I'd also recommend a visit to McGillin's Old Ale House, the oldest continually
operating tavern in the city. It is located at 1310 Drury Lane, a small street
between Chestnu and Sansom Sts, off 13th St.
Just around the corner from McGillin's is Ludwig's Garten, a 27-tap German beer
emporium, very some hard-to-find German beers, and some very good food (potato
onion cake, wursts, wings) and true Bavarian atmosphere.
Also a trip to The Standard Tap, 2nd and Poplar Sts. is a must, serving only
local beers on tap and hand pumps (and only taps, no bottles), in a restored
18th century tavern, with quirky art on the walls, and a menu of very very good
food, perhaps the best burger in the city.
Close enough to be a Philadelphian!
Here's something I got from a previous post on one of the newsgroups....
There's PLENTY to see and do, Jimmy. I'll stay with places in the heart of
the city, for ease of strolling.
McGILLIN'S OLD ALE HOUSE 1310 Drury Lane, between Chestnut and Sansom Sts,
13th and Juniper Sts. (The oldest continually operating tavern in the city
(1860), a shrine to hospitality. Some good beers on tap too, especially
LUDWIG'S GARTEN, 1315 Sansom (right around the corner! Ask McGillin's to
show you the secret back door to Ludwig's). Authentic Bavarian food,
coupled with 17 (soon to be 27) taps of beautiful German beer. Heaven.
NODDING HEAD Brewery 1518 Sansom St. Small upstairs brewpub with good eats
and some very gopod beers, especially a clever "Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weiss"
MONK'S CAFE 16th and Spruce Sts. Another great shrine to beer, especially
Belgians, as well as many American beers and some rare stuff at that.
Superb, inexpensive food, like Mussels and Frites, Boudin Blanc sausage
sandwiches, and the city's best burger. Great cozy atmosphere too.
The following is garnered from ten years of drinking in Philly, writing
about beer in Philly, talking to people who drink in Philly, and reading
about drinking in Philly. Given all that, I've still left some places out. I
moved to the Philadelphia area ten years ago and pretty much stayed out in
the suburbs for the first three years. I had come from drinking beer in New
England and California: Anchor in San Francisco, Sierra Nevada in Chico,
Geary's in Portland, Guinness in Boston. What did Philadelphia know about
Turns out they knew a lot! Philly is one of America's hotspots for
traditional, cask-conditioned "real ale," drinks down Belgian imports like
no other town, and even the town's mainstream beer drinkers often choose
regional powerhouse Yuengling's beers over national brands. As Grey Lodge
Pub owner Mike Scotese says, "Any town where a regional amber lager [like
Yuengling] has Budweiser on the run is a great beer town." Philadelphia is
simply the hottest town in America for beer variety.
First, Philly's brewpubs. The oldest is Dock Street, at 18th and Cherry, and
the newest is the newly renamed Independence (not the old micro, it's
actually a renamed newer Dock Street...don't try to understand) at 12th &
Market (across from the Reading Terminal Market, which you GOTTA visit:
great fresh regional food and incredible sweets), both are good places for
food and drink if a bit trendy/pricey. Nodding Head (1516 Sansom St.) is
serving very traditional English ales in an informal snug setting. Manayunk
Brewing Co. (4120 Main St. in the Manayunk neighborhood) has some damned
good beers these days (grab the Grand Cru or Monster Island IPA), but is
often swarming with blonde-ale drinking yupsters. Out of town it's Valley
Forge BC (610/687-8700) out in Devon with a killer Imperial Stout, and
Victory in Downingtown (610/873-0881) TOP-NOTCH WORLD-CLASS beers and
absolutely worth the drive -- call for directions, you'll need 'em.
On to the bars! There are five really dense pockets of good beer in Philly.
The first is in Center City (what other cities call "downtown"), and I've
worked up a little walking tour to hit the best places. I did this in 90
minutes, but I was on a mission!
Your first stop is Philly's oldest continually operating bar, McGillin's Old
Ale House at 1310 Drury Lane. They've been serving beer here since 1860.
Drury Lane can be hard to find. It's half a block
north of Sansom Street, but only in the 1300 block! You'll find mainstream
beers and Guinness, local faves Yuengling and Honey Brown, and microbeers
from Yards, Stoudt's, Victory, Flying Fish, and Dogfish Head. Food's great,
and for greasy, irresistable barfood, you can't beat the curly-fry nachos.
Turn right out of the door, then right on 13th St., then take a left on
Sansom St. to Fergie's Pub, at 1214 Sansom. This is the home of one of the
top jars of Guinness in Philly. They've also got a handpump that usually
has local fave Yards ESA on and six other taps with a mix of mainstream and
micro. It's an Irish welcome without the hard-sweating "Bigawd, we're
IRISH!" feel of too many "pubs." Food's authentic and filling.
Cross the street from Fergie's and go left to the next block for Ludwig's
Garten, at 1315 Sansom. This German restaurant and bar knocks you out with
its taps: 17 (soon to be 21) of them, all German but one, with a solid bank
of five Paulaner taps and notables such as Optimator, Aventinus and
Schneiderweisse, and Kostritzer Schwarzbier. The exception is a German-style
beer brewed exclusively for Ludwig's by local brewer Victory: Mad King's
Weiss. There are also tons of German bottled beers. There's an authentic
German menu, lederhosen-clad servers, and the dining room looks right out of
Bavaria. Quickly established itself as one of the best selections of German
beer in the U.S.
Turn right out of the door, then left at 15th St. McGlinchey's is down at
259 S. 15th. McGlinchey's may not look like much -- one big room dominated
by a big U-shaped bar, pretty plain, hand-lettered signs -- but you'll never
feel left out here. Add to that some of the cheapest prices for good beers
in town ($4.75 for a 12 oz. bottle of Chimay Red, $1.90 for a 12 oz. mug of
Yuengling Porter) and you'll see why McGlinchey's is so popular. It's a good
place for lunch, too: I got a thick liverwurst and onion on rye for $1.75.
The woman who made it delivered it on a paper plate, and as I counted the
money out bluntly let me know "You know, our tips are separate." Such honest
self-interest could not go unrewarded. People are what they are here, and
As you leave McGlinchey's, turn left, then take your first right over to
16th Street. Cross over and turn right, and there is your final stop,
nirvana at 264 S. 16th St.: Monk's Cafe. This is one of the very best beer
bars in the country and the world, really, with an absolutely astonishing
array of rare and wonderful draft beers and an increasingly impressive
cellar of vintage beers, as well as a wide selection of bourbons and single
malts. The concentration is on Belgium, and you'll find draft and bottled
Belgian beers of every type. Food is tremendous; Philly's best burger
(Philly Magazine, two years running) and delicious pots of steamed mussels
with real Belgian frites and garlic-bourbon mayonnaise).
The second density is over in Northern Liberties, just north and west of the
intersection of I-95 and I-676 (the Vine St. Expressway). You'll find a
bunch of Irish pubs, if you're interested, but the big draws for beer lovers
are 700 (700 N. 2nd St.) and the Standard Tap (one block north of 700 on the
opposite corner). These two bars are really cool places, and have an amazing
selection of beers you won't find many other places in the city. 700 has
good taps, an excellent bottle (and half-decent spirits) selection; Standard
has only local, draft, excellent beer and great, great food. When beer
writers like Michael Jackson and Stephen Beaumont come to town, they want to
go to Monk's and Standard Tap.
The third density is south of Standard Tap about eight blocks on 2nd St. As
you head south on 2nd, you'll pass Christ Church, a Philly landmark at the
corner of Church St. Park near there. Church St. runs west from 2nd, and
that's where you'll find Sugar Mom's Church Street Lounge (225 Church., back
from the street, look for the red sign), with an eclectic set of taps and
bottles, great tunes, and good bar eats. Then come back out to 2nd and
continue south. The next block has Brownie's Pub and the Khyber Pass, both
excellent bars; the Khyber is a funky little hobbit-house stuck into the
street's facade, and has a more adventurous tap selection.
The fourth density is in Fairmount Park, down by the art museum. Bridgid's
(726 N. 24th St.) and Cuvee Notredame (1701 Green St.) are two very good,
very different Belgian restaurants; Cuvee is just a tiny bit more pricey and
sophisticated, but you get value for the bucks, Bridgid's is a lot more cozy
and Bohemian. Either one is a good call, just depends on what you want.
London Grill (2301 Fairmount Ave.) has a good selection and two handpumps,
and is on the southwest corner of a parking lot; on the northwest corner
Rembrandt's usually has a small but decent selection (both are more
upscale); and on the southeast corner is Jack's Firehouse, where there are
some good beers, an outstanding selection of bourbon (perhaps the best in
the city), excellent food, and really cool atmosphere.
Fifth density is in Manayunk. Manayunk Brewing Co. will have at least three
good beers and great food. There are fun bars all along Main Street in
Manayunk, but if you're really beer-hunting, you want to go to Dawson Street
Pub (all the way east on Dawson St., do yourself a favor and call for
directions 215/482-5677) where they have three handpumps and an excellent
array of taps and bottles. You're also not TOO far away from McMenamin's
Tavern, an exceptionally good beer bar where they haven't lost their
neighborhood bar feel (7170 Germantown Ave.). They've also added a really
good menu and a chef who understands beer, the food has gotten very good in
the past year, from bar food to full-menu stuff like seafood risotto.
What else? The Grey Lodge Pub, 6235 Frankford Avenue is not in any of these
'densities,' in fact, it's way up in Northeast Philly, but it's definitely
worth the trip. Why? It's a corner bar (in the middle of the block) that's
covered in Twin Peaks references, and serves outstanding local and imported
beer along with Bud, Coors Light, and Old Mill 40s. Everyone gets along
here, plays darts, flash bowling, and uses the amazingly beer-decorated
bathrooms. A wonderful, wonderful bar. And right around the corner is
Chickie's and Pete's, a Philly institution where you can get great steamed
crabs, or you can walk north on Frankford to the Red Robin diner to get an
omelette after a night of drinking.
Beer to look for on all those taps:
YUENGLING -- America's oldest brewery, Yuengling (say "YING-ling") had 400%
growth through the 1990s and is now a regional power with over 15% of the
total Philly-area beer market, mostly on sales of Traditional Lager. With a
large new brewing facility coming online, national brewery reps have to be
dreading the long-threatened onslaught of Yuengling Light. Even beer snobs
like their Porter.
YARDS -- Yards flagship ESA was the first beer to hit it big as
cask-conditioned "real ale" in Philly, and remains the leader. With locals
drinking up all the specialties like Love Stout (brewed with an addition of
oysters!), and their spicy Saison, Yards is a well-kept Philly secret.
FLYING FISH -- Just across the river in Cherry Hill, NJ, Flying Fish sells a
lot of beer in Philadelphia. Their Porter is a dark standby, and their
crisp, light Farmhouse Ale is selling fast, a great summertime beer.
VICTORY -- Highly trained and experienced brewers who refuse to compromise
make Victory's beers some of the boldest, cleanest ones around; their
HopDevil is the hot ticket. But they still have a deft hand with subtlety,
as shown by their delicate Dark Lager and buoyant Sunrise Weiss.
STOUDT'S -- Brewing since 1987 and carrying a fistful of awards to prove it,
Stoudt's is a veteran of the Philly market that is finally hitting some
bigger numbers. Their American Pale Ale is a hoppy, bright favorite, I favor
their traditional, soft Pils.
DOGFISH HEAD -- These Delaware brewers make bizarre, ethereal, wonderful
beers, spiked with honeys, fruits, spices, sugars, and herbs. Though they
have gained critical acclaim nationwide, Philadelphia has taken them to
heart. Look for Chicory Stout, 60 Minute IPA, and the huge, menacing Immort
HEAVYWEIGHT -- A new player, Heavyweight is a one-man operation from New
Jersey that has cracked the Philadelphia market with Perkuno's Hammer, a
huge "Baltic porter," Two Druids Gruit, an herbal beer like no other you've
had, and Lunacy, a big golden Belgian-style ale.
That oughta do ya...