A least once a year I like to return to my mother land of Pennsylvania to visit my family there. They all live in the Philadelphia area for the most part and I end up visiting them from Northeast Philly into the areas of Bucks and Montgomery counties. And to me Pennsylvania is a mecca for craft beer. Whether it be the brewers through out the area or the numerous upon numerous bars with amazing beer selections I just love the Philly area.
State laws I know can make getting beer a pain in comparison to other states. I am use to being able to walk into a liquor store, grocery, gas station, etc in Florida and being able to pick up beer and in any quantity that I wish. Not so in Pennsylvania as beer distributors, where you get most of your beer, really only sell by the case. Some bars and grocery stores have take out to where you can purchase sixers or even singles but a lot of them have a limit on the amount you can purchase (the equivalent of two six packs). Also I have heard complaints of the pricing of cases at distributors. I honestly have not bought beer from a distributor there in awhile so I am not sure. I have stuck to buying take out from bars and their prices seem competitive.
But the thing that just hooks me is the abundance of good beer bars, brew pubs and breweries all over the place. I am always in absolute shock by the amount of bars that at least carry some good craft brews. Sure there are more craft breweries around the area unlike down here but still seeing them side by side with your InBev and MillerCoors choices is quite the sight.
In my most recent visit I was able to visit a few great places. The one I looked the most forward to was the Victory Brewing brew pub. Nestled in a commerce park in the middle of a residential area of Downingtown, PA Victory is probably the most well known local brewery in the Philly metro area. My cousin informed me that the place was recently renovated and is much bigger than it use to be and the place is huge. Lots of tables and booths along with a nice long bar to sit at. Of course their tap list is impressive. It includes all the regulars with many of the seasonals and a few surprises from time to time. I had Hop Devil on cask, Yakima Twilight and Festbier during my sitting. For food we started with the Smoked Chipotle Wings of Victory and boy were they good. A nice sweet taste the follows up with a good spicy kick in the mouth on a cold winter night. I got the pulled pork sandwich with fries for my main course. The pork was good but the bun was huge and just added too much bread to the equation. Also the amount of fries they provided were meager to say the least. I had only 5 normal sized steak fries while another with me only received 3! We didn’t raise a stink about it because we were there for the beer anyway. I wasn’t able to do a brewery tour as it was too late in the evening but will have to do that some day. In the end the beer is exactly what you expect and I highly recommend the Wings of Victory in the Smoked Chipotle sauce.
Another gem of my trip was a little bar that is pretty much on the border of Chalfont and North Wales. The Blue Dog Tavern may look like your average bar. It has wood paneling, lots of neons and a lot of suds flowing. But upon closer look you notice the differences. The neons and tackers around the bar say Weyerbacher, Brooklyn, Stone and Lost Abbey. The tap handles have even more names a beer geek will recognize right away. I started with a pour of the Stone and BrewDog collaboration Bashah and followed that with a couple Lost Abbey Ten Commandments. The best part of these besides how good they really were was the price. Both under $6 for a tulip glass of these amazing brews. And in actuality all of the drafts were very well priced. As we were leaving I took a look at the take out area. An amazing selection that included at least 5 different brews from the Bruery and a few Cigar City brews, I’m in South Florida and we are just starting to get Cigar City! The next day I stopped back in and picked up a couple from the Bruery, Two Turtle Doves and Autumn Maple. I currently still have the Autumn Maple at my aunt’s house for my next visit as I noticed it’s ABV was on the higher end. But Blue Dog is definitely a great little hidden gem out there along the Bucks and Montgomery county lines.
I am not mentioning the other numerous Victory, Yards and Troegs brews that I had during my time up there because I don’t want this article to get out of hand. I look forward to heading back up there in early June for Philly Beer Week 2010 as well as making a trip out to New Jersey to meet up with Pete from Simply Beer and maybe partake in a Beer Brawl.
So if you find yourself outside of Philly just know there are some really good places around to grab a beer. I love PA!