The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Beer Bars
Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

Fountain Porter
1601 South 10th St.
Philadelphia, PA
267-324-3910

Fountain Porter is an outstanding beer bar in South Philly's East Passyunk Crossing neighborhood.
What makes a beer bar "outstanding" in a town filled with over-the-top beer venues?
Fountain Porter, among their 20 rotating taps, had some interesting and unusual breweries represented.
Jolly Pumpkin, Lost Abbey, La Trappe, Other Farm, Jack's Abby, Maine, Oxbow, and a Prairie/Brewfist Collaboration.
Whew!
Fountain Porter is long and narrow, and the crowd on an early Sunday evening was young, hip, and understated.
As I have stated, the taps number 20 and form a well-rounded beer list.
Hope you want a draft; there are no bottles.
Who would want one here?
There was one small TV...no one seemed to be watching as golf was on.
All the patrons were drinking craft beer and talking with others who were enjoying the same pastime.
I was sad to leave; we need a Fountain Porter back in dear old Catonsville.

 

 

 

2nd Street Brew House
1700 S. 2nd St.
(2nd & Morris)
267-687-7964

2nd Street Brew House is a great beer bar with fine food located in the Pennsport section of South Philly.
In their own words, they are a
" haven for the beer enthusiast who appreciates a non-pretentious, low key atmosphere with a great vibe."
The Brew House has 14 rotating taps all pouring craft beer, and more than 70 cans and bottles.
The bar seats about a dozen patrons, and there is a 5-person bar in the back with several tables for dining.
The bar was dark and pleasantly noisy on a Sunday night.
I had only room for one more beer before and I chose admirably with a Ninkasi Dawn of the Red.
I didn't go wrong with the Brew House burger either.

 

 

American Sardine Bar
1800 Federal St
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 334-2337

American Sardine Bar is a gastropub and beer bar in Philly's Point Breeze neighborhood.
The bar seats about 14 people and there are about a dozen tables.
The 16 taps are well-chosen...all craft and all rotate.
The Sardine Bar offers no bottles, but does stock about 20 to 30 different types of canned beer.
The draft selection is listed on a chalk board; the menu too is listed on a chalkboard to conserve natural resources.
The menu was small but creative and I can vouch personally for the quality of the spiced ham and cheese sandwich.
Sardine Bar has a warm, neighborhood feel. We were greeted by three of the staff as we entered; the service was outstanding.
On an ironic note, because of a problem with their purveyor, Sardine Bar was out of sardines on the day of our visit.
Do not fret...they will have gotten them back in time for your visit.


 

 

The Sidecar Bar & Grill
2201 Christian St
Philadelphia, PA 19146
(215) 732-3429

The Sidecar is a friendly, corner neighborhood bar in Southwest Center City.
The bar seats about 14 customers.
Maybe a dozen tables complete the seating downstairs, and there is another room upstairs.
The Sidecar offers 12 well-chosen and carefully cared-for taps, all of which rotate.
The line-up included 2 area breweries with whom I was not familiar, Funk Brewing Company and Helltown.
Additionally, there is a 40-item bottle list.
We were greeted by both bartenders as soon as we stepped in and the hospitality continued.
Micha, who waited on us, was extremely helpful and eager to talk about beers of all varieties.
The Sidecar offers an excellent atmosphere for both the serious and the aspiring beer drinker.
I would love to return.



 

Kite and Key
1836 Callowhill Street

Philadelphia, PA
(215) 568-1818

Kite and Key is a beer bar just to the east side of the art museum area.
The venue was very warm and crowded on Easter Sunday...much more crowded than any of the other establishments we visited.
The bar seats 10 or 12, with about 8 tables in the bar, and more on a level a few steps up.
I counted 16 taps plus a hand engine, almost all craft beers.
The crowd was pretty young and convivial; the whole place appeared well-worn and had a friendly, neighborhood feel.
I enjoyed this quote written on the wall next to an old beer engine from the 1930's:
"Little fools will drink too much;
great fools not at all."

 

 

Alla Spina
1410 Mt Vernon St
Philadelphia, PA

(215) 600-0017

Alla Spina, meaning "from the tap", is an Italian flavored gastropub with an excellent beer bar just off of Broad Street.
The large modern bar seats about 20, and many more patrons can be seated at the numerous tables of all sizes.
Two big screen TVs are there if you need them, but are certainly not intrusive.
The taps number 20, and all rotate.
There are also 50-60 bottles offered.
A Saison-fest was going on, and about half of the taps were Saisons.
Late in the afternoon on an Easter Sunday, all the bar patrons were drinking draft beer, and seemed knowledgable about their selections.
Needless to say, Tim, our barkeep, was also quite helpful with anything we needed to know about beer or the neighborhood.
Alla Spina has themed beer flights which vary by the day.
The prices were given for all the draft beers on the beer list, and my Victory Saison was delicious and reasonably priced.
Be careful with the mixed drinks, though.
These were surprisingly pricey.

 

 

Revolution House
200 Market St 
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 625-4566

Revolution House was not on our original list. We stumbled upon it after we were again denied access to PBR.
How fortuitous!
Revolution House is long and narrow, with a bar that seats around 10 and tables and booths in the back.
There is also an upstairs deck for nicer weather.
The building dates from 1798 and was originally a Quaker Friends Meeting House.
Visible are a lot of wood and brick, and the decor provides a colonial vibe.
The taps number 8 and are very well-chosen. There were a few I had not seen before.
The bottle list numbered about 20.
The beers, atmosphere and friendly staff make this a place to which we would return.

 

 

Bierstube
206 Market St   
Philadelphia , PA 19106
(215) 922-2958

Bierstube is a German-themed bar on Philly's bustling Market Street in Old City.
Bierstube is a sister bar of Eulogy Belgian Tavern, and replaced the Beneluxx Tasting Room that used to be nearby.
The bar seats about 10 patrons; a dozen tables and a "mirror bar" seat a lot more.
On a Tuesday evening, all the drinkers were male, and all were sitting at the bar drinking beer.
The 16 taps are well-selected, and center around German imports, although there are other craft beers.
The bottle list offers another 150 varieties.
Of note on this list were the "Scheisse Biers" listed at the bottom. This portion of the menu was for the few macros that are offered. If you need a translation, ask a German.
Concerning the food, we can state that the knockwurst and Wiener schnitzel were excellent.
The young lady who served us was extremely personable and eager to talk about the beers and other topics.
Bierstube should be a stop on any Market Street pub crawl.



 

 

The Industry
1401 E Moyamensing Ave
Philadelphia , PA 19147
(215) 271-9500

The Industry is a neighborhood bar in South Philly.
The L-shaped bar seats a dozen patrons, and a long community table maybe 16 more. There are about 15 tables in addition.
The Industry is decorated with lots red, wood, and attractive windows looking out over the environs that I was told was known as Pennsport.
The beer - 12 taps with a nice assortment of American craft beers, many locals.
The bottle list numbers about 20.
I like it when they display the prices right up front.
Our barkeep was extremely helpful with beer data and Philly information in general.
The Industry is a great neighborhood watering hole to which you could proudly bring your friends.
We could use one of these in Catonsville.

 

 

Misconduct Tavern
1511 Locust St   
Philadelphia , PA 19102
215-732-5797

Misconduct Tavern is located in central Philadelphia, just a few blocks south of City Hall.
An L-shaped bar seats about 18 patrons, and anotner 40 or so can be seated at tables.
The bar is dark, lots of wood and brick, and suggests a nautical theme without overdoing it.
Misconduct offers a tap selection of 12 craft beers and imports, with another 60+ available in bottles.
The crowd was mostly professional on a weekday during rush hour, and friendly toward these thirsty visitors.
We got the impression most drinkers were regulars.
It's not easy to park in this neighborhood, especially during rush hour. But if you find yourself in the area, Misconduct is worth a try.

 

 

East Girard Gastropub
200 E Girard Ave
Philadelphia , PA 19125
(267) 761-9343

'Twas a rainy, windy night on the east edge of Philly. We could not find the East Girard Gastropub as the exterior sported no signage. But when we did enter, it was worth the search.
EGGastropub offered 10 great beers on tap, about 20 bottles, great food, and ample hospitality. Samples of the beer were cheerfully given.
The bar seats 16 or so, and 10 tables of various sizes accomodate about 30 more.
The rest room was graffiti-friendly.
As mentioned, the beers and food were outstanding. By the time you make your visit, the sign will probably up.

 

 

 

HeadHouse Cafe
122 Lombard St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
215-922-1223

We visited HeadHouse on a rainy, windy night in its location on a quaint section of Lombard St.
The L-shaped bar seats 12 in the front , and there are numerous tables both here and in the larger back bar.
Their speciality seems to be sushi, though sadly, we were not able to partake. Their other forte' is beer, however, which is why we were there.
Headhouse sports 20 well-chosen drafts which included numerous Belgian styles.
120 bottles cover the rest of the bases.
It was a slow time of the evening, and our bartender was able to answer our questions and direct us to a few other establishments in the neighborhood.

We'll have to come back for some sushi, and of course, more beer.

 

Kraftwork
541 East Girard Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125
215-739-1700

Kraftwork has an ambitious list of 25 taps with some very unusual hard-to-find beers. The 25 on-deck beers were also listed. The interior space is a visual celebration of art, industry, and the elements of design. Huge augurs, wrenches, and blades pay homage to the combination of style and function. The walls are exposed brick, and the several TV's and background jazz were non-invasive. The U-shaped bar seats at least 20 persons; picnic style as well as 2-person tables must accomodate about 40 more. We were very pleased with our food and beer choices. Add Kraftwork to your Fishtown pub list.

 

Prohibition Tap Room
501 North 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 238-1818

Prohibition Tap Room is a little gem of a bar in Philly's Callowhill area. The interior is comfortably dark, and the interesting penninsular bar seats many in a small area, with tables filling the remaining space. The overall atmosphere was laid-back, friendly and unassuming.

There are 8 taps and 1 hand engine. Needless to say, the draught selections were well-chosen, and the bottle choices numbered over 60.

Our waitress was especially helpful and enthusiastic. The Questor can put Prohibition Tap Room on his list of essential Philadelphia watering holes.

 

Devil's Pocket
Food & Spirits

2425 Grays Ferry Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19146
215-735-2202

Devil's Pocket Food & Spirits in Philly's Grays Ferry region is a cozy, attractively appointed neighborhood bar and restaurant. The bi-level bar features 12 taps plus a hand engine. Forty-some bottles are also offered. Draft selections are listed on a chalkboard above the upper bar.
There is seating for maybe 15-20 at the bar, with a number of chairs and tables. There is lots of wood and glass, making the place feel larger than it is. Sean, our bartender, was very helpful and eager to supply information about the beer or bar in general.
This is a place to visit more than once.
Devil's Pocket used to be known as The Resurrection Ale House.

 

Hawthorne's
738 South 11th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 627-3012

Hawthorne's is located in the Bella Vista section of Philadelphia, about a half-block from Bella Vista Distributor. Rather than a bar or a restaurant, it appears to have a split personality: part beer store and part elegant lunch room. With refigerator cases lining the walls, and a modern, eclectic menu, Hawthorne's suceeds in fulfilling both the gourmand and the beer connoisseur. Our food was delicious, but their website can tell you more about their menu than I ever could. Let's get to the beer. Patrons help themselves to any of the hundreds of beers in the coolers, and all the styles are generously represented. They have 15 drafts, but so far can only fill growlers. The growler-filling system is state of the art, and I heard there is a 9-month guarantee on the freshness of the beers therein. Hawthorne's is fun and different, the beer is great, and the trip worth while.

 

Brauhaus Schmitz
718 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267)909-8814

We've got enough Irish Bars, English Pubs, and Belgian Cafes...every beerdrinking town needs a German bier hall. Brauhaus Schmitz is traditional-modern and has all the German bases covered. There are 20 taps and most rotate...all are Germanic in style. The bar seats maybe 15, with about 10 tables downstairs and more on the second level. The Reinheitsgebot hangs illuminated on the wall.

Those seated at the bar seemed savvy about their biers, and our barmaid was friendly, knowledgeable, and glad to give samples.

If you like German bier better, and wurst best, Brauhaus Schmitz is definitely a place to visit. If it is not a slice of Bavaria in the land of cheesesteaks, then it was close enough to fool me.

 

Pub On Passyunk East
(POPE)

1501 East Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 755-5125

As can be seen from the exterior visage, POPE is an unpretentious, neighborhood, corner bar in South Philly. Inside, it is dark, comfortable, and friendly. The bar seats about 20, and there are tables in the ultra-private back reaches of the establishment. There is also some outdoor seating. Beer is what they are about here, with 14 taps and about 100 bottles. The draft list included Bell's, Stone, and the elusive Pliny the Elder from Russian River. Our barman was friendly and informative.
Although we weren't eating yet, POPE's menu looked creative and appetizing. And...the Cheesesteak Capital of the World, featuring Geno's and Pat's, is a few blocks up the street.
Why can't we have a bar like this in Catonsville?

 

 

Jose Pistola's
263 S. 15th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215-545-4101

Well, we finally got to Jose Pistola's and all the great things we had heard about it were true. An extremely relaxed atmosphere, great Mexican food, and an outstanding beer selection made it an intensely enjoyable visit. Our bartender Casey was a valuable asset in answering any questions we had about beer, food, or anything else. The crowd was mostly young, mellow, and friendly. The 12 drafts were well-selected and cared for, and about 70 bottles were available. Beers from the Sixpoint Brewery had just reached Philly, and my Otis Stout was delicious. There are several other great bars within walking distance makes Pistola's a Questor haven.


 

The Institute
549 N 12th St.
(Corner of 12th and Green)
Philadelphia PA 19123
215-765-8515

You probably wouldn't stumble across The Institute, but it's a beer venue worth finding. Situated a little east of the longer-established Green St. watering holes, The Institute offers 16 well-chosen drafts. The whole place was re-habbed by owners Charlie and Heather Collazo, and features a corner bar and tables downstairs, and booths, each containing a flat screen TV, on the upper level. There is also another bar, and DJ stand upstairs. And Charlie isn't finished. At the time of our visit, he was working on a 24-tap draft system to go in a new bar. The draft lines will run through 24 identical tap handles of galvanized pipe, of Charlie's own design. The Institute is a friendly tavern that seems poised to serve a neighborhood on the upswing for years to come.

 

 

Irish Pol
114 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 238-9335

The name did not appear anywhere on the outside. It used to be known as Yeager's and St. Jack's. But it was the sign for 40 taps that drew us in, and Irish Pol was as good as advertised. The 40 drafts ranged from Pabst Blue Ribbon to Blanche de Bruxelles, and Jason, the barkeep, was helpful with the choices. The place seemed authentic and local, from the ancient wood floors to the copper-top bar. Irish Pol features a happy hour 7 days a week, with all drafts $2.00 at the appropriate times. If you're in this neighborhood which is great for bar-hopping, Irish Pol is a necessary stop.

 

Memphis Taproom
2331 E Cumberland St
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(215) 425-4460

Located at the corner of Memphis and Cumberland Streets in a neighborhood referred to as Fishington, the Memphis Taproom is a stellar destination for great beer and fine food. Good word spreads fast. Several hours before our visit, the Chesapeake Chapter of the Society for the Preservation of Beers in the Wood (SPBW) stopped by on their bus tour in search of fine cask ales. They were not disappointed. Memphis offers 11 taps and about 45 bottles, and the choices are diligently thought out. They cover all the bases, including the best of the various brewing styles. Brendan the proprietor and his staff were helpful in explaining beer choices and general philosophy. I shall return.

 

Johnny Brenda's
1201 N. Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125
215-739-9684

It doesn't look like much from the outside, but Johnny Brenda's has real neighborhood character. From the linoleum floor up to the tin ceiling, Brenda's appears to be a local hangout and popular music venue. And being a partner of Standard Tap in nearby Northern Liberties, it is a great tavern for beer. Brenda's offers 14 taps...all regionals...no bottles. It was a quiet and friendly hangout on a Saturday afternoon, but we were warned that it would be mobbed later. Johnny Brenda's is certainly worth a stop on the Questor's itinerary.

 

Devil's Den
Corner of 11th & Ellsworth in South Philly
1148 S 11th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 339-0855

Devil's Den sits on 11th street, just below Washington Avenue in South Philly, another cog in the burgeoning beer scene in this area. Everything in the Den looks new and clean, yet the place has a genuine neighborhood aura. The long mahogany bar seats about 20, and there are several dining areas with numerous tables. The 16 taps are brimming with diversity, offering Belgians, Germans, and micros. A thirsty Questor can also choose from about 130 bottles. Erin, the proprietor, explained how she had just tapped her first firkin and was considering making this a regular activity. Although our visit was on a Saturday morning, Devil's Den would be a great place to hang out any evening, and on a return trip we will do just that.

 

 

The Belgian Cafe
21st and Green Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215-235-3500

The Belgian Cafe in the Fairmount neighborhood is an offshoot of Monk's, which means there is going to be lots of good beer, slanted heavily to Belgian. Hence the name. Belgian Cafe offers 12 taps and about 250 bottles of micros and imports. Naturally, the selection is diverse, and the barkeep was extremely helpful in aiding with our selections. The bar is dark, and the dining area brighter, being festooned with nudes. Food was good and prices were reasonable.

 

Race Street Cafe
208 Race Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-627-6181

On the north edge of Old City, in the shadow of the Ben Franklin bridge, can be found Race St. Cafe. It's small, with exposed brick and wood beams, and an L-shaped bar offering 12 well-chosen taps.
Walk those 3 blocks north...it's worth it.

 

The Abbaye
637 N Third St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 627-6711


As the moniker would suggest,
The Abbaye is another great place to go in Philly for great beer, especially of the Belgian variety. They offer 10 eclectic drafts consisting of imports and micros, and another 20 bottles or so. The taps rotate constantly. And being in Northern Liberties, there are a number of other beer bars within walking distance.

 

700
700 North 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA


700 has been called a "hip hangout" and a "Northern Liberties nightlife stalwart."We accidently stumbled into 700, and discovered a neighborhood beer bar with bare wood floors, a linoleum bar top, and macaroni & cheese soup almost ready to be served. Woody, our host and barkeep, graciously showed us the 10 well-chosen taps and 2 hand engines. I immediately went for the Paulaner Hefeweizen, turning down a Yards Belgian which I could have scored for the Quest. I could have also picked from the ample selection of about 60 bottles. 700 seemed like a friendly place to get a good beer, and when we return, it won't be by accident.

 

Grace Tavern
2229 Grays Ferry Ave
Philadelphia , PA 19146
(215) 893-9580

South of Center City and not far from the Schuylkill River , Grace Tavern is a neighborhood establishment that offers good beer. There were 10 taps, and maybe another 30 in the “Bevador.” Leo, our bartender, server, and host was humorous, professional, and able to perform many jobs on a Saturday night with nary a misstep.


 

South Philadelphia Taproom
1509 Mifflin St .
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania 19145
(215) 271-7787

Located in a residential neighborhood in South Philly, SPTR was a pleasant surprise. They have 10 taps, most of which rotate and about 80 different bottles.
The taps are locally flavored. Patrons like Pedro were friendly and anxious to help with the Quest.
Tom & English Dave, our bartenders, were friendly, knowledgeable, and generous with the samples.
SPTR is off the tourist track yet not that hard to find.
Do so.

 

 

 

McGillin's Old Ale House
1310 Drury St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-735-5562

Large, bustling, and friendly, McGillin's is Philly's oldest bar, having been in operation since 1860. Luminaries, from Tennessee Williams to Robin Williams, have passed through their portals, and for the same reason...to quench their thirst. And this is quite easy to do at McGillin's. They feature 23 taps with many local beers and ales, kept fresh in a state-of-the-art tap system. The place was jumping on a Wednesday night, but Chuck and Kate took the time to explain to this Questor the story of McGillin's. Their hospitality suggests a return trip, and more time spent at McGillin's Old Ale House.

 

The Grey Lodge Pub
6235 Frankford Avenue
Northeast Philadelphia
215-624-2969

"We are not the typical Northeast Philly bar, but then again we aren't the typical anything."

This according to Scoats, (far right) the genius behind The Grey Lodge Pub. Grey Lodge is an unassuming neighborhood establishment that has been declared one of the top 50 beer bars in the U.S. They have 10 taps with a local flavor, which constantly rotate. About 40 different bottles for those who aren't in the mood for a draft. We found the crowd extremely friendly and Scoats and his staff very helpful. When you go, make sure to check out the bathrooms...both of them! The hand-crafted mosaic tilework, illuminating many famous beer quotes, is alone worth the drive to Northeast Philly.

 

Dawson Street Pub
100 Dawson St. · Philadelpia, PA 19127
(215) 482-5677

Dawson Street Pub is up the hill and across the tracks from Manayunk's artsy Main Street. They offer 12 draft beers, and three more hand engines. There is also an extensive, well-chosen selection of about 85 bottles to choose from. It is a very unpretentious neighborhood bar that nevertheless draws beer lovers both local and from afar. Dawson Street features a lounge, patio, pool table, and live music. The next time you are in Manayunk, depart the hubub of Main Street and ask for good directions to the Dawson Street Pub.

 

Monk's Cafe
16th & Spruce Streets Philadelphia, PA
215-545-7005

In Philadelphia, indeed, on the East Coast, when beer drinkers are talking of Belgian beers, the name Monk's will always surface. Monk's offers an incredible selection of beers from the world's breweries, with emphasis on the Belgians.
The front bar offers 6 taps, and the back bar another 17 or so. Most are strong, flavorful, and distinct; nothing is run-of-the-mill. The staff are resourceful in aiding the guest in choosing the brew that he or she should enjoy. Try it if you are in town.

 

Standard Tap
901 North 2nd St.
Philadelphia 19123

Standard Tap, located in the Northern Liberties neighborhood, has done what I wish more bars had the fortitude to do...serve all local drafts all the time.
No imports, no macros, no bottles.
It works.
Standard Tap has about 20 taps which may include products from such regional brewers as Yards, Victory, Flying Fish, Dogfish Head, Stoudt's, Troeg's, and others.
There are also 2 hand engines.
The beer is fresh and the staff knows what they are about.
The locale is out of the tourist mainstream, but the neighborhood has other neat bars close by.
Don't miss it.

 

The Khyber Pass Pub

56 S. Second St, Philadelphia

The Khyber offers a selection of 20 microbrews, many of which are from the area, 2 hand engines, and about 30 or so bottles. These selections seem well-thought out, and the drafts well-cared for, making this venue a legitimate Beer Bar. The Khyber used to be known for its live music...now it's a place to grab a few good beers and select from their menu of Southern-style food.

 

 

Eulogy Belgian Tavern

136 Chestnut Street
Old City, Philadelphia
(215) 413-1918.

Philadelphia has a few great Belgian pubs, and this is certainly one of them. Located three blocks from the Liberty Bell, and near the waterfront, Eulogy is a beer-lovers mecca, featuring about 18 taps, mostly Belgian. Augmenting this auspicious array are over 200 bottles from all over the world. Chris, our server, was extremely helpful. Upstairs features another more intimate bar and dining area. Ask to see the beer menu...you'll never get through it all.