Taking a day off from work to visit the many excellent bars in Center City Philadelphia in search of that special, yet elusive, beer on a sunny, 75 degree spring day is the “man equivalent of a spa day” (this quote is courtesy of Mrs. Alemonger). And that’s exactly what we did this past Tuesday afternoon! FYI, We = LimpD for the first 3rd of the day + The Alemonger for the entire day + The Wookie for the 2nd third of the day.
10AM Breakfast at the Down Home Diner in the Reading Terminal Market + White Chocolate Macadamia Cookie from The Famous 4th Street Cookie
What better way to prepare for a day long beer hunt than with a hearty breakfast? Black coffee, a slab of scrapple, 2 poached eggs, and two pieces of buttered rye toast. Not sure what purpose the cookie served (complex carbs???) , but it was delicious!
11AM Finn McCool’s Ale House on the corner of 12th and Sansom Street
We stopped in with the hopes of sampling some of Rogue’s finest. I think we got there a wee bit too early since they were just getting their delivery. While we waited for the tapping of the keg, we started with Franziskaner Hefe-Weiss and Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA. Once the Rogue was ready, we moved on to a Rogue Dead Guy Ale. For whatever reason, I was in a ridiculously silly mood and experienced what I think is the first “Rogue Dead Guy Ale Neti Pot“. All in all, a good start to the day.
Noon Ladder 15 @ 1528 Sansom Street
This is my 2nd visit to Ladder 15. Although this bar/restaurant has a really cool look, I am disappointed with the food. Chef Ansill’s two previous restaurants were so much better (Pif in South Philly and Ansill in Queen Village). Besides the hunt for rare and delicious beer, my other goal for the day was to upset the delicate culinary sensibilities of The Alemonger by ordering anything that may offend his palate (i.e. scrapple, eggs, cheese, offal, etc.). So of course I had to order the pig trotters! Sadly, they looked nothing like these pig trotters:
Though the Ladder 15 version tasted pretty good, they looked more like fried zucchini than the foot of a pig. Chef Ansill needs to resurrect his insanely good Ossobucco sliders. As far as the beer, I had a delicious Avery New World Porter. The Alemonger and the Avery rep had an extensive conversation (I was too busy dreaming of the pig’s feet that weren’t on my plate, so I didn’t do much eavesdropping) which resulted in the swag to end all swag: an official Avery Brewing Company tap handle for The Alemonger. It made for some good conversation at our other stops that afternoon. He was the envy of all Beer Geeks!
2PM Monk’s Cafe @ 16th & Spruce Streets
Talk about beer paradise! Monk’s Cafe is what I like to call a legacy destination. Before there was Monk’s Cafe, there was The 16th Street Bar and Grill, where I spent many an evening with some of my oldest and dearest friends. Thankfully, Monk’s Cafe has kept this destination alive and has improved upon it in every way possible. The food/beer selections are excellent, and there is always a lively crowd on hand. The featured brewery was The Breury (how cool is that?). Of the three or four selections on tap, I chose Tradewinds. Per their website, Tradewinds is a “Belgian-style Golden Ale with a Southeast Asian twist. Instead of using candi sugar (typical for such a beer), we use rice in the mash to lighten the body and increase the gravity, and spice with Thai Basil. The result is an aromatic, digestible and complex beer made for a lazy summer evening.”. They had me at Thai Basil! To say that this beer was crisp and clean would be an understatement. Sadly, this would be Mike’s final stop.
2:45PM A Gelato and Chinotto Intermezzo at Capogiro @ 13th & Sansom Streets
Though we may have lost a LimpD at Monk’s, we were about to gain The Wookie at Good Dog (more on that later).
After 3 bars and at least 4 beers each, it was time to give our beer palate a break. We took a quick stroll to Capogiro for some gelato and a San Pellegrino Chinotto. Capogiro makes the finest gelato that I have ever had outside of Italy. It is made fresh daily on-site and the flavors are nothing short of extraordinary. They make it with LOVE! They are even offering two Philly Beer Week inspired flavors: Rogue Chocolate Stout and Lambic Framboise gelato. With our palates reinvigorated, we were off to Good Dog!
3PM Good Dog Bar @ 15th and Locust Streets
Fried Mac and Cheese Balls! You have to love Good Dog. The crowd is eclectic (lawyers, bike messengers, artists, etc.), the food is outstanding, and the beverage selections aren’t too bad either. Although that bastard of a Wookie chowed on the Cordon Bleu Chicken Fingers without me, all is forgiven since he saved us some space at the end of the bar. The featured beers were from Ballast Point Brewing Company. Lucky for us, they had a freshly tapped firkin of Sculpin IPA on hand. Since I am new to this whole Beer Geek thing, I had never heard of Ballast Point before I stepped into Good Dog. The Sculpin IPA was the best beer that I had all day! Unfortunately, this beer rarely makes it to the East Coast due to it’s extremely limited production. I guess I’ll have to either wait for Philly Beer Week 2011 to drink it again or hop a flight to San Diego.
4:30PM Varga Bar @ 10th and Spruce Streets
Snacks, beer, swag, and the Philly Beer Girl!
Did I mention that yesterday was a truly spectacular weather day in Philly? Two days earlier, and the seven block walk from Good Dog to Varga Bar would have been unbearable. While Good Dog has the look and feel of a traditional Philadelphia neighborhood bar (deep. narrow, and minimal natural light), Varga Bar is practically wide open to the oudoors! There were at least 4 beers from Great Lakes Brewing Company on tap. Since I am a HUGE fan of Brian DePalma’s film “The Untouchables, I just had to have a glass of their Elliot Ness Amber Lager (Isn’t that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight.)! Though it wasn’t as memorable as the Sculpin IPA, it went really well with the cheese plate and pretzel nuggets that we ordered while seated at the bar. The Alemonger was horrified by our food selections, but he was thrilled to score us some Great Lakes t-shirts and meet a fellow beer blogger (Philly Beer Girl).
6PM And then there two… Doc Watson’s Pub on 11th and Locust Streets
In an attempt to avoid “the dog house”, The Wookie scurried home after our Varga Bar excursion.
Per the Philly Beer Week iPhone App (courtesy of The Alemonger), Sierra Nevada was the featured brewer. There were no reps on hand or swag to be had at this stop (I’m a greedy bastard!). We treated ourselves to some modest snacks and a wee flight of Sierra Nevada. Although Sierra Nevada makes some truly excellent beers (the Kellerweis is a personal favorite), there was nothing particularly unusual about the selections. After three wee beers each, some rather tasty fries, and some hip-hop, we decided to move on.
8PM Black Sheep Pub @ 17th and Locust Streets
After 9+ hours of eating, drinking, and walking, I was starting to lose some steam (and capacity!). We popped in to Tria very briefly, then decided to try out the Black Sheep Pub. Although there was nothing particularly unusual about their Beer Week offerings, we did have the opportunity to pour our own Hoegarden, Leffe Blond or Stella Artois for $3/pour. I picked the Leffe Blond. Although I usually enjoy this beer, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with it this time around. After having crisp and refreshing beers like the Sculpin IPA and Tradewinds, I thought the Leffe was annoyingly sweet. Perhaps I was just hitting the wall.
9PM The Ride Home
After nine beers and numerous snacks, we decided to call it a night. Overall, our first Philly Beer Week adventure was a success! Great beer, great food, and a whole lot of laughter makes for a great afternoon. If only there was more time and money to explore more of the events. There’s always next year…