Philly is a hell of a beer city. We have more than a dozen local breweries, a whole week dedicated to the sudsy stuff, and that lovely deal we call the city-wide special. With all that great beer flowing, you’d think there’d be a new brewery or brewpub popping up every other week. Yet 2016 has been a bit dry, with the exception of these four new brewpubs we’ve added to our favorite tap spots -- and a handful more we're looking forward to seeing open soon.
Original Philly brewery crawl favorite Saint Benjamin did us all a favor this year by opening its taproom in Kensington back in May. The tours of the brewery, while great, are only available from 12-3pm on Saturdays. But now that the taproom is open, you can get your fill of the Inca cream ale or Wit or Witout blonde ale six days a week along with some bites from the full kitchen. We should also mention its recently announced city-wide special -- a St. B’s cream ale and shot of Kinsey 7-Year whiskey from Kensington’s New Liberty Distillery. Whiskey and beer both made in Kensington? Think we’ve found the official city-wide.
The first question you're probably asking is what in the hell is a hygge? The Danish word, pronounced “hoo-guh,” translates to the feeling that happens when you take pleasure in making normal occurrences into something special and meaningful. Makes sense, since beer makes everything better. Right on Fairmount Ave, the brewpub is a collaboration between the brewery team at Mount Airy’s Earth Bread + Brewery and Conshi’s Baggataway Tavern (equally hard to pronounce, but this is Philly after all), pumping out a rotating draft of six craft brews, from double IPAs to the herbaceous gruit pale ale, with other variations constantly in fermentation. If hunger hits while drinking all that beer, Bar Hygge has a full menu with "gastro-pubby" favorites (in the best way possible) and the option to build your own hygge board, stacked with cheese, charcuterie, and other snacky dishes like crispy Brussels sprouts and crudite, served with house bread.
Two years after opening its original location, Conshohocken Brewing Company now has a second outpost down the river in Bridgeport. While the original CBC is more of a functional brewery with a tasting room, the new Bridgeport digs have a full bar and kitchen. For beer options, the Bridgeport CBC has a 12-line tap serving pints of Conshohocken-made beer as well as a few small-batch specialty beers made in the brewpub, for the brewpub. Favorites at the moment include the Puddlers Row ESB (extra special bitter) and the funky experimental series, which includes the Zone of Danger double IPA and the Singularity #1, a Belgian-style pale ale.
Pizza and beer: great combo. On-site brewed beer and wood-fired pizza: better combo. That's why the Sterling Pig has become one of our go-to spots when we make it out all the way to Media (it’s really not THAT far from the city, though). At Sterling Pig, head brewer Brian McConnell oversees small-batch production of eight rotating beers on tap, with a selection ranging from porters to IPAs to everything in between. Try the Snuffler, its flagship IPA, or one of the This Little Piggy series of experimental IPAs made with single varietal hops. If you’re a grab-and-go type person, the Sterling Pig's growler special is an insane deal, with $7 refills before 7pm Monday through Thursday.
If 2016’s openings haven’t fully wetted that whistle, there’s good news afloat. In late 2015, the increasingly acceptable liquor control board of Pennsylvania updated its code to allow breweries to operate two satellite locations -- technically “storage” facilities -- without needing to get a new license.
So what does that mean for the average drinker? You favorite breweries can open up a new location pretty easily, which is leading to an influx of new “brewpubs” scheduled to open around town in the next few months. A few of the ones we’re eagerly awaiting:
Known for its “Liquid Art” series of beers (with beautifully painted realism labels, to boot) and the use of local hops (shout-out to South Central PA), the Chambersburg brewery will be opening a brewpub at 990 Spring Garden St in early 2017.
Coming soon to Schmidt Commons (formerly the Piazza at Schmidt's), Urban Village promises to offer leavened dough pizza and microbrews like Citra pale ales and other standard beer offerings from the team behind the Landmark Americana chain of bars.
Villanova grads (and Natty Champs!) Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward will be opening a 6,000sqft facility in Fishtown in late 2016 serving signature beers like Shut Up, Meg!, a farmhouse IPA, and Purple Monkey Dishwasher, a chocolate peanut butter porter, along with a bevy of other creatively named libations.
Goose Island Brewing
Despite being owned by Big Beer (i.e. Anheuser-Busch), Goose Island still makes a pretty decent product. Its first Philly outpost will be opening near the FIllmore, making it a potentially great pre- and post-concert stop.
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Like most things in Philadelphia, Saint Benjamin Brewing Company makes itself an historic home: they brew suds from within an 1870s carriage house designed by Otto Wolf. You can spy right in on the process from the taproom in front, which incorporates reclaimed decor elements, and original brickwork that the owners had to free from layers of paint and paper. Eats are made to soak up beer, with jerk chicken, shrimp and grits, and fat burgers to ground those sampling the 12-pint tap.
A window wall shines light on this Spring Garden brewpub on Fairmount, serving malted suds from the onsite Brewery Techné (which you can see from the lounge area through a reclaimed window). Despite the name, the food is isn’t Danish but New American with international touches: mushroom fondue with Oaxaca cheese and Mornay mushrooms, buttermilk chicken bites, Wagyu steak over scalloped potatoes. Perhaps the definition of barnyard-chic, the space is covered in salvaged window panes and distressed wood, with a blood red sofa, velvety ottomans, and an array of armchairs in to plant your beer-filled body in.
This neighborhood spot just outside of Philly is the perfect place to enjoy some brews with your crew and snack on pub grub, including grilled cheese, hummus and pita, and pretzels.
Restaurateur Loic Barnieu (of La Belle Epoque) thinks pigs are all-around delicious, so it was only natural for him to name his down-home brewery and restaurant Sterling Pig. Pork is the star of the menu here, so expect it atop sliders, wrapped into spring rolls, and grilled with a side of mashed potatoes. Familiar comfort foods like burgers, ribs, and wood-fired pizzas make an appearance on the menu, as do microbrews like the Snuffler IPA.