What do you get when you mix passionate drinkers with dedicated bar owners, smart importers and an ironclad network of established and upstart breweries? One of the best beer cities in the country. Here are the best places to quench your thirst in Philly.
South Philadelphia Tap Room
Once upon a time, before South Philly was home to the city’s hottest ZIP codes, a little wood-clad tavern named South Philadelphia Tap Room opened with a roster of local, craft beers in a largely Miller-Coors enclave. Over a decade later, the Newbold neighborhood has grown up around this catalyst—SPTR’s owner, John Longacre, actually coined the name—and the bar has established a reputation for sourcing some of the best and most exclusive beers around the country. These taps are always one of the first to start pouring Dogfish Head’s warm weather favorite, Festina Peche, and Longacre has a relationship with Michigan’s Founders Brewing that results in rare kegs rolling through. (If you find something you like, chances are you can pick up some to take home at SPTR’s bottle shop, Brew, across the street.) On the edible front, count on grilled halloumi snacks, assertively seasoned salads and the paradigm of eggplant parm from longtime chef Scott Schroeder’s team. 1509 Mifflin St., 215.271.7787
Industry vet John Medlinsky has been talking about opening his own bar for years. He did so last year with Martha, an industrial hangout in Kensington with a soaring bar, mezzanine and backyard draped in twinkly lights. The liquid specialty at Martha is sour beers from small, offbeat breweries like Anderson Valley, Captain Lawrence and Elgood’s. Not into beers that make your lips curl? You’ll find other interesting things on the tap and bottle lists: Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo, Haymaker lemon-basil mead, even local kombucha and something called Funky Fresh Lemon Sparkle Fantasy. Neo-hoagies, charcuterie by Medilinsky’s pals (1732 Meats, La Divisa), house-made pickles and vegetable preps cover the snacking front. 2113 E. York St., 215.867.8881
Marc Vetri was on the vanguard of Italian craft ale’s nascent popularity in the U.S. when he opened Alla Spina, a raucous, (purposefully) graffitied gastropub on North Broad Street, in 2012. Alla Spina—the name refers to beer on tap—is still one of the best places a curious ale hound can plant himself or herself in town. The list, curated by Vetri’s ace beverage manager Steve Wildy, is a treasure hunt of chestnut ales (Birrifico di Como Birolla), Champagne-yeasted sours (del Borgo’s L’Equilibrista) and brews inspired by ancient Egypt (Baladin Nora). Glazed pig tails, clam “chowdah” poutine and sausage cheesesteaks on pretzel rolls are on stand-by for soaking up the alcohol. 1410 Mt. Vernon St., 215.600.0017
Monk’s bills itself as “the soul of Belgium in the heart of Philadelphia,” and rightly so. Because of owners Tom Peters and Fergus Carey and their canny importing, it’s said that Philadelphians now drink more Belgian beer than Belgians. At Monk’s—where the mussels and frites are also widely praised—you can spend a whole day drinking your way through the café’s exhaustive Beer Bible. Whether you stick to pours from the motherland (Petrus, De Dolle, Dupont, Delirium) or go patriotic (Russian River, Allagash, Stillwater), you shouldn’t leave without of a pint of Monk’s own lip-smacking Flemish red. 264 S. 16th St., 215.545.7005
It’s rare to find an instance where the suburbs beat the city in the food and drink realm, but when it comes to brewpubs, the areas surrounding Philly rule the region’s brewpub game. In towns like Ambler and Ardmore, brewpubs like Forest & Main, which is housed in an old Victorian, and Tired Hands, whose experimental brews have names like Motherboard Hovership. Out in Parkersburg, Victory just opened a new brewpub last summer, and over the bridge in South Jersey you’ll find tasting rooms at Flying Fish and Forgotten Boardwalk. Driving is the only downside. Thank goodness for Uber.