In the minds of Philadelphians, there is no question that The City of Brotherly Love is the Mecca for craft beer. Ask any beer drinking resident which city has the best craft beer culture in the country and they will proudly say Philadelphia. Why wouldn’t they? Outside of California, who else gets the ales of craft beer god Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River? And who else has an ambassador of beer on the level of Tom Peters? (He is probably a bigger rock star in Belgium than Jean–Pierre Van Roy of Cantillon.) With the best in the world coming to us, Philadelphians have a reason to be proud.
Although, it would seem there is room for debate. Outsiders come in and have the utmost respect for our knowledge and our selection. They actually come to this city just for that. However, there is always one question that seems to remain. The question of “What should I drink that’s local?” Despite having such a behemoth of the industry as Victory and smaller breweries with the talents to match any, such as Tröegs, Weyerbacher, Yards and Earth Bread, not to mention award winning brewpub chain Iron Hill (and trust me, this is a short list to keep the word count down), outsiders seem to question the quality of our local beer scene. There is no reason to question Exit 4 from Flying Fish, Saison VOS from Sly Fox, Nodding Head’s Berliner Weisse or any beer from Stewart’s in Delaware, but for some unexplainable reason, people do.
Well, thankfully this is the year that doubts will all fall to the wayside. 2012 will be the year that puts local Philadelphia on the beer map to stay. With over a dozen new breweries invading the scene by year’s end, local beer will be viewed with an entirely new perspective. 2012 will be the year to define the blossoming Philadelphia scene as the true mecca of craft beer in the country.
Here are some of the new faces of Philadelphia, the faces that will solidify what all of us already know…
Tired Hands Brewing Company
Location: Ardmore, PA
Opening Date: Late May
Brewmaster: Jean Broillet IV
Beers to Expect: Tactile, Hop Hands, and tons of Saisons.
If there is one type of brewery that is truly lacking from the local scene, it’s the higher echelon of artisanal craft beer. Not to say that all craft beer isn’t artisanal, but we are missing a Lost Abbey-type brewery; the type of brewery that draws the attention of the Beer Advocate faithful. Under the inspiration of Iron Hill protégé Jean Broillet, Tired Hands is the type of meticulous work of passion that could fill this role. For three years now, Broillet has been steadily developing his concept. Not to be something that is rushed, he has patiently taken his time to perfect his art rather than force out a brewery that was merely a glimmer of what he had dreamt. The beers are exceptional and unique, showcasing Broillet’s methodical approach to everything. The building itself can be described similarly. Gutting the interior of the building, he has reused all the pieces in new ways, turning the café-type pub into a recycled artisanal wonderland of sorts. Old ceiling beams have been restructured into tables and bar tops and the stairwell has been broken down into pieces to serve as bar rails for standing patrons. The original brick walls are rustically exposed, giving the place a simple, yet artistically pleasing decor.
In the end, it really is about the beers. Broillet has a passion bordering on obsession for saisons. His barrel room is referred to as his “Saison Dungeon” as all the barrels and fermenters held within are reserved exclusively for these rustic farmhouse ales. Other styles will grace the menu including English style bitters and even an IPA, but don’t visit without trying a glass of something from the Saison Dungeon.
Forest & Main Brewing Company
Location: Ambler, PA
Opening Date: April
Brewmasters: Daniel Endicott and Gerard Olson
Beers to Expect: English and Belgian Style Ales.
For well over a year now, Daniel Endicott and Gerard Olson have been teasing the local beer drinkers with their beers. Showing up at a number of festivals throughout the area, they often stole the show with what were arguably the best beers in attendance. The brews were always on point and were some of the finest cask ales poured in the Philadelphia area.
Finally, after creating a significant hype about their project, the doors to the Forest & Main Brewpub in Ambler opened to an overwhelming response. Located on the corner of Forest and Main Street right in the downtown section of Ambler, Olson and Endicott took the route of restoring a beautiful Victorian-style property to house their brewery. Keeping the integrity of this classic structure, the pub was broken up into many small rooms to keep the appearance and hominess as if the house was still lived in. Filled with rustic antique furniture and matching components to round out the decor, Forest & Main brings a unique approach to the local brewpub scene.
For the beers, they have been nothing short of exceptional and everything that was expected from what was showcased at past events. Olson, the former assistant to Ryan Michaels at McKenzie Brewhouse, is constantly refining his talents on making rustic farmhouse style Belgian beers. Endicott, whom has no professional brewing experience, studied at various brewing schools including spending time in England learning the art of the vastly underappreciated English style ales. The two put together an incredible assortment of mostly sessionable but extremely flavorful beers with options for most any type of drinker.
Round Guys Brewing Company
Location: Lansdale, PA
Brewmasters: Scott Rudich and Rich DiLiberto
Opening Date: April
Beers to Expect: A flagship Berliner Weisse and an array of varying styles.
Taking their name from their self-proclaimed portly appearances, Scott Rudich and Rich DiLiberto, started Round Guys to pursue their passion for homebrewing, something they took rather seriously. As homebrewers, they weren’t running off the typical stovetop 5-gallon system. No, they were running a nano-sized brewery out of Rudich’s garage on a system that is now set-up in the brewery, to be used to test batch certain beers. They even had a multi-tap chest cooler- a kegerator they rigged up and put on wheels so they could service the needs of the neighborhood.
This love for the homebrewing method shows through their new full-scale brewery, as Rudich and DiLiberto are doing what they can to keep the mentality they had when they were boiling wart in the garage. It’s about having fun for them and trying new things. Releasing a traditional Berliner Weisse as one of their two current flagship beers is nothing short of ambitious and entirely fitting to their model. A style that is lesser known and not necessarily longed for by the masses, but at the same time is highly sought after by those who desire it and is truly lacking on a readily available scale. It is a soon to be local favorite for sure.
Beer will stretch well beyond the Berliner as Rudich and DiLiberto are already busy filling barrels down in the basement and working on new ways to use fruit in beers (these will not be your fruit flavored wheat beers that are equally loved and hated). They are also busy finishing up their pub which will soon be serving the Lansdale community.
Free Will Brewing Company
Location: Perkasie, PA
Brewmasters: Dominic Capece and John Stemler
Opening Date: January
Beers to Expect: Citra Pale Ale, Destiny’s Wit and 7 Course Red.
In a time when everyone is trying to set themselves apart by making unique, wild beers with eccentric ingredients and unorthodox methods, Dominic Capece and John Stemler are taking the traditional path and just brewing good beer. As they like to say, they’re not trying to blow your mind when you try their beers, they want you to drink the beer and nod in approval. They want to see that you enjoyed your beer, which is a sign that you’ll probably drink it again.
Feeling as if there was a gap in the market for more traditional, yet well brewed beers, Capece and Stemler, longtime friends, started Free Will Brewing Co. with the intention of filling that void. Their three initial offerings are fine examples of that mentality and completely back-up their goals. Starting off with a pale ale, red ale, and a wit, you aren’t likely to see the message boards go crazy, but you are sure to see the customers at the bar going back for a second pint. Some bigger beers will be coming in the future and you can expect to see an IPA, Double IPA and a sour type beer, but the focus is on the basics.
Running on a fabricated 7.5 barrel brewhouse they rigged up, Free Will is available exclusively on draft at the moment. A bottling/canning line is very high on the list and will be something to look forward to seeing in time. Along with the fabricated system, they are also brewing without a filter, an uncommon method outside of wheat beers. Come summer, you can expect the Perkasie brewery to be open for tours and tastings.
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company
Location: Croydon, PA
Brewmaster: Jeremy Myers
Opening date: May
Beers to Expect: Trauger German Pils and County Line IPA.
When it comes to a method of focus for brewmaster Jeremy Myers, it’s “brew anything.” Though enjoying specific beer styles, Myers doesn’t want the brewery to be bound to such guidelines. Instead, he wants to brew beers that challenge them as brewers and beer drinkers alike. To start, they are kicking things off with a German Pils and an IPA which will be their first two flagship beers.
Located on the outskirts of the city in Croydon, PA, Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co. is going to be a production only brewery. Without having the brewpub, it’s allowing them to serve a greater portion of the area faster, as they are already lined up to serve eight counties in Southeast, PA and throughout all of New Jersey. The brewery, which is open for tours and tastings, will also be offering up their beers in bottles as well.
Expect to see a significant amount of seasonals coming out of the brewery, as well as what Myers is hoping to be quite an extensive barrel-aging program that will include sours as well.