We were last in Pennsylvania in March 2008 as part of a media tour for the inaugural Philly Beer Week. On that visit, Merideth and I experienced a whirlwind tour of the greater Philadelphia beer scene. On our own this time, we planned another crazy four days, including not only Pennsylvania but also journeying into Delaware for the first time.
A series of on-time flights and a quick airport exit had us in downtown Philadelphia before 10am on Wednesday. With some time to kill before our first beer stop, we joined the hordes of school children and throngs of normal tourists in Independence Mall. The line was too long for the Liberty Bell, but we were satisfied just peering through the window to see the famous crack.
On our previous visit, we covered the downtown Philly beer scene thoroughly, so we focused on the wider world this time around. But we couldn’t travel across the country without making another pilgrimage to the world-renowned Monk’s Café.
Monk’s was just how I remembered it: dimly lit with a lot of patina-ed wood. One of the first customers of the day, Merideth and I grabbed the corner spot at the bar in the front room. [Monk’s Café tip: the front door isn’t locked. It’s just heavy.]
Meeting us for lunch was Cara from the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, the host of our 2008 visit. It was enjoyable catching up with her, as a lot has happened in all our lives in the last four years.
I started with the Mikkeller Single Hop IPA, while Merideth’s first beer was her East Coast staple, Allagash White. With my delicious Seitan Cheese Steak, I drank the Monk’s Café Flemish Sour. Merideth’s lunch-beer pairing was the uber-garlicky Caesar Salad with grilled shrimp accompanied by Ommegang Hennipen.
Our short visit to Monk’s concluded with a quick chat with Tom Peters. Then, we were off to explore.
Located in an industrial building down by the Delaware River, Yards Brewing was our first brewery stop of the day. We drank a few of their beers on our previous visit– the Extra Special Ale at the Philly Beer Week opening celebration and the ‘Ales of the Revolution’ series at City Tavern. Since this facility was not yet open last time, Yards counted as a new brewery on the List.
There were a few other customers at the bar when we arrived a bit past 1pm. Merideth and I took our normal positions at the bar and ordered both the signature and revolutionary flights of beer.
The Ales of the Revolution beers were just like I remembered them: interesting. One has to really appreciate molasses in beer to get into these brews. Love Stout was the fourth brew in the flight. We didn’t have it at City Tavern, so I’m not sure of its colonial American heritage. A roasty 5.5% ABV oyster Stout, it was my favorite of these four.
From the signature series, the Philadelphia Pale was the standout for me. Light-bodied and hoppy, it reminded me of one of my favorite brews, Drake’s 1500. Merideth tapped the seasonal Saison as her star. With a mixed six-pack of these two beers in hand, it was time for Merideth and I to leave Philadelphia and head west.
Merideth and I only got lost twice in the confusing maze of merging and splitting highways on the drive to Downingtown. One outcome of our 2008 trip was that we met our friend Andie and lucky for us, she happens to work at Victory Brewing. Over the years, we promised we would come visit her. Well, here we were.
Thankfully, Andie picked us up at our nearby hotel and brought us to the brewery. Arriving around 5pm, the beer hall was already packed with the after work crowd.
With its wonderful feel and ambiance. I did almost feel like I was at a beer hall in Bavaria. The most striking feature was the decorative copper kettle tops that sat above a few of the tables.
It was a festive atmosphere at Victory, made even more festive for me when Bayern Munich eliminated Real Madrid to reach the Champions League final.
Time blurred as the hours went by. Andie introduced us to some of her fellow employees and numerous regulars. The wonderful Victory brews were plentiful. Hop Devil, Headwaters, Donnybrook, Braumeister Pils, Prima Pils, Alla Spina Novello were a few of beers we enjoyed. HUGE thanks and hugs go out to Andie and her co-workers for their generous hospitality.
We finished our night at The Station Taproom in Downingtown. The quiet and cozy beer bar was just what the doctor ordered as the jet lag was really setting in for Merideth and me. Dinner and a few more beers and then we were ready for some well-earned sleep. Our first trip to Delaware awaited us the following day.