What's the Next Big Thing in Philly's Beer Scene?
The answer is manyfold. Philly's craft beer scene is booming, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated web of people who make, sell, and promote our city’s beers. You can grab a great local beer pretty much anywhere -- at a concert, at a sports event... hell, even the dive down the street has a few local brews on tap. But what else is on the horizon?
To find out more about the Philly beers that are selling around town and how the scene is changing, we talked to a local beer rep -- they're the public face of breweries, talking with bar managers and educating the public on their product -- and other key players in the biz.
Here's what beer styles we'll all be seeing from our locals breweries over the next five years:
IPAs (still)"There are various subsets of the IPA style that are very of the moment. Take for example, the New England-style IPA, which [is] dank and super juicy, but unfiltered, and [has] a murkiness that’s not for everyone, but [is] certainly getting a lot of hype." -- Suzy Woods, Allagash Brewing Company’s Mid-Atlantic territory manager and founder of In Pursuit of Ale, an all-ladies beer club
Tropical fruit notes"Tropical fruit notes, or esters, are often signature in an IPA, but breweries like Ballast Point, Flying Dog, or Dogfish Head are adding actual tropical fruit, like mango and pineapple, to the IPAs." -- Suzy Woods
Saisons"Saisons embody the opposite of manufactured, perfect quality, consistent beer. It’s getting away from striving to make perfectly controlled, predictable beer. It’s like sourdough bread. Saisons are accessible, but there’s also so much delicate nuance to them. You don’t get tired of drinking them." -- William Reed, co-owner of Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda’s
Sour ales"Sour ales are still quick to disappear from chalkboards, and locals are reigning king. 2SP out of Aston has quickly become a player. And with veteran brewer Bob Barrar in the brewhouse, its game is quite strong. Tired Hands of Ardmore continues to get a lot of attention, and it's definitely making waves in the New York beer scene, as well. Dan Endicott and Gerard Olson of Forest and Main are summoning everyone to experience porch life with special beers on Main St in Ambler. I’m also looking forward to the official return of Nodding Head, but it’s been nice spotting Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse around town until the brewery reopens in its new location." -- Suzy Woods
German beers"Traditional pilsners and other lagers like kolsch and helles are coming back in style. Some of them are getting the hopped-up treatment, but clean, crisp, and easy-drinking pils are definitely becoming the ‘it’ beer." -- Matt Satten, Terrapin Beer’s Greater Philadelphia market representative
Low-ABV beers"Now that brewers are older, they want a lower ABV so they can settle down and enjoy more beers without the big buzz of their 20s and early 30s. I'm excited about our new year-round lager at Terrapin called Sound Czech Pilsner. Not only is the punny name an ode to our deeply rooted musical background (14 years ago, the name Terrapin was inspired by the Grateful Dead's “Terrapin Station”), it's a welcomed, delicious alternative to our large cache of hoppy IPAs." -- Matt Satten
As the backbone of why we're even talking about craft beers at all, we would be remiss to leave out the ways in which Philly's beer culture will be changing (or rocketing down the same path it's been on), too:
Good beer will be everywhere"We’ve seen some great examples of beer gardens: Spruce Street Harbor, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society pop-ups, Le Bok Fin, other various pop-ups. Every single one of them has had great, local beer. You’ve got brand new trendy restaurants that used to only talk about their wine lists, and now are just as proud of their beer lists. Music venues, too. Union Transfer opened with a great list of beer. The Fillmore opened and they have Victory on tap. [Good beers] are at all the sports venues now. I was at a Flyers game the other day and I was drinking Hop Devil all night and it was great! Even Han Dynasty had Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA on draft. Good beer everywhere is expected at this point." -- William Reed
Breweries will move back to the city"I’d love to see the trend of breweries moving back into the city. A brewpub is rumored to be opening up across from Barcade, and another brewery is rumored to move their manufacturing facility into the neighborhood [of Fishtown] as well. I hope that continues, as it ties into the political concern of getting the city to take [beer culture] more seriously as an important economic engine. As other manufacturing leaves the city, here we have something [in our breweries] that can thrive." -- Kristine Kennedy, executive director of Philly Beer Week
Drinkers will declare fierce loyalties"With the influx of so many beers and new companies, craft beer drinkers are going to become more discerning with what they try. It used to be fun to try the new beer on tap; now it's an unscalable mountain to try with every new beer available. They're going to go with companies they know and trust, and will be less willing to give second chances when they have a bad experience [with a beer].
"On the other hand, they're paying attention to who is purchasing formerly craft companies, and some are turning their noses up at breweries they used to love. As a result, we're going to see more loyalty to independent companies that have been around a while and the few new ones that seem to ‘get it.'" -- Matt Satten
Beer gardens will still be hot"It’s important to note al fresco spots like La Peg on Columbus Boulevard or the backyard of Kensington Quarters and side yard of Jerry’s Bar. I also think Druid’s Keep's backyard is one of the city’s sleeper hits. Clarkville opened in the fall, and it will be great to see the space in the spring across from the popular West Philly Clark Park." -- Suzy Woods
Beer will be an avenue for steady jobs"Brewing is an industry where you don’t necessarily need a college education to do it. It’s what politicians talk about all the time -- the opening of avenues for blue-collar jobs. The hope is if you’re successful enough at it, you can make a good living. I look at the craft beer resurgence as an opportunity to create jobs where jobs aren’t being created in our neighborhoods.
"That’s how this town used to be. If you look at an old map of Fishtown, every other building was a job-providing space. I look at the trend of breweries and brewpubs opening up as creating jobs in neighborhoods that people in those neighborhoods can work at." -- Kristine Kennedy
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Anna Goldfarb is author of the humor memoir, Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through, and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Edible Philly. She is looking forward to sipping a German barrel-aged sour ale/IPA hybrid at a beer garden this summer. You can follow her: @AnnaGoldfarb.