West Passyunk has a brewery! Meet twin brothers Sean and Andy Arsenault, owners of the new Brewery ARS, which opened its 10-bbl brewery’s doors in mid-December (with many brewers from around town in attendance), on West Passyunk in South Philly.
After falling in love with beer and homebrewing for a couple years, the brothers went into action in 2009. Andy left his job to attend UC-Davis, earning his degree in Brewing Sciences. “They had taps in the classroom,” Sean jokes about his brother’s beer studies. Andy returned and developed his chops as a shift brewer for Victory for two years. Meanwhile Sean moved to France for work for four years and was able to do brewery research throughout the UK, Germany, Belgium and Denmark, picking the brains of (and drinking beers with) European brewmasters. “I definitely gained an more of an appreciation for Belgian beers,” Sean explains, “because of their freestyle ways and lambics.” Over those years, Sean became friends with a couple breweries, most notably ‘T Gaverhopke (Waregem, Belgium). Andy visited and the brothers brewed a collaboration beer, Remembrance 14-18, with Brouwerij Eutropius at ‘T Gaverhopke, which is actually sold all over Europe.
The brothers returned to Philly, wrote a business plan, and then hosted massive tastings at their home for about a year, eventually linking up with a very small group of Philadelphia-based investors. They ended up finding their location, which is a former garage, through a real estate connection, even though neither brother had ever spent much time on West Passyunk before. A year later, and the brothers are local West Passyunk’ers.
Expect to find lots of dry, well-balanced, hop-forward beers, using their saison yeast. “Saisons were the first beers that woke my eyes up,” Sean says. “Saison Dupont is extremely dry and refreshing. It’s wicked yeast forward, but it’s really hoppy when you have it fresh – and it’s bitter. It has all those components.” After a couple years visiting Germany, Sean found pilsners to be equally amazing. “I actually consider saisons and pilsners to be similar. It’s all about the yeast. You take a Saison Dupont and a Pilsner. It’s the same malts usually. It’s just the yeast that differs. They’re really dry and really expressive. They’re still my favorite styles. The older [Andy and I] get, the more pilsners we drink. They’re easy drinking.”
When I visited their welcoming facility in early-January, they had four beers on tap – all listed in the form of Sean’s original art hanging on the walls: Bright Lights (4.9% spelt saison), Clymer (5.8% saison), Antique’n (6% all-Simcoe-hopped saison), and Ashland (6.3% porter). Andy tells me to expect four more in February: Worlds Apart (an Americana Pale Ale hopped with Mosaic and Simcoe), Deja Goute (an IPA hopped with Azacca and Simcoe), Living Saints (an El Dorado blonde saison with flaked oats), and Old Stoop (a rye saison hopped with a blend of German hops).
The brewery’s vibe is very European, like a beer café you’d find in Belgium. “The way we designed this – I never wanted a bar,” Sean proudly explains. “I always like the cafes in Belgium. I found them to be more welcoming. Sometimes when you go into a [traditional American] bar, I find them to be more intimidating. The café style is more relaxing, and I feel more at home drinking at a café.”
Currently, they are open on weekends for draft and growler fills, and eventually they’ll have package beer and weekday hours down the line in a few months when the weather gets nicer. “We’re trying to start off slow. We want to make sure the quality of our beer is consistent. We want this to be a South Philly hub for good beer.”
Philly Loves Beer … Officially!
Well, we already knew that Philly loves beer, but now it’s official … Having evolved from Philly Beer Week, Philly Loves Beer (PLB) is the first year-round, non-profit entity devoted to beer appreciation and raising Philadelphia’s global profile as a destination city for beer tourism. What does that mean to you, the Philly beer drinker? Expect more official year-round beer events, educational seminars, networking events, fundraisers and beer festivals. I’ll drink to that! For more info, visit: www.PhillyLovesBeer.com.
Dock Street Brewing Co. is proud to introduce Mark Russell as their new head brewer. “We’re very excited to have Mark at the helm of the kettles!” Dock Street’s Marilyn Candeloro tells me. Dock Street is kicking off a collaborative beer series with Red Owl Tavern this year. First up is Red Owl Prickly Pear Winter Gose, an easy drinking, double gose (6%) with notes of prickly pear and hints of watermelon, available exclusively at Dock Street or Red Owl Tavern.
Earth Bread + Brewery will be hosting their 5th Annual Homebrew Contest on March 25. The winner will assist brewer Tom Baker in brewing the winning recipe at Earth, which will be served on tap! This year’s entry requirement is a stout that is less than 6.5%. Good luck, homebrewers!
Congrats to Bar Hygge on their one year anniversary! There will be 10 Brewery Techne beers on tap on Feb. 4, and happy hour will be all day. They’ll also have another bottle release in their Quercus series of barrel-aged beers.
Lots of great stuff going on at Manayunk Brewing Co. this season. Look for original Rise & Grind 22-oz bombers to hit shelves throughout February and March. Chocked full of chocolate and cold-brew coffee and weighing in at over 10%, it's a great beer for the cooler weather.
Manayunk will be releasing El Rio, a brand new Mexican-style lager in 12-oz cans and on draft this February. El Rio, meaning "The River," pays respect to the powerful-yet-beautiful Schuylkill River directly out Manayunk’s back door. This river has caused the Manayunk team plenty of grief over the last 20 years but provides a sensational backdrop to their outdoor seating that no other local brewery can match. At 4%, the beer is a lighter body lager with a touch of amber color and a smooth, crisp, refreshing finish.
Manayunk will have five new 16-oz can releases in 2017. First is Big Hoppa, dropping in February, a hazy Northeast-style Double IPA, weighing in at a hefty 9%, a juice-bomb brewed with an insane amount of oats. This totally whirlpool-hopped ale is double dry-hopped and includes “reckless” amounts of Citra, Simcoe, Columbus and El Dorado hops.
In March, look for 16-oz cans of Passion Fruit Daydreamin' (4.1% session IPA fermented with ripe passion fruit and hopped with Citra, Cascade, Centennial and Columbus) and Side Piece (a traditional American Pale Ale, brewed with 2-row malt and kettle-hopped with Columbus and Centennial and double dry-hopped with Mosaic for a fruity and bold finish).
Upshitz Kriek – a unique and flavorful sour ale with intense sour-cherry pie notes from the lacto along with their house Brett Drei – will be out in 750-ml bottles and draft in March, as well.
St. Benjamin Brewing Co.’s Franklin's Abbey tripel will be released in 750-ml bottles for a limited time in February. Pilsner Prosim will debut in cans for the first time in March. Philadelphia Brewing Co. will be releasing a single batch of Schwarzinger Black Lager (5%), roasty and mellow.
All Iron Hill Brewery locations will have Russian Imperial Stout (9.8%) on draft as well as Bedotter, their award-winning Belgian Tripel (9%), available in cans this season. Keep an eye out for Dr. Chockenstein on draft at Iron Hill-Huntingdon Valley and Iron Hill-Ardmore in early February. Yes, indeed, that’s their English Sweet Stout brewed with 22-lbs of Belgian bittersweet chocolate and aged with 10-lbs of cocoa nibs and Madagascar vanilla beans for a cold weather treat. It’s made in collaboration with Mueller Chocolates and helped brewed by “Dr. Chockenstein” himself, Glenn Mueller.
New head brewer Jason Ranck is hard at work on new beers for 2nd Story Brewing. Look for a Mosaic Rye Ale, Galaxy Pale, Munich Dunkel and more as the Ranck’s team experiments. Cheers!