“Philly and Beyond” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.
One of our lost episodes, we visited the Greater Philadelphia area for a long weekend in the Spring of 2012. It was mainly a trip to visit our friend Andie at Victory Brewing, but we took the opportunity to explore beyond the Keystone State. By traveling just a few hours we experienced the beer scenes in Delaware and Maryland, as well.
So enjoy our beer adventures on the East Coast…
For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.
In the blink of an eye, it was already Saturday morning, the last day of our trip. Having packed a lot of breweries into the first three days, we had a light schedule planned for our finale, a couple of breweries followed up by the San Jose Earthquakes v. Philadelphia Union soccer match.
After a quick lunch at Mckenzie Brew House in Chadds Ford, we crossed back into Delaware. Most of our beer travels take us to small brewpubs or industrial park breweries. Rarely, do our brewery visits include a historic 252 acre farm. As we drove up the long driveway to Twin Lakes Brewing, Merideth and I were struck by the beautiful setting. Though, I have to say, I only saw ONE lake.
The brewery was housed in an out building on the farm, the old tractor barn. We entered the upstairs tasting room after the daily tour had already begun. While sipping on Greenville Pale Ale and Tweeds Tavern Stout, we listened to Sam Hobbs, brewery co-founder, talk passionately about his family history (seven generations on the farm!) and the Twin Lakes brews. Sam was particularly emphatic about their ingredients, especially the pure water that comes from the aquifer on the property.
Merideth and I were chatting casually with Sam after his talk. Knowing we were from out of town, he asked us where. Replying California, Sam remarked that he went to university in California, Berkeley to be exact. In another example of beer making the world smaller, turns out that Sam and I graduated from Berkeley the same year (1988) with the same major (Political Science). Twenty four years later, we met for the first time, both deeply involved in the craft beer world.
Sam was a very gracious host and wanted to show us more of the farm. Spending the afternoon drinking beer and walking all over the farm sounded great. But we had to get back to Philadelphia for the soccer match.
We finished our trip on a cold, windy and eventually rainy night at PPL Park along the Delaware River. Sam had given us cans of the very drinkable Greenville Pale Ale for the road. After coaxing her out of the car, Merideth and I tried our best to tailgate in the less than stellar conditions. I think the Tweeds Tavern Stout would have paired with the weather much better.
Our San Jose Earthquakes, behind 2 goals from Steven Lenhart, defeated Philadelphia 2-1. A nice ending to a memorable last day of our trip.
Hitting the road in the morning, I realized that it was going to be tough to top the previous day’s adventures (especially the seeing Sam part). Luckily, we had our friends Andie and Greg to help us round out another fantastic beer day. But first, we had a few stops to make before meeting up with them later in the evening.
After an hour and a half drive from Rehoboth Beach, we made a stop at Argilla Brewing Co. at Pietro’s Pizza in Newark, Delaware. We weren’t sure what to expect from the 1.5 bbl system that had only been serving for a month, but we were up for anything. Plus, we were hungry.
Pietro’s looked like any other pizza joint inside and the 80’s music playing throughout was especially inviting. We took seats at the bar and ordered a taster set. They had four beers: pale ale, IPA, amber, and a Cream Ale. These days, this line-up seems a bit ho-hum, but you know, there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving the basics. As I sampled the beers, I started to really appreciate the simple pleasure of drinking well-brewed beer. No super strong ABV. No over the top hops. And no barrels involved.
All of the Argilla beers were solid, an impressive feat for such a young nanobrewery. It’s no surprise that Chris opted for a pint of the IPA to have with his salad. I paired my whole grain veggie flatbread pizza with the amber. Before we left, we had the opportunity to say thanks to not only the brewer Steve, but also our friend Carlo’s brother, Mike who works in the kitchen and had prepared our lunch. All around, an honest place with good beer and good food made by good people.
We were now ready to move on to our next stop: Dock Street Brewing Company. Opened in 1985, Dock Street was Philadelphia’s first microbrewery. We had heard great things about them and were anxious to try the beer for ourselves. What we didn’t know was that it would be another hour before we got the chance to do that.
After getting off the highway, we drove for another 45 minutes through the lesser well-kept neighborhoods of West Philly. Hitting what felt like every red light possible was a frustrating experience and it was a relief to finally arrive at the brewery.
Housed in beautiful red brick building, Dock Street is situated on one corner of a neighborhood square. Caddy corner to the brewery stands an impressive stone church and brownstones line the street on the other side of the grassy park in the middle. We quickly found parking around the corner.
If Pietro’s Pizza was a normal everyday pizza joint, Dock Street was a gritty one. With black tables and chairs and a floor with red and cream-colored paint wearing off to expose the gray cement, Dock Street reminded me of something you’d find in San Francisco. Sitting at the bar waiting for our taster set, we looked through the window into the brewery. No fancy super-polished cooper kettles here. These showed the age and character of being one of the first microbreweries in the country.
Our six-beer sample set ranged from the easy drinking Summer Session (5% ABV) to the Super Saison (10.3%). In between, we tasted the sweet and strong Caliente Golden Ale (9.5%) made with blue agave nectar and ancho chilies and the Satellite Espresso Stout (5%) brewed with locally roasted organic fair trade espresso beans. I especially enjoyed that last one. It was like drinking iced coffee and it gave me the boost I needed to get over my mid-afternoon slump.
After a quick stop at the hotel, it was on to Victory to meet up with Andie and her husband Greg, our chauffeur for the night. Before we hit the road on our evening’s beer adventure, we had a few CBC beers that had been tapped since our visit the previous night. Chris went with the Bavarian Polaris IPA while I enjoyed the Bavarian Mandarin Pale Ale.
Our first stop of the night was Boxcar Brewing Company in West Chester. A two-man operation, this small brewery is located in an industrial park warehouse. They describe themselves as a “community oriented brewery that relies heavily on the support of the community, family, and friends.” This heart-felt sentiment embodies the true labor of love that is Boxcar Brewing and from what we tasted, they do a fine job of giving their friends, family, and community a good reward for their support.
Our visit was short and sweet. They had just blown a keg of their Original Ale, so the only beers available for sampling were the Brown and the IPA. Andie is a big fan of the Boxcar Brown and I became one, too. Thanks to Andie’s connection, we also managed to get a brief tour of the brewery in the adjacent space, including a taste of a mango ginger ale right out of the tank. The carbonation obviously wasn’t there yet, but the flavor was nice and refreshing. Then we were off to Stoudts Brewing Company, 50 minutes away in Adamstown.
Andie’s husband Greg warned us that Stoudts was an unusual place. From the outside it didn’t seem so unusual. I thought it was a large complex, but still didn’t fully understand what Greg was talking about. Until we stepped inside Stoudts Black Angus Restaurant & Pub.
The Black Angus Steakhouse has been in operation for 50 years and it definitely has an old school feel, complete with a specialty martini menu. The large restaurant is divided into rooms, almost like you’re in someone’s house. We sat in a room with red walls and loads of beer memorabilia. It was cool and kinda creepy at the same time. I chose the Kölsch to have with my pulled pork sandwich that came on a wonderful herb bun. Chris chose the Pils to have with his schnitzel.
In addition to the brewery and restaurant, there is also a creamery, bakery, and large antique mall. This mixture of businesses is what Greg thinks is so oddly fascinating. It was nice of Greg to drive us so far out and I was happy to have been able to visit one of the pioneering breweries in American craft beer.
Andie and Greg had one last place to take us–Lancaster Brewing Company in, you guessed it, Lancaster. It was dark by now and the lamps on the outside of the red brick building set it off beautifully. Between the mood lighting, ivy covered exterior and the name painted on the wall, it was clear we were walking into a historic building. In fact, it was an old tobacco processing facility.
The bar was packed with hipster college students, most of whom were male. Chris said it was very “bro-mantic.” We made the best of it, though, and I drank the Gold Star Pilsner while Chris and Andie went with the Hop Hog, a 7.9% IPA. I was the first to express that my beer had a strong metallic flavor. Chris thought the Hop Hog did, as well. Apparently this was unusual and Andie was a bit surprised because the beers are usually quite tasty.
The building, on the other hand, was every bit as amazing as I expected. The wooden decor of the bar fit well with the antique equipment left over from the building’s tobacco days. We sat near what looked like an old scale, while a few yards away there was an antique lift that is still operational. It would be nice to make a second visit to Lancaster Brewing. That way we could explore the historic building and give the beer a second go. On this visit we left our pints unfinished.
Greg was nice enough to not leave us in Lancaster and drove us back to our hotel. We really appreciated his and Andie’s willingness to help us add a few more breweries to The List. Friends helping friends. I’ll drink to that!
The second day of the trip was a big one for us. We were hitting our first ever breweries in Delaware. It was also the first time I’d ever been in the state and I couldn’t have been more excited. And before you ask if we went to Dogfish, the answer is yes. Both of them. In our (okay, my) pursuit of Sam.
Under gray drizzly skies, we drove two hours to Milton, DE — home to Dogfish Head’s production brewery. The location took us a bit by surprise. The building, including the treehouse out front, seemed oddly placed at the edge of a new subdivision called Cannery Village. Living nearby would be a beer lover’s dream, a non-beer lover not so much. However, I’m sure that Sam and company are conscientious neighbors.
The large tasting room was stocked full of merchandise, but not overly commercial. For being one of the big guys in the craft beer industry, it felt remarkably casual and the people were friendly. The best part was that they allowed us to taste beer without going on the tour.
The tasting room had four beers available: Urkontinent 8%, Black & Blue 10%, 90 Minute 9%, and Palo Santo Marron 12%. Not exactly starting our day off easy, but we knew what we were getting into.
No doubt you are familiar with the last three, so no use re-hashing those (though Chris would like to add that the brewery-fresh 90 Minute was the best he ever tasted). Instead, the Urkontinent, which had been released the day before, was just what you’d expect from DFH; a boldly-flavored beer with too many unusual ingredients to remember. This dark-colored Belgian-style Dubbel had a caramel sweetness that was balanced nicely with a roasty flavor. Perhaps these characteristics came, in part, from the only two ingredients I remember, California honey and Wattleseed from Australia. Whatever the other ingredients, I did manage to finish my generous sample of the complex brew and we even bought a bottle to bring home. My only disappointment was that we didn’t see Sam.
Our next stop, 16 Mile Brewing, was only 20 minutes away in Georgetown. The nearly three year-old brewery derives its name from the town’s location as being 16 miles from anywhere in Sussex County.
The tasting room had a large, dramatic sign out front, making it easy to locate. Opened just three months ago, the tasting room was somewhat stark inside, but a small fireplace on the far wall made it a bit cozier. We joined another couple at the bar to enjoy our sampler set.
They had a nice range of beers, from the crisp Blues’ Golden Ale to the Harvest Ale, a robust Southern English Brown. They also had a special Delaware Oyster Stout with a smoked roast flavor. The beers were all solid and much more manageable than our first stop. The Responders Ale, an American (Blonde) Session Ale comes in at 4% and their highest ABV ales (Amber Sun, Old Court dark pale ale, and Inlet IPA) top out at 6.1%.
The tap room doesn’t serve food, but a sandwich shop down road offers convenient delivery service. Chris had a pulled pork sandwich with his IPA, while I enjoyed a grilled ham and cheese on marbled rye with my Golden Ale. A very comfortable and tasty stop, 16 Mile Brewing hit the spot before moving on to our next brewery.
We were now off to our third brewery and third state of the day–Maryland–to Evolution Craft Brewing in Salisbury. The brewery had moved into the old ice factory just one week before our visit and all I can say is that it appeared massive! The tasting room, located on the right side of the building, was long and narrow and once inside the place didn’t feel so big.
The bar seats about a half-dozen and it was full when we arrived in the late afternoon. We took a seat at a bistro table near the window, which was fine because the bar was a little dark. Our five-beer sampler set included Primal Pale Ale, Exile ESB, Lucky 7 Porter, Lot No. 3 IPA, and the Spring Seasonal called Sprung. As usual, Chris favored the very West Coast tasting IPA, while I preferred the Pale Ale. Probably our least favorite was Sprung, a Golden Ale with honey, hibiscus, and chamomile.
The best part of the visit, however, was that we got to chat with Joe, the assistant brewer. He was a nice and generous guy who sent us away with a bottle of their 2011 Bourbon Barrel Dark Ale.
Since we had crossed into Maryland, Chris remembered that our friend Andie had mentioned another nearby brewery, Burley Oak in Berlin. As we headed off for Burley Oak Chris joked that he couldn’t take me to Germany, but he could still get me to Berlin. Of course nothing can top Germany in my book, but Burley Oak definitely didn’t disappoint.
We tried 11(!) beers at Burley. Seeing them all lined up in a row was like looking at a beer rainbow. From the Just The Tip Kölsch to the Black Cow milk stout on cask, I think every color on the spectrum was represented. But they weren’t just pretty to look at, they tasted great, too. Oddly enough, my top two were the ones mentioned above–complete opposites. Chris’ favorites included Gee Willy IPA and Pale Ryeder, a rye Pale Ale.
The atmosphere of the tasting room reminded me of a garage turned rec room, and I mean that in a good way. The brewery is visible through a large window behind the bar. It looked like a big barn in there with an exposed wooden ceiling and rafters. There was a dart board in the corner and locals talking at the other end of the bar. Our beertender, Zack was friendly, knowledgeable, and a complete beer geek, which made the visit memorable. We were so glad we stopped by!
We eventually made our way to Rehoboth Beach and upon Zack’s recommendation, started our evening with dinner at the Henlopen City Oyster House. He said they had the best seafood in Rehoboth and a great beer list. He was right on both counts.
I, of course, had to go east coast style and order Old Bay shrimp steamers. They were a bit messy, but oh, so good. The spiciness paired nicely with my Yard’s Saison. Chris was thrilled about his assortment of oysters, which he accompanied with a Victory Headwaters Pale Ale. That wasn’t all, however, and I went on to have the hazelnut encrusted golden tile and Chris the fried oyster dinner. Henlopen City Oyster House was a bit off the beaten path and we would have never gone there without Zack’s help. Thanks, Zack!
After a romantic walk “on the boards” (the boardwalk) we made our last stop of the night. We had started our day at Dogfish Head and planned to end it their original brewery: Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats.
When we arrived around 9pm the place was full but not too crowded. The one disappointment was that there was no room at the bar, so we sat at a table. The beer menu was of course, amazing and the beers big. We opted for the custom sampler, trying beers we hadn’t had before.
I was most excited about the Punjabi Export, a 6.5% export stout with Indian spices. The color was dark and rich and it had a strong chai aroma. In the end, it was a super bold beer that was too big for me. We finished the sample size but I’m not sure I could handle a pint of it. Chris was most overjoyed by Notorious H.O.P., a brewpub beer that reminded him a lot of Pliny the Elder.
As we drank our beers, Chris and I joked about Sam coming in, but in reality, I had already resigned myself to that fact that chances of seeing him were slim. (Actually, I’m a dork and was thinking that CBC was last week and not this week, so I figured he was already in San Diego.) But just when I had forgotten about it, he walked in. I’m actually not sure what he came to do. It seemed like he just walked from one end of the pub and back out again. Perhaps he popped in to do something quick. But how could Sam possibly show up and make it quick?
Some patrons were oblivious or at least locals who’d seen him a million times before. Others pointed and whispered. But there are always the bold beer geeks in the crowd and, as we have seen several times before with him, Sam couldn’t make a move without someone calling his name. He graciously shook hands, took pictures, and chatted with people who called him over.
We walked right by Sam as we left. He was in the midst of politely listening to a young woman talk to him about one thing or another, otherwise I would have said hello. We were still out on the sidewalk when he made his escape. He was definitely making a break for it and I didn’t dare stop him. After all, I’m a beer geek and a fan girl, not a stalker…
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.]
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.