Monday, November 22, 2010

#2a - Pennsylvania, "The Keystone State" (East of Harrisburg)

Pennsylvania is a much bigger state than Delaware, much more populated, and more saturated with microbreweries/brewpubs. There are some major players in the domestic craft beer world, including the nation's oldest operating brewery. I'm already wordy as it is, so right now I'll just be looking at breweries east of Harrisburg so we can keep the word count to a minimum.

Beer Stats for Eastern PA:
Cities: Philadelphia, Reading, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Allentown/Bethlehem, Lancaster
# of Microbreweries: 11 that have significant distribution.
# of Brewpubs: 25, some of which bottle and distribute locally.
Outdated and Annoying Alcohol Laws: Way too many to count.

My wife always says that she thinks it would be really difficult to be an alcoholic in Pennsylvania because of the difficulty and cost involved in getting alcohol. With few exceptions, you can only buy beer in beer stores, and you can only buy them by the case.

When I first moved here, I was staying in hotels during the week, so I wanted to pick up a six pack to enjoy while I watched TV at night. I went to the beer distributor and couldn't find a 6 pack anywhere. So I took one pre-packaged 12 pack out of a case and tried to buy it. The cashier looked confused. Our conversation played out almost like we were both speaking foreign languages; him telling me he couldn't sell the 12 pack by itself, me saying "I don't need a whole case. I want 12." We hashed through the situation using hand signals and a series of grunts and finally realized what was happening. I left beerless, because even a 22 year old kid can't drink a whole case by himself in 3 days (and not feel terrible about it.)

To make matters worse, I find that cases in PA tend to have at least a 15% mark-up over neighboring state's prices. There are two consolations.  1) There are literally hundreds of bars and beer prices at bars are very reasonable. 2) Since they lock you into buying a case, the breweries have been nice enough to offer variety packs so you can try all of their brews and not get stuck with 23 bottles of some beer you don't like. So that's good.

Plenty of great microbreweries have been started in PA over the last 20 years, all buoyed by the success of the country's oldest brewery, D.G. Yuengling and Sons. Founded in Pottsville in 1829, Yuengling is so ubiquitous in Philadelphia that to order it you just say that you want a "lager" and every bartender knows what to bring you. They aren't on the cutting edge of new beer flavors, but they do what they do very well and they distribute to 13 states, mainly on the East Coast. Although I could have swore they had a larger reach than that.

Victory Brewing is located in Downingtown and they have the widest distribution of any brewery in PA. Just about half of the states, including Alaska, as well as some international distribution. One thing I know is that they love hops. Hop Devil, Hop Wollop, Prima Pils, and Yakima Twighlight are all hop heavy. All good, but at some point I get overwhelmed by hops. I fell asleep on my couch one night while drinking a Yakima and only woke up due to the fact that I had poured half of the beer right on my chest. I know there are a lot of hops in that one because I think the smell was so strong that it what woke me. That's a weird situation; spilling something on yourself while sleeping. Because you wake up but it takes a second to process what you are doing and by then you're soaked. I just felt bad cuz I wasted a good beer. For me it's hard to choose between the Storm King Stout and the Moonglow Weizenbock as my favorite Victory beer.

Yards Brewery operates on Delaware Ave in Philadelphia near Northern Liberties but started in Manayunk in 1994. I've had four of their five signature ales and my go-to if I want to bring a good beer gift is the Brawler. The woman of the household approves the purchase of that one as well. The beer I think tastes the best is the Extra Special Ale, but I think the Brawler has more mass appeal because I think I like amber malty ales more than the general population. Yards gets around in the Philly area. They do most of the beer events around here and I think they are getting to the point where their distribution is about to take off across the country. I am just guessing, but I wouldn't be surprised. 

Philadelphia Brewing Co. operates out of a historic brewery that stopped production in 1939 and was restored by Philly Brew Co starting in 2001. I really want to like Philly Brew Co, but for some reason I am always disappointed by their stuff. The Walt Wit essentially turned me off to wit beers for a year or so. The Kenzinger and the Newbold IPA are nothing special. I will say that their Joe Porter (not named for the former Steelers linebacker) grew on me. At first I thought it tasted like stale coffee (I never said this would be a ringing endorsement) but I began to enjoy it the second and third time I tried it. Philly Brew Co. does tours, so go do one and have them prove me wrong.

Stoudts is in Adamstown, PA, and from the looks of it, I think it is the entire town of Adamstown. They have a restaurant, brewery, fresh food market, shop, and antiques mall. They even do weddings. If you lived there, you'd never have to leave except to go make money to spend at Stoudt's. They make really really good beer. That's my first double really endorsement. So take heed. I've probably had half of their normally bottled beers including the seasonals. My favorite is the American Pale Ale. Patriotism 1, India Pale Ales 0. If you are on the east coast, Ohio, Cali, or Michigan you can probably find their stuff somewhere.

Intercourse Brewery is located in Lancaster County and they distribute mostly in Eastern PA. They make 4 beers, of which I've had one (the Blue Ball Porter). That one is a slightly heavy blueberry porter. The only time I had it was on a seriously hot day at a tailgate for a concert and I thought it was well done, so I'd like to try it when I'm not sweating my face off.

Lancaster Brewing Co is right near downtown Lancaster, and they begun operations in 2001. I enjoy all their beers, but my wife loves the Strawberry Wheat, and I think my favorite is the highly potent Winter Warmer. Lancaster County has a high concentration of Amish and so the brewery makes their Amish Four Grain Pale Ale and the Shoo-Fly Porter to pay homage. I used to work out that way. The buggy's were everywhere including the Wal-Mart parking lot. The horses just chill outside while the people go shopping. Awesome.

Weyerbacher was founded in Easton in 1995 as a brewery and brewpub. Having since dropped the pub, they have expanded and are now distributed in 18 states, including most of the East Coast, Ohio, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The last Weyerbacher I had was the AutumnFest and it was a solid Oktoberfest style.

Lion is another brewery from the Northeastern part of the state, being based in downtown Wilkes-Barre. It was founded in 1905 and became Lion Brewery in 1909. The main beers I've seen from them are Lionshead Lager and Lionshead Light, which are pretty straightforward beers. They also produce 6 beers under the Stegmaier brand name. Pretty broad distribution, and they claim to be the 15th largest brewery in the U.S. I have no means to (or desire to) fact check, so I'll believe them. They do a lot of contract brewing, which might explain why they haven't really expanded the Lionshead brand into other styles than lager.

Sly Fox has been brewing since 1995 and they run a brew pub to go along with distribution of their beers in NY, PA, and NJ. I've never seen their beers on the shelves, but I've had at least one in a bar in Philadelphia. I can't say anything about it however, so this paragraph is pretty worthless. 95% of people didn't make it down here anyway... Way too many words. Not enough pictures or exploding graphics.

The only brewery on my list that I have not tried is Spring House, which is located in Conestoga, right south of Lancaster. They have distribution in the eastern counties of PA, but I haven't seen any on the shelves just yet. I'll be keeping my eye out now though. It should be hard to miss as all of their 10 beers have cartoony and colorful logos. Only one is a full production beer year round and available in bottles, and that's the Seven Gates Pale Ale. The rest are seasonal and available in growlers and kegs, presumably at their brewery.

Best Beer Concept: Weyerbacher Merry Monks' Belgian style Tripel. Anytime you can combine banana and cookie dough, I'm on board.
Best Beer Name: Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot. I've never had it, but at 11.1%ABV, I have to assume this beer makes you live up to it's name.
Best Label Art: Victory Brewing. Full of color and great designs. My favorite is the drooling 1840's style miner Horace 'Hop' Wallop, on Victory's Hop Wallop bottles.

Road Trips:
If you are into hiking, the Delaware Water Gap is a great part of the Appalachain Trail. Weyebacher and Lion are close by.
Philadelphia has a lot to offer, but if you had to do one thing I would recommend picking a neighborhood (Old City, Rittenhouse, Fairmount), walking around in the evening and then getting a great dinner somewhere. Tons of good restaurants in Philly. You can't go wrong. Yards, Philadelphia, Victory all do tours and are in or near Philly.

I'm not sure about the bands coming out of Lancaster or Scranton, but Free Energy and Dr. Dog are two rock bands from Philadelphia that I have been loving lately. Free Energy's recent album is called Stuck on Nothing, and Dr. Dog just released Shame Shame. Both are excellent.

PA East Half Beer Trail Map

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#1 - Delaware, "The First State"

I am currently sitting here in my kitchen watching my first home brew boil on the stove (only one boilover so far), so while I wait, I may as well get the wheels rolling on my trip down the U.S. Beer Trail.

State Beer Stats:
Population: 885,000 
# of Micro Breweries: (EDIT: 5)
Microbrewery density inverse* (people per microbrewery): 177,000. I predict mass shortages of beer, and/or giant profits for Delaware brewers. So hurry up and go buy some before it runs out/ requires a loan to purchase.

*made up statistic.

The state that ratified the Constitution before any others was Delaware and in an inspired moment, someone tasked with thinking of a state nickname offered up "The First State." I wish they went with "The State That Ratified the Constitution Before Any Others."

I like to imagine that the guy in charge of nicknaming had been out partying and celebrating possible statehood when he got a call from the Governor, who in a rush to make Delaware the first state in the Union, mistakenly thought one of the requirements for statehood was a nickname. So the guy left the bar, went to his room, took some Adderall, threw some Phish on his iPhonograph and started pounding out possible nicknames with his quill pen*. Only, halfway through the first song, he passed out. Waking up in the morning and realizing he was 10 minutes late for the state nickname press conference, he decided on "The First State," with hopes that he would come up with something better on his horse ride into town.

He didn't, and when the people of Delaware heard the nickname most thought "Seriously, that's the best we could do?" But everyone had barrels and horseshoes and powdered wigs to make, so they went back to their daily lives, leaving Delaware stuck with the least inventive state nickname on the books.

*historical accuracy of this sentence is questionable.

And now, the beer.

The majority of Delaware's early brewing history took place in Wilmington. And being in the shadow of Philadelphia did not prove profitable for most breweries that tried to begin operations prior to and soon after Prohibition.

The first of the modern microbreweries in Delaware started operations in the mid 90's and the new microbrewery era has proven to be good to Delaware as it has to the rest of the country. According to (check it out, great site), Delaware has four fully functional breweries, and several brewpubs. (EDIT: I found another one - Evolution Craft Brewery, in Delmar, DE)

These are the four (EDIT: 5) microbreweries that are operational in Delaware, in reverse alphabetical order, simply because the end of the alphabet does not get enough respect. I'm a middle of the alphabet guy, so this is my unbiased opinion.
  1. Twin Lakes Brewing Company - Greenville, DE
  2. Fordham Brewing Company - Dover, DE, originally founded in Annapolis, MD
  3. Evolution Craft Brewery, Delmar, DE
  4. Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales - Milton, DE, originally founded in Rehobeth Beach.
  5. 16 Mile Brewing Company - Georgetown, DE
1. Twin Lakes was founded in 2006 and its home base is a farm slightly northwest of Wilmington in the Brandywine Valley. They pride themselves on using 100% all natural ingredients and are in the process of becoming a completely green brewery by using hydro and wind power made on the farm. The don't yet bottle their beer, but they distribute kegs to beer stores in Delaware and their beers are on tap in Delaware and Philadelphia. 

2. The Fordham Brewing Company was started at the Ramshead Tavern in Annapolis, MD in 1995, but moved into a modern brewery in Dover. They currently have six beers that can be found in bottles and taps all across Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and the District. 

3. The state's most successful brewery is Dogfish Head, which was started in Rehobeth Beach in 1995, and has since moved to a new facility in Milton. The founder, Sam Calagione, has become a beer geek celebrity, appearing in the documentary Beer Wars. In November he will make his small screen debut as the host of a international beer show on Discovery. The name escapes me, and I am lazy, so look it up yourself. Now, I haven't had the beers from any of the other Delaware breweries (I'll do my due diligence and try each eventually) but Dogfish Head makes some of my favorite beers period. They stand up to breweries from the rest of the country and internationally. They just don't make bad beer. 

Including collaborations with other breweries, they have 36 beers, 8 of which they make year round. They also have 43 beers that are exclusively offered at their brewpubs and 8 beers that are no longer made. Raison D'Etre is my favorite, but I've only scratched the surface. Their tagline "off-centered ales for off-centered people" is evident in the combinations of flavors that they try. Just one example; Their Sah'tea beer is a limited and is "a modern update on a 9th century Finnish proto-beer." They are a forward thinking brewery and I would bet that the amount of combinations that they have tried is 3 or 4 times larger than the number of beers that they have actually produced, which is 87 if my math is correct. I can't say much more. Great organization. Here's to hoping that the other Delaware breweries have just as much success as Dogfish Head.

4. 16 Mile is a very new brewery and is located in Georgetown. The name 16 Mile comes from the fact that Georgetown sits "16 miles from anywhere." What they mean is "anywhere in Sussex County, Delaware," so perhaps a more appropriate slogan would be "many miles away from anywhere important." That doesn't mean they can't brew good beer. And right now they have three beers that are available in bottles and on tap in Delaware and Maryland. Like I said they are very new, and they focus on Delaware history and tradition in their brewing and label artwork, so I expect that they will pick up a pretty sizable local following in the years to come.

Time to hand out some completely made up and meaningless awards, the "Trailies." I had been up for 38 hours straight when I came up with that name. It's genius.

Trailies: (based solely on my opinion, which may or may not take into account actually tasting the beer):
Most Widespread Distribution: Dogfish Head.  By a lot.
Most Likely to Get a Visit from Al Gore: - Twin Lakes. Those guys love the Earth. 
Best Beer Name: Dogfish Head - Piston Honda (brewpubs only). Named after the Japanese boxer from Mike Tyson's Punch Out! Amazing.
Best Beer Concept: Dogfish Head - Theobroma. Based off of chemical analysis done on pottery from ancient times in Honduras. It is made with cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, honey, chillies, and annatto (tree seeds).
Least Likely to Know the Delaware State Nickname: Fordham. 
Most Likely to be Seen Tied to the Goalposts: 16 Mile. Everyone loves rookie hazing.
Most Hyped Brewery: Dogfish Head. Ok, so I got a little carried away with the Dogfish love.

Trips within a days drive of the breweries:
Delaware is a state that can probably be seen in a weekend, so the entire thing is within a days drive. The main cities are Wilmington and... that's it. Anything else that might be officially considered a city is really just a small town. Wilmington itself is a small city, but you could check out a Wilmington Blue Rocks game if you are in town during the summer. The Hotel DuPont is probably the nicest hotel I've ever stayed at. It was free because I was interviewing with DuPont, and I was almost late because I didn't want to leave the shower. The beach towns are always packed in the summer. Dewey Beach apparently has some good party spots and live music bars. The Monster Mile at Dover Downs is a good place to go if you want to spend a Sunday drinking light beer, watching guys drive in circles, and sitting in traffic. Twin Lakes is near Wilmington, which is less than an hour from Dover, where Fordham is located. The other two are probably less than 45 minutes from there and are fairly close to each other. So you could probably do all four in one day granted the timing works out with tasting hours and you have someone to drive you.

Not much from the First State in the music department. I didn't mention anyone that I didn't immediately recognize, and this is it, at least according to my cursory research (Thanks Wiki.)
- George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
- Bob Marley briefly lived there, while working at the GM plant in Newport. Should not count, but I felt bad only having one on the list.

Delaware may be "A Small Wonder" but craft brewing is alive and well there all the same. And at least someone from the state is making up for it's lack of naming creativity by brewing some pretty off the wall beers. Off to state #2, north on 95 through the horrible Delaware tolls, and up to Pennsylvania. It might be a while, this took me longer than I expected.

Delaware Beer Trail Map

Friday, October 1, 2010

The United States Beer Trail

Lately I have been doing a lot of travel that has taken me many places around the U.S. and at each stop I have been trying to taste the local craft beer. After realizing that great beer is available almost anywhere you go in this country, I had the idea to explore each state's brewing history and breweries in the order that the states were admitted to the Union.

So I will be starting with Delaware and working my way to Hawaii, writing about beers from each state and finding some new favorites along the way. A small percentage of states produce a large percentage of the craft beer available, but I expect that every state will have something interesting and unique about how they contribute to the American craft beer culture.

I'm going to also include road trips and attractions that can be experienced near the breweries that I write about. So, anyone that is in search of great craft beer can enjoy the surrounding area and culture and anyone who is mainly looking for travel ideas can find refreshment though that same beer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Grape Room

I've only lived in Manayunk for three years, so I did not know about the original Grape Room in Manayunk. I'm not sure why it shut down, but the new version opened earlier this year and it is a really chill place. I think having a live music venue in the neighborhood is a huge plus. And although craft beer plus local live music is usually a good equation for an influx of hipsters (no one wants that), Grape Room seems to be a place void of overwhelming pretentiousness and skinny jeans.

I was there last night for an open mic night and discovered that they had a good amount of craft beers on tap and several more in bottles. From what I remember these are the beers they had on tap;
  • Troegs Dreamweaver
  • Magic Hat #9
  • Victory Pils
  • Dock Street Pumpkin Ale
  • One or two more that I am blanking on
  • They also had Lionshead and Dogfish Head in bottles
I ordered a Magic Hat #9 and bellied up to the bar where I could see the small stage. The open mic night was relaxed, and the crowd seemed to be a lot of regular open mic-ers because a lot of the people knew each other and it seemed like I was the only one in there that wasn't performing at some point during the night. There was pretty good music all around, mostly originals, including a good dose of folksy stuff. They have the open mic night every Monday, and it started around 9:30; it's definitely worth a visit if you are looking for a low-key atmosphere. They also have regular shows, usually with a $5 cover almost every other day of the week. For a list of shows go to their website,

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Beer 101 - Basics of the Brewing Process

I've been drinking beer for a while now but only recently did I really start thinking about how it is actually made. I'm going to be brewing my first batch of homebrew fairly soon (I'm starting with a Nut Brown), so I've trying to take in as much as possible about how beer is brewed.

It's really a pretty basic overall process. Plants are made of complex carbohydrates, which can be broken down into sugars, which are simple carbohydrates. Under the right conditions, yeast consumes the sugars and the byproducts of the chemical reaction are carbon dioxide and alcohol.

The main grain for brewing is barley but other grains such as wheat and rice can also be used. The process that extracts the usable sugars from the grains is a topic for another day but the main idea is to convert the complex carbs to sugars. The sugars are then mixed with water (creating what is called the wort) and boiled. The boiling kills bacteria so that only the yeast will be able to attack the sugars. Once the wort has been properly boiled, it needs to be quickly cooled to a temperature that is advantageous for whatever type of yeast is being used, generally between 60 and 70 degrees F. The yeast is added and the fermentation begins. Usually some extra sugars are added for carbonation purposes. Wait a couple of weeks and you will have drinkable beer.

There is a lot more to each step than I just mentioned but I will probably get into each of them at a later date. But if you want more information right now you can check out this website;

On the music front, if you get a chance, put Bob Schneider on your playlist. His latest album is Lovely Creatures. I saw him live about a year ago and it was an extremely entertaining show. The trumpet player did the entire set in a bunny suit. Just how they roll. He is a talented musician with a distinctive voice but his strength is his songwriting. His lyrics are clever and meaningful and he always tells a compelling story. Give him a listen. And let me know what you think. Comments are always welcome.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hebrew - Messiah Bold

Last weekend while watching the Notre Dame football team lose to Michigan, I cracked open a He'Brew Messiah Bold, perhaps subconsciously looking for some fermented divine intervention. It is after all, as noted on the upper label, "The beer you've been waiting for."

This is labeled as a Dark Brown Ale from San Francisco, but both of those claims are a little misleading. It is a dark beer for sure, with a good weight to it, but it has a sweeter, more subtle taste than I was expecting for a dark brown ale. Also, He'Brew is a line of beers conceived by Smaltz Brewing Company, which is based in San Francisco. However, Messiah Bold is actually brewed at the Mendocino Brewing Company (based in CA) facility (which is actually the Olde Saratoga Brewery) in Saratoga Springs, NY. It has 5.6% ABV and is the first certified Kosher beer that I can remember trying.

Looking back, it is interesting to me how much the beer mirrored the game. ND started off with a first drive touchdown and looked great in the process. I was getting my hopes up for a romp. The beer had a dark brown color, with only a slight head, a strong malty aroma and a sweet but malt forward first taste. I could also smell some hints of chocolate or coffee as well as a little bit of nuttiness. So, my first impression was very optimistic.

Then, the starting quarterback got hurt and the performances of the back-ups were entirely forgettable. Messiah Bold had a slightly bitter hop finish to it, but the aftertaste went away very quickly, leaving me reaching for another drink because I felt like I was missing something. The starting quarterback came back in the game (another sip), he started the scoring again (that malty, quality brown ale taste), I got my hopes up with a go-ahead 4th quarter TD (the slight hoppy finish), but in the end Michigan scored a TD with less than a minute to go and I will be waiting for another year for a shot at those smug Michiganders (the nonexistent aftertaste.)

So overall, I enjoyed the flavors while they lasted, but the football game and the beer left me feeling bittersweet about what could have been. The only difference between the beer and the ND game is that I will be back watching the Irish week in and week out, knowing that most likely I will be perpetually disappointed. The Bold is a serviceable brown ale that has great initial flavors, but I won't be waiting for it to show up again in my fridge anytime soon.

Staying with the post-related music recommendations, check out Matisyahu. A lot of people have probably already heard his music, but it's worth a re-listen if you have. If you haven't, he has a unique reggae style that seems to crossover to people who generally don't like reggae. His lyrics have meaning and his beats catch you and keep you interested in what he has to say.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Craft Beer Experience

There is a pretty interesting craft beer event coming up in Philadelphia on September 25th. I'm sure there have been others, but it's the first beer event that I've noticed that is being used as a fundraiser for a worthy charitable cause. 

The Craft Beer Experience is taking place on Sept. 25th at the City Tap House in University City at 39th and Walnut. It is sponsored by Philly Magazine and it is billed as an "upscale tasting event." They will have beers from 26 breweries, including many from here in the Philadelphia region. There is not too much information available online, but it seems like the plan is for the event to be a more educational beer tasting than most straight up "drink a lot" beerfests, with brewers available to speak with and food pairings. It's slightly pricey at $80, but proceeds benefit SafeHome Philadelphia, which is a program run by the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness that helps families find affordable housing and starts them off by paying two months rent up front. Their website is

You can also go to the City Tap House website for a little bit more info. 

Or check out the Philly magazine website for the breweries that will be attending. 

If you go, let me know what your favorite beer was. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Great Lakes - Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

I was back at my college this weekend and at dinner after our football game I had the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. It is brewed by Great Lakes Brewing Company out of Cleveland, Ohio. I am a sucker for smooth, malty beers, and porters generally fit the bill. I was very glad that I ordered this one.

My overall thoughts about this beer keep coming back to the fact that it was extremely smooth. I always expect a porter to be heavy but fairly smooth, making it a beer that you can enjoy in gulps, but definitely not one that you would do a case race with. But this one seemed especially creamy and very easy to drink, with a nice malty chocolate taste to it as well. I don't remember it being overly bitter even though Great Lakes' website says that this is a higher hopped porter than average. It is 5.8% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) and 37 IBUs, which is the measure of how bitter a beer is (the International Bitterness Unit). Since it is from Cleveland, it is widely available in the Midwest, but I have seen Great Lakes cases in several beer distributors around the Philly area. I would highly recommend that you give the Edmund Fitzgerald a try now that fall is right around the corner. 

Just in case anyone is interested, the Edmund Fitzgerald was a freight ship that operated on the Great Lakes. In 1975 it was caught in a winter storm and sank with all 29 crew members on board. Apparently it never sent out any distress signals and was split in two when it was eventually discovered at the bottom of Lake Superior. Gordon Lightfoot made a song about it. I've never heard it, but I'm sure it's terrible. If you are ever in Cleveland for work, or because you were kidnapped by Clevelanders, stop by the Great Lakes Brewery. They have tours and tastings to make your unintentional trip to Cleveland more bearable. 

And since today is Ohio themed, check out the Black Keys. They are from Akron and they are a great band with bluesy rock. I've been listening to their newest album Brothers on almost constant repeat lately, but Magic Potion from 2006 is also a great album. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Flat Rock Saloon - Manayunk

I've been living in Manayunk for three years now, making it my default drinking hang out. Center City has the majority of Philly's beer-centered establishments, but Manayunk has plenty of places to belly up to the bar and navigate through the craft beer world. My favorite is Flat Rock Saloon. It's cash only, and it's on the corner of Main Street and Roxborough Ave.

The first time my wife and I went there was a couple years ago. We had been out for a few hours before hand so she wanted an easy drinking light beer, which led to this exchange with the bartender.
Wife: Can I have a Bud Light?
Bartender: We don't have Bud Light.
Wife: Do you have anything like it?
Bartender: Water.

I, meanwhile, was laughing and slowly backing away, putting some distance between the beer novice and myself.

My wife thought it was a little bit harsh of him, but that's the kind of dedication to good beer that you'll find at Flat Rock. The bartenders are usually the same three middle aged guys and they are generally more than willing to help you figure out which beer to try off of their extensive list. Just don't ask for Bud Light, they don't have any of the typical domestics. 

The large rotating selection of craft/micro brews ensures that you can always have something that's new to you. There are usually one or two beers on tap along with bottles of domestic craft beers from all over the country, a pretty good selection of high quality imports, and usually a few high ABV drinks that they tout as "drinks for men" on their chalk boards. If you are there for dinner, they have good sandwiches and some pretty tasty mussels. 

On most weekend nights they have acoustic cover music and the crowd is clearly a hang out crowd, rather than the club-type crowd of the more college friendly places in Manayunk. It's really a great place to go grab one beer at happy hour or to grab a spot for the long haul and try out a bunch of quality beers.

And I'm happy to say that my wife would now rather have a case of Yards Brawler in the fridge than Bud Light.

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Monday, August 30, 2010


A great beer is not just something to drink and pass the time with. A great beer is something you experience.

Having just become truly aware of great craft beer in the last year, I now realize it really is like any other artistic endeavor. Be it music, painting, or photography; the people who are really good at it think differently than the rest of us. You can learn to be pretty good at anything, and brewing is no different, but in the end, the ones who have inherent talent make the rest of us look like a five year old drawing in crayon on the walls.

That being said, there are millions of normal people who can still recognize a great painting, song, or beer. That's the category I fall into. And so I will be trying to cater to people who are out looking for great beer to discuss and learn about, but at the same time don't want to be hit over the head with beer-snobbiness.

I think that the majority of my posts will be about bars in Philadelphia that serve craft beers. But I will also be talking about specific beers that have been in my fridge lately, breweries that are worth a trip to visit, and really anything else beer related. The ultimate goal is to provide some basic 101 level info about beer to those who are novices, throw out some ideas of great places to hang and drink, and to hopefully expand the community of beer lovers in Philadelphia.

Hope you enjoy.