The Crawl: Philly Beer Week

independence hall

A successful pub crawl is a work of art. It’s something that you can only plan out so much. There needs to be “feel” involved. You need to know when to stick around and when to beat it for greener pastures. But when you decide to put together a do-it-yourself crawl during the thick of the drinking festival that is Philly Beer Week, your chances of success go up quite a bit.

Of course, this sort of thing is never fun to do it alone, so I recruited Dad to tag along. Though not as big a beer nerd as me, he was up for the challenge. Plus, having someone else with you means you get to taste their beer, too, so good for me. FYI…times are provided courtesy of my Foursquare check-ins. It all kinda got blurry towards the end, so this is the best evidence I have of my travels.

1:40 Monk’s Cafe had to be the first stop of the day. World-renowned for its amazing collection of Belgian beer on tap, I was happy to find plenty of room at the bar, which isn’t usually the case. I decided to kick things off in style with a Petrus Aged Pale Ale. It was pleasantly sour (aged in oak barrels), aggressive and — at over $9 for a small tulip glass — pricey. I’m glad I had it early when I could still enjoy it.

2:55 – Soccer time, and it was on to McGillin’s! I’ve mentioned them before and I love the place because it’s fun and familiar. While they don’t have the exotic selection of beers like other bars in Philly, they do focus on having something from all of the local breweries. Eat locally, drink locally! I got to taste Victory’s new Summer Love, a special variety marketed in conjunction with Philly’s visitor bureau (yeah, we’re serious about beer in this town), which matched perfectly with some buffalo wings and onion rings. Also fun: Getting to watch the English goalie become a pariah in his home country.

After the jump, plenty more beer, I make a new friend and score some food from an Iron Chef!

4:12 – It was getting loud in McGillin’s and Dad and I were hoping to do a bit more talking, so it was on to Triumph Brewpub for the second half of the match. Normally, you can only get the beer that Triumph brews on-site there, but they had guest taps for Philly Beer Week. I had been to Triumph’s Princeton location the night before, so I opted to celebrate the great beers from the left side of the country with a Green Flash West Coast IPA and a Russian River Registration. Both were fantastic, with the Russian River doing nothing to dissuade me from my suspicion that someone at that brewery has sold their soul to the devil.

5:58 – Dad was cashing in his chips but I was still going strong! My trusty Philly Beer Week iPhone App told me that Delaware’s craft brewery legend Dogfish Head ales were going to be featured at Southwark. While the Midas Touch and Black & Blue were both wonderful, the highlight of my time there was Jack, the bar regular who ended up at the spot next to me and with whom I had classic barfly conversation. He was that friendly older guy that loves to have a chat over a drink and tell you about how proud he is of his daughter’s career and how much he loves singing opera. Every bar should have a Jack.

7:49 – TVFF cannot live on beer alone, so I decided to try my chances with a drop-in at Amada, flagship restaurant of the Jose Garces empire. You always need reservations, but I was thinking that a tapas place would be ideally suited for one guy at the corner of the bar. Score. The Stoudt’s Golden Lager was a nice example of the variety, but the lamb alb√≥ndigas with shaved manchego had me threatening the bartender that I’d never return if it should disappear from the menu. I was assured that this would not happen, so you’re on notice, Jose.

8:43 – Nightcap. I wanted to go out on a high note, so I went to Varga Bar, which was featuring a multi-tap takeover by Victory. I topped the evening off with a Scarlet Fire — a smooth and drinkable rauchbier that didn’t have the overt, bacon-y smokiness you sometimes get — and a Baltic Thunder Imperial Stout with a high alcohol by volume that left no doubt in my mind that my night was finished. Thank God for public transit.

Final tally: Six bars/restaurants, nine beers, a few new friends and some great quality time with Dad.

Beer geekdom is a fraternity, and one that is well worth pledging. And when you get to do it during the rush week that is Philly Beer Week, you’re a lucky guy.

(Photo: me, which is surprising because I was about seven drinks in at that point)

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  • BS June 21, 2010  

    wow. I’m impressed. I had no idea there are so many serious beer places in Philly.

  • gansie June 21, 2010  

    can we discuss “classic barfly conversation” – jack’s wholesome bragging about his daughter’s successful career sounds like a disney movie, not what i’d picture an old man at a bar by himself talking about.

  • tvff June 21, 2010  

    If it makes you feel better, Jack told two or three completely inappropriate jokes, too, so it wasn’t all smiles and unicorns.

  • Nee Nee June 21, 2010  

    After a disasterous experience with Dogfish Head at the Great American Beer Festival in 2002, the Mr. and I swore it off and have referred to it as Dogsh*t Head ever since. When we are in stores in Denver looking for LOCAL products, inevitably the store clerks refer us to Dogsh*t Head. First, how local is a PA produced product?! It’s made in America, yes, but PA is like a 3 hour flight away. Second, is it really so hop-worthy that it overrides recommendatio for our Colorado suds? We’ve got some d*mn good beer here. Third, after 8 years, do I have to concede that my palate was completely worn out by the time I got to the Dogsh*t booth and I’ve been wrong all this time? I mean, beer geeks love this stuff, and I kinda consider myself one. I hate being wrong. And I love using curse words in the names of things. We’ll see.

  • Caroline - Philly Tourism June 21, 2010  

    Glad you tried the Summer Love Ale! You’re so right – we ARE serious about beer in Philadelphia, that’s why a partnership with Victory Brewing Company was so fitting.

  • Don June 22, 2010  

    Thanks for having me along, Son. As hot as it was that day and trying to drag these old bones around Center City without being too much of an anchor for you, I wouldn’t trade the time spent with you for anything! Sorry I had to cut away early. Ah, to be about 25 years younger……..

  • Michele June 25, 2010  

    DELAWARE!!! Dogfish Head is made in DELAWARE. PA has enough claims to fame, give us ours, please. And sorry to hear you had a bad experience, because I love Dogfish Head beer and have never had anything but a great time at their Rehoboth location. Especially when hottie Sam is in the house.

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