TSN: New on the Philly Beer Bar Scene

This was published in the official Philly Beer Week guide put out by Philadelphia Weekly. I was glad to make it to Swift Half and Wishing Well during the week, plus many, many other not-so-new places like Local 44, For Pete’s Sake, Tria Fermentation School, London Grill, Tavern 17, City Tap House and I don’t even know where else. Lord, was that all a dream?


By Tara Nurin
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jun. 1, 2010

My mother is quite fond of the phrase, “When one door closes, another one opens.” It’s an apt expression for Philly bars because since Philly Beer Week last year, we’ve witnessed the demise of some quality beer bars, most notably ZoT, Tiedhouse, Get Happy Pub & Restaurant and the Blue Ox Bistro.

But despite the economy, the door has opened on a far greater number of bars, many of which exist primarily to pour the world’s best beers into our collective mouths.

(1309 Sansom St., no phone)

Don’t try to Google it. Just go. (It doesn’t have a website but you can find it by spotting the neon sign over the door next to Time.)

Opened in January by Time owners Jason and Delphine Evenchik, this purposely understated dive serves 60 beers in cans and nine on tap. Partner Terence Leach describes his tap selection as “four locals, one out-of-towner and four douchebag beers,” and proudly announces that his can list is full of “old-man beers” like Schmidt’s and Genesee Cream Ale. His “kitchen” cooks just five dishes, all of which you’d find at a gas station, and he lists them on a menu printed on torn notebook paper. Ambiance is vintage 1979 VFW Hall and is completed by koozies, pool tables, foozball and a jukebox.

Philly Beer Week Highlight: Michelob—yep, Michelob—three barrels of their new stuff. 6/8. 7-9pm. Pay as you go.

Brauhaus Schmitz
(718 South St., 267-909-8814, brauhausschmitz.com)

The best place in the city to catch a Philadelphia Union game may be in this German bier hall that, as one of about two dozen Union pub partners, broadcasts every match, gives away tickets and schedules field trips to Chester. It may be the only spot that opens early for German soccer matches, too.

But there’s much more here than European football. If there’s a beer from the homeland that’s legal in Pa., owners Doug Hager and Kelly Schmitz will carry it in bottles or in one of 20 taps. If there’s a traditionally prepared schnitzel or wurst you’re craving, here’s the place to scarf it. And if you’re hoping for eye candy in the form of a cute waitress in a busty dirndl, well, Hager and Schmitz have provided that, too.

Hager says he opened the sleek, two-story space when they returned from their two-year German honeymoon and thought: “With the amount of German history and history in Philly it was almost embarrassing there weren’t more German places.”

Philly Beer Week Highlight: German Bierfest at the German Society of Pennsylvania with special guest Marnie Old. Family friendly, all-day outdoor festival with German beer, food and entertainment. 6/5. 12pm-6pm. Pay as you go ($30 to meet Marnie). 611 Spring Garden St.

City Tap House
(3925 Walnut St. (215) 662-0105, citytaphouse.com)

Co-owner Gary Cardi does think he may have more taps at his University City bar than any other watering hole in the region. How many would that be, you ask? Sixty, plus 12 more in the private tasting room upstairs.

The partnership that brought you Public House, Field House and Mission Grill opened the eco-friendly, rustic/modern palace to all things beer on May 10 and has been sourcing its crowd from the great halls of Philadelphia academia, plus drawing any beer addict in the city who endeavors to schlep to West Philly to see all those taps.

City Tap House prides itself on its vast outdoor seating area that can be appreciated year-round, thanks to five fire pits. One other bragging point is its event space, where hosts can have 12 beers of their choosing stocked on tap.

“We’re open to doing whatever our guests want,” Cardi says. “If a beer’s available in Pennsylvania, we’ll do our best to get it.”

Philly Beer Week Highlight: S’mores and O’Reilly—Huddle around a fire pit with gooey s’mores and Sly Fox’s O’Reilly’s Irish Dry Stout. 6/12. 8-10 p.m. Pay as you go.

The HeadHouse
(122 Lombard St. 215-625-0122. headhousephilly.com)

Bruce Nichols is the man. More than two decades ago, he was one of the first locals to embrace craft beer, bringing the famed late beer writer Michael Jackson to town. Nichols also put together beer dinners at the Penn Museum, where he ran catering operations until this summer, and more recently, co-founding Philly Beer Week.

The HeadHouse is a bi-level “craft beer café” that focuses on pairing international beer with international food. He and partner Madame Saito, of local sushi fame, run 32 lines to three bars, including one that’s reserved for special and private events and another that’s devoted exclusively to one brewery at a time. This may be the only place in Philadelphia to concoct beer cocktails and pour them through some of those lines.

Philly Beer Week Highlight: Pimp My Rye, Pimp Yourself. Don your bling and compete for prizes while showing the firkin of Dock Street Rye IPA that it’s always pimps up, ho’s down. 6/11. 9 p.m.-12 a.m. Pay as you go.

Iron Abbey
(680 N. Easton Road, Horsham. (215) 659-9600, ironabbey.com)

It’s a Brazilian steakhouse! It’s a Medieval European beer bar! It’s big enough to seat 337! It’s Iron Abbey, a new addition to Montgomery County’s drinking scene! The enormous dual-purpose building is wrapped in two patios, including one that passes for a German beer garden, and its interior is imposing and castle-like with exposed beams and stone walls. The menu is pan-European and the beers are rare Belgians, Germans and Americans, with a few others from the Netherlands and elsewhere thrown in. Beer dinners scheduled for every 3rd Wednesday of the month switch evenly between European and Yankee breweries and food.

“We always sell out our beer dinners,” says general manager of operations, Rui Lucas. “We’re a destination but we don’t have a young crowd coming to get drunk.”

The bar boasts 310 bottles and 36 taps, so that should be enough to keep all of the tie-clad regulars who shuffle in from surrounding office parks for happy hour and dinner busy until retirement.

Philly Beer Week Highlight: Cali Fest—10 California brews will make you say, “It’s all good.” 6/5. 9-11 p.m. Pay as you go.

(541 E. Girard Ave., (215) 739-1700, kraftworkbar.com)

“We’re selling copious amounts of tasty beverages from around the world. And that’s a direct quote.”

Such is the beginning of a conversation with Adam Ritter, owner of The Sidecar Bar & Grille, four days after he, as operations manager, opened Kraftwork, an industrial-chic bar in Fishtown. At Kraftwork, what’s in a name is what’s in the bar, considering that everything—from the food to the tables to the classic cocktails—has been handcrafted. Beers are all micro, as are the wines.

The food is micro, too, but in a different way.

“Instead of having customers with their faces in an entrée, it will be stuff that lends itself to sharing,” Ritter says. That means smaller portions, sandwiches, cheese plates, veggie trays and items that help create an atmosphere that’s “really super duper social,” he says. He’s lined up global kegs that will only be sold on tap but can be consumed in flights, pints, pub pours, goblets or from growlers.

Philly Beer Week Highlight: Hitachino Nest Night. Ritter’s been hoarding 10 kegs of the Japanese brew for months in anticipation of this very evening. 6/5. All day. Pay as you go.

Resurrection Ale House
(2425 Grays Ferry Ave. 215-605-5667. resurrectionalehouse.com)

With the addition of their third bar in about as many years, Brendan Hartranft and his wife, Leigh Maida, now rule over a small empire of tap houses that, thanks to their curious semi-fringe locations, the owners’ irreverent humor and the fact that they serve some of the best suds and vittles around, reach cult status almost as soon as they open.

Resurrection Ale House follows the same formula as the first two: ridiculously rare beers in constant rotation from all over the world, a warm, no-pretense atmosphere with the liquid menu inscribed neatly on a chalkboard, and quirky events like a mom’s day out.

“It is in the way that it is. There’s never any intention of making it different from the others, we just want to make it what it is,” Hartranft says.

Philly Beer Week Highlight: The Trivial Pursuits of Sam Caligione. Play Trivial Pursuit—Genius Edition—with Dogfish Head’s brewing legend while his beer dominates all 12 taps, as well as your mind’s ability to out-trivia him. 6/9. 2-4 p.m. Pay as you go.

Swift Half
(1001 N. 2nd St. 215-923-4600. Swifthalfpub.com)

Swift Half owner Dave Garry may not serve his famous blue-cheese-stuffed burgers from Good Dog at his new establishment in The Piazza, but he is more than happy to feed you free appetizers every Thursday night at 7 when he taps a firkin of local brew. He’ll also stuff you full of comfy Euro and American food until 1 a.m. every night with lamb lollichops, pierogies, roasted chicken or fish and chips

But what’s the beverage program, you ask? Ten taps of mostly locals and some nationals, plus 25 bottles where “we can jam in those domestic macro-brews like Miller Lite,” Garry says. But fret not, ye of vast beer snobbery. He also does a big-bottle series with Belgians like Corsendonk and Saison DuPont, and sells cans of Sly Fox and, yes, my thirsty little hipsters, also Schlitz, Schaefer and Schmidt’s.

Philly Beer Week Highlight: Firkin Off. Flying Fish brewer Casey Hughes goes cask to cask with Nick Johnson from Troegs as they pit the new FF Exit Series 6 against a Troegs one-off oak-aged IPA. 6/10. 7-10 p.m. Pay as you go.

The Wishing Well
(767 S. 9th St., 215-238-6555, wishingwellphilly.com)

Remember when you were younger, you and your best friend spent hours and hours talking about the cool bar you’re going to open together once you’re grown, and it’ll have hot chicks and rock stars and it’ll probably be on a beach, and you’ll learn to flip bottles like Tom Cruise in Cocktail? That’s what lifelong friends Carmen Cappello and Chris Martino did. Well, minus the beach, the rock stars and the tricks.

After kicking around fine-dining restaurants in Atlanta, Cappello joined up in Bella Vista with Martino to open a neighborhood “restaurant trapped inside a bar’s body” with 12 mostly local rotating taps, 35-40 bottles and a dedicated mixologist who’s fanatically dedicated to fresh, sustainable ingredients and house infusions. The food, as described by Iris Kampbell, the manager and mixologist, “is a few steps above gastropub. We think we’re a little bit better than that.” Their signature item is the Shame Burger, consisting of two patties, American cheese, scrapple and a fried egg. “We’re all about gluttony,” Kampbell grins.

Philly Beer Week Highlight: Breakfast for Dinner. A representative from Athens, Ga.’s Terrapin Beer Co. will meet-and-greet as barkeeps pour the one-off Wake-n-Bake oak-aged coffee imperial stout so that Cappello and Kampbell can spread that Georgia love to their new Philly friends.

Varga Bar

(941 Spruce St. 215-MA7-5200. Vargabar.com)

The theme is old-fashioned pinup girls, and wow, do they carry through with that concept. Elaborate paintings of 1940’s calendar girls cover the entire ceiling, the back wall is decorated with the bar’s very own old-fashioned calendar featuring today’s Philly hotties, and every piece of collateral depicts yet another sultry woman smiling beguilingly. And everyone knows nothing goes better with porn than a beer (or maybe a Kleenex) so satisfy your oral fixation with a pull from the cask, any of Varga’s 18 taps, or a variety of cans—all of American origin and rotated constantly.

“People come in here all the time and say, ‘I had a beer here two days ago and it’s gone.’ We tell them, ‘Well, if you liked that, try this instead,’” says manager and bartender Rich Colli.

Philly Beer Week Highlight: Varga Bar’s Pinup Block Party. The pin-up ladies are taking over 10th Street from Locust to Spruce with an outdoor fest that includes lots of easy-drinking summer beers and hot dog and wing-eating contests. 6/5. 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Pay as you go.



One thought on “TSN: New on the Philly Beer Bar Scene

  1. Hall Tables says:

    A friendly wait staff and bartenders who really do remember your name, I am happy to frequent this place once a week. Hall Tables

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