a nighttime tour of the prison-themed art installations inside the 19th-century Eastern State Penitentiary (Fairmount, easternstate.org).


Philadelphians have brewed beer since the days when William Penn—a brewer himself—founded Pennsylvania. To enjoy the city’s Federalist period (think lace curtains and parlour seating), stay at the restored 18th-century B&B Thomas Bond House (Old City, thomasbondhousebandb.com); you’ll also enjoy the nightly wine and cheese hour. Of course, do Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House (Historic District, nps.gov/inde), but the National Constitution Center (Historic District, constitutioncenter.org) is perhaps more relevant as, among other things, it chronicles the amendments that banned and restored the sale of alcohol. To taste beers based on recipes written by Franklin, Washington and Jefferson, lunch at historic City Tavern (Old City, citytavern.com), where period-garb-clad staff serve salmagundi and West Indies Pepperpot soup—the same dishes the founding fathers ate there. Trace the entire history of Philly beer at the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent’s (Historic District, philadelphiahistory.org) “Craft Brewing: It’s a Beer Revolution” exhibit containing artifacts like Franklin’s drinking cup and cans from long-extinct breweries. Beer historian Rich Wagner (pabreweryhistorians.tripod.com) also offers a private driving tour of the shuttered factories in the Brewerytown neighborhood; on Saturdays, end with a tour of Philadelphia Brewing (Kensington, philadelphiabrewing.com) in the former Weisbrod & Hess Oriental Brewing building. Of course, sip Philadelphia Pale Ale at the famed Yards tasting room (Northern Liberties, yardsbrewing.com); it also occupied Weisbrod & Hess before moving to a former manufacturing building on the river. On Thursdays, belt out Colonial drinking songs like 18th-century miscreants on a Tippler’s Tour pub crawl (Old City, historicphiladelphia.org), followed by a night in lively Old City: Bring an appetite for some of Philly’s best, including mussels and Belgians at Eulogy Belgian Tavern (Old City, eulogybar.com), bratwurst and Germans at Bierstube (Old City, mybierstube.com) or grilled fish and house-made English Bitter out of a handpump at Triumph Brewing (Old City, triumphbrewing.com). For after-dinner beers, The Irish Pol (Old City, theirishpol.com) is a narrow dive, but its wall-mounted taps promise goodness like Yards Smoked Pol. Finish up at Mac’s Tavern (Old City, macstavern.com), an equally divey spot started in 1693, now owned by two stars of the city’s most twisted namesake: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

PLUS: If you watched Sam Calagione traipse around the world to develop his ancient ales series on Discovery Channel’s “Brew Masters,” you “met” his partner, beer archaeologist Patrick McGovern, who bases his expeditions at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (University City, pennmuseum.com). The museum stocks more than a dozen drinking-related items from antiquity, as well as McGovern’s books on imbibing through the ages, but it’s more fun if you can catch the so-called “The Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales” in person at a public event (penn.museum/sites/biomoleculararchaeology).



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