Iron Hill – Center City, Philly’s Newest Brewery
by Bryan Kolesar
When I wrote the book – Beer Lover’s Mid-Atlantic – nearly five years ago, there was a sum total of six brewing establishments in the city, with a few more nearing completion. Now, 21 establishments have beer in a glass, bottle, can, or keg to sell to you within the city limits. There are at least three more that I know of on the horizon and, admittedly, probably at least twice that many are in the pipeline. Saturated? Not yet, in this guy’s book.
Here we go, in alphabetical order, with an update of what’s happened recently and that you can expect to see still this year at Philadelphia’s breweries. Let’s call it, if you will, a Philly special.
The twin brothers Arsenault – Sean and Andy – are the naming inspiration and co-founders behind Brewery ARS in the middle of the 1900 block of Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. They’re gearing up for their second anniversary on Dec. 15 which will coincide with a can release of Salted Caramel Chocolate Stout. On the horizon for 2019, the brothers are eagerly anticipating a new program that will feature a bottle-conditioned saison release joining the monthly can release.
Brewery Techne calls Bar Hygge home on Fairmount Ave. just a couple blocks from North Broad Street. It’s the beloved child of Tom Baker and Peggy Zwerver who also own Earth Bread + Brewery (see below) in Mt. Airy. Techne has begun canning its beers and expect to ramp up more canned offerings in the near future. Recently, Lemon Meringue IPA (6.8%) was released at Hygge in pounder cans.
Chestnut Hill Brewing Company resides in the city’s northwest neighborhood of, you guessed it, Chestnut Hill along Germantown Ave. Co-owners Nick Gunderson and Lindsey Pete turn out wood-fired pizzas and craft beer inside the Market at the Fareway (fka Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market) which sits behind the Chestnut Hill Hotel. Recently, they’ve released their first pumpkin beer, made with 25 pounds of fresh long-neck pumpkin roasted in the pizza oven, their first Märzen/Oktoberfest sold, naturally, in 1-liter mugs, and Shake It Out Stout later used in Somo Manayunk’s boozy dessert cakes. Up next is Poppy’s Porter, made with 21 pounds of coffee from Poppy’s Cafe in the Market. Finally, no need to travel to far away exotic destinations for an ice bar experience. CHBC is planning a partnership with Peter Slavin from Ice Ice Philly this winter, weather permitting. The outdoor bar and stools will be made of ice and customers will order inside and sit outside at the ice bar. Hot drink and cozy blankets will be available in addition to the standard lineup of beers and pizzas.
Crime & Punishment is fittingly in Brewerytown carrying on the modern day history of the neighborhood. Mike Wambolt, co-owner and brewer, checked in to share that the brewery is looking to expand into a small warehouse for additional canning and distribution opportunities. In the near-term, look for the Gulag Rising Russian Imperial Stout to return in December along with the first tapping of an oak-aged Saison called Treasures of Mirkwood. Also in December is Crime & Punishmas. The brewery’s annual Arts & Crafts Bazaar and Fundraiser will benefit Give and Go Athletics and The Village of Arts and Humanities and is slated for December 14-15 at The Glass Factory a few blocks north of the brewery.
The city’s trailblazing OG brewery, Dock Street, continues work on its future addition at 22nd & Washington in South Philly and on its sister company Dock Street Spirits’ Vicio Mezcal, now available in the state-run liquor stores. Back at the brewery at 50th & Baltimore in West Philly, new beers include Crumbling Man Double IPA (a collaboration with a local artist), Bubbly Wit, and Prince Myshkin Russian Imperial Stout, all in pounder cans and as Marilyn Candeloro – VP of Operations & Sales; co-founder of Dock Street Spirits – says, perfect for holiday gift packs. Here’s a unique twist to a brew plan – You know Mac on the television show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? The team at Dock Street is hoping that its latest “The crew tries to get Mac to come to Dock Street” Milk Stout will result in a visit from the actor. It will be sold in 16-oz cans at the brewpub during the season finale on Nov. 7 and through goPuff. Next door at The Cannery, the next monthly popular comedy night is scheduled for Thanksgiving Eve. Whither the bomber? Dock Street finally finished a 10-bbl batch (read the back story here) of Farm Juice and is preparing to release it in 22-oz bottles in early December. Its local connection is three-fold: by way of a collaboration with local Philly Beer Geek winner and local resident Michael Soo, lab assistance from the University of Pennsylvania, and yeast sourced from West Philly and nearby Clark Park.
Back to the Baker/Zwerver show (see above for Hygge/Techne). Earth Bread + Brewery celebrated its 10th anniversary on Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy in October. They marked the occasion with special food and beer selections, plus a unique commemorative glass. Be on the look out for a Hoppy Pale Ale (3.5%) and a new Saison coming on line this fall.
Still to come in 2018 for Evil Genius Beer Company will be I’ll Have What She’s Having Imperial Stout (9.4%), Santa! I Know Him Festive Saison (7.2%), and Han Shot First Double IPA (8%) all going out into distribution. Exclusives back at “The Lab” on North Front Street include Mawwiage is What Bwings Us Togevah Today Wedding Cake Milkshake IPA, Sliding Into DM’s White Chocolate Mocha Latte Amber, and Run By Fruiting Tropical Fruit New England IPA. Join them in December for their Santa 0.5k, which will help you burn just a few of those calories plus raise charitable funds for Toys For Tots.
Anyone who has yet to hear of Fermentery Form in Kensington will likely very soon. Philadelphia Magazine just bestowed upon it the coveted award of Best Back-Alley Brewery! They finish beer begun with wort provided by nearby Saint Benjamin Brewing Company just a few blocks away. Ethan Tripp, co-owner, reports that a small expansion in their existing building on Palethorp Street will soon be underway to help increase output and thereby getting more kegs out and around town. The second beer in the Origins series was recently released. Each release showcases a different grape varietal; this one features Carménère.
Fishtown Brewpub sits just below Girard Ave. and across the street from Barcade. They debuted on the Philly brewing scene in 2017 and have been featuring a monthly one-off series of beers that incorporates either ingredients from the bar or from the kitchen. You can find their beers at the pub, which is open for happy hour and dinner during the week and brunch on the weekend, and at area festivals. Currently, Cool Beans (5.5%; Blonde Ale) is a seasonal fan favorite incorporating vanilla and five gallons of cold brew coffee. Due up next on the seasonal brewing calendar are fruited IPAs, seasonally-flavored stouts, and Belgian-inspired beers.
As of September, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant has two locations in Philly – one in Chestnut Hill and one in Center City. Off the cobblestones of Chestnut Hill, November’s releases will include Das Boot (4.9%; traditional German-style Pilsner), Russian Imperial Stout (9.5%), and Santa’s Little Helper (6.2%, Belgian Witbier). Along the bustling East Market Street (across from SEPTA’s Jefferson Station), IH’s new Center City location will be rolling out Cinderella’s Carriage (8.2%; Belgian-style Pumpkin Ale), Juicy IPA (6.7%), and Tropical Blast (4.2%; Gose).
If Iron Hill is now the city’s newest brewing establishment, that would make Love City the city’s second-newest brewery; that didn’t take long! Kevin & Melissa Walter’s brewery is in the city’s Callowhill neighborhood just off Spring Garden Street behind Union Transfer and it warms my frosty mug to hear them report the Love City Lager as their number one seller in the Philly market; deservedly so. On a slightly different note, they’re debuting two new fall seasonal beer cocktails (one, Gose and vodka-based and, the other, Wheat and gin-based) which, from a personal perspective, is an undertapped opportunity at breweries. Speaking of Wheat, the Eraserhood NEIPA is replacing it on the lineup of core beers in both cans and draft form. Hungry Harvest Peach Gose (with 300 pounds (!) of peaches from Hungry Harvest), Little Black Heart Stout (Sylvie Stout aged in New Liberty bourbon barrels), and Into The Black Stout (Sylvie Stout aged in Lloyd’s Whiskey Bar signature Knob Creek barrel and available only at Lloyd’s in Fishtown) are all new out of the brewery. The Brotherhood Imperial IPA (9%) is a proud new addition made in collaboration with Least Of Our Brothers, a homeless outreach organization in Philadelphia. As part of their ongoing quarterly program to “love their city”, 10% of sales from this beer go back to the group. Andrew Rumbold and Ron Krier from the organization were on hand to assist with brew day. What’s in store at Love City for November and December? How about an English Brown Ale, a Belgian Triple, a Winter Warmer, and a Russian Imperial Stout. Mo Stubbs, sales director, passed along all of this plus plans to release a 12-pack variety pack in mid-November to the market, which will include Lager, IPA, NEIPA, plus the Sylvie Stout.
Manayunk Brewing Company recently celebrated its 22nd anniversary. Evan Fritz, head brewer, said that they celebrated with Deuce Deuce (11+%) made with “tons” of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, fermented with the house Brett strain, and aged on freshly dumped American red wine oak barrels. Happy Crans-giving in the Can Opener Gose series is now available through November in 12-oz cans and Coffee Crunch Robust Porter in 12-oz cans is coming soon.
The annual open house event at Philadelphia Brewing Company is coming up later in November. It serves not only as a fun party of beer, cider, food, and music, but it’s also a fundraiser for a local cat rescue.
Point Breeze Brewing was closed while renovating the tasting room. They’re ready to re-open pending the removal of infamous red tape. The new tasting room will be family-friendly, be outfitted with a projection system suitable for movies and sporting events, and will accommodate seating up to 30 people. With the expanded tasting room, co-founder and brewer Patrick Rhine says that we can expect more “one-off weird and limited beers” and a “redirected focus on direct sales to consumers”. One of the newest beers that should coincide with the reopening is slated to be Donny’s Ashes, a Coffee Blonde Ale in collaboration with Herman’s Coffee across town in Pennsport. It will also serve as a fundraiser for The Dude Hates Cancer organization.
Ben Potts, head brewer at Second District Brewing Company deep in South Philly (which means you should visit before or after an event in the stadium complex), says he “stoked” for the new crowler machine that will allow them to pre-fill CO2-purged crowlers of beer to go. Sounds like customers should appreciate that as well. Expect the usual M.O. of one-off releases to continue through the fall along with a special holiday crowler release in late November-early December. A new seasonal beer dinner series is also getting ready to debut.
Remember the news story in June 2017 not long after Urban Village Brewing Company opened in Northern Liberties of the U-Haul truck crashing through the front doors of the brewpub? What would any smart brewer do? They’d, of course, brew a beer in honor of the incident. Wrong Way IPA has returned in the brewery’s recent canning run. Fiddy Two Hazy IPA (as in Super Bowl 52, duh, right?) and Sofa King IPA are also out for our consumption pleasure at both the brewery and select bottle shops and grocery stores in the region.
A stone’s throw from my alma mater on School House Lane in East Falls is Wissahickon Brewing Company. They’ve played host this fall to family- and pet-friendly football watch parties as the official brewery of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association. By the end of the year, you can expect to find Wissahickon beer available in cans. And, the new year will bring a barrel-aging program that Luke Gill, head brewer, says is currently being built out with the intention of releasing beers to the public in 2019. Recently, the brewery expanded its business hours to include Tuesday evenings.
Yards Brewing Company has settled into its newest and most impressive home yet as it continues to grow its presence in the city. Word from the brewery is that they’re averaging two weddings per month, which is rather impressive come to think of it, in their private events space. Also helping its presence and reputation is a recent endeavor with former Philadelphia Eagle Conner Barwin. He teamed up with Yards to brew a Purl-style ale (5%), brewed with rye malt and orange peel, to benefit Barwin’s Make The World Better Foundation. The foundation “connects people and inspires stewardship through public space revitalization projects and envisions a world where people of all ages are empowered to make an impact on their communities.” A very special fundraising dinner and meet-and-greet with both Barwin and everyone’s favorite honorary Mummer, Jason Kelce, was scheduled for Nov. 5 at the landmark Monk’s Cafe. Back at the brewery, the Rival IPA seasonal (6.2%; West Coast Rye IPA) recently hit the tap handles and Coffee Love Stout is nearing its eagerly anticipated release. With these beers, you’ll naturally want some food. The well-regarded kitchen at Yards has recently added a new burger, Duck Nachos, Sloppy Vegan Sandwich, Pork Belly Bao Buns, and an Ice Cream Sandwich to the already creative and satisfying pub menu.
By the time you read this, head brewer Brian O’Reilly (formerly of Sly Fox and now partnered with restaurateur Avram Hornik and brewer Andrew Foss) will be up and running with his newest endeavor – Mainstay Independent Brewing on Delaware Avenue, previously home to Yards Brewing.
and those other three I mentioned that are on the horizon? Triple Bottom, just around the corner from Love City, is shooting for an early 2019 opening of its “community-oriented” 10-bbl brewery. Cartesian Brewing will be setting down roots on the east side of South Philly. And, Attic Brewing is eyeing a springtime opening in Germantown. More on all of them in a future update. ‘Til then, go get ‘em. Lots to find and drink out there in Philly. This is not your father’s Philly beer.