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Philly, Philly Bo Billy

By July 12, 2012Beer Travel
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Our time spent in Philadelphia proved to be full of brewery visits, two Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches, new friends and some of the best egg rolls I’ve ever had – yes, egg rolls, read on to see what I mean. We spent most of our time outside of the city exploring smaller towns like Manayunk, West Chester, Downingtown, Malvern, Paoli and Phoenixville but did manage to make it into the city twice. We got lucky and found a great deal to rent a car through Enterprise for $12/day on the weekends and ended up getting around to a lot more places than we would have were we just traveling in Stanley.

Our trip started with heading out to Victory Brewing to visit our friend Andie Bicho, who works there as the Retail Manager. She was an excellent host, introducing us to all the incredible Victory beers that we’ve been missing all this time. We had been in touch since the early days of The Roaming Pint so we were looking forward to finally meeting Andie, and thought Victory would be a perfect way for Brian to celebrate his 200th brewery visit since starting our trip. The victory was well earned, as they must have had ~18 of their beers on tap to help celebrate the occasion and the samples were plentiful! Saison, Kölsch, Pilsners, Ranch, Stormking, Donnybrook Stout, Festbier, Golden Monkey were among the few that we sampled. In fact, we liked our time so much we visited twice. It’s rare that we have the time to go back a second time to a brewery, but we were lucky enough to spend two weeks in the area, so there was no question we had to go back for more!

Brian's 200th brewery visit, the coolest growler filler ever and a nice array of meat and cheeses to pair with delicious samples of Victory beer.

Not only did Victory have a ton of tasty beers for us, but they had a menu stacked with enough meals to make anyone happy. I’ve got to be honest, I love a good brew pub. There’s really nothing better than hanging out with friends at a brew pub enjoying delicious beers and good food for the night. The second time we went back, @AbbeyGals, Sharon and Liz, were nice enough to come pick us up and join us for dinner. They are working on quite the list of brewery visits themselves, with plenty to keep them busy in the area for the next year or two! Check out AbbeyGals.com to read more about their beer travels.

The day after our visit to Victory, Brian flew back to Kansas to hang out with his family before his parents embarked on a 2 year Peace Corp endeavor in the Philippines. That left me on my own to explore the city, but luckily not for long, Josh Couch aka Couchman aka Cougar Hunter met me at SlyFox Brewpub in Phoenixville for my 198th brewery visit.

Meet Joshua Couch!

I was sad that Brian had to go back to KC, but not for too long, because of my time away in Omaha back in May, he had 1up’d me a couple breweries in Charlotte, NC, and frankly, all this counting was just too much for me. Thebeergeeks, Chris and Merideth, have been keeping separate tallies for a while now, I don’t know how they do it. I leave to excel spreadsheet and official count to Brian, so I had to even the score while he was away.

SlyFox was a great brewpub visit, one that I would return to next time we are in the area. They also had an impressive amount of beers on tap. Since I was driving around in the rental I decided to take it easy and went with the 6 beer sampler. The friendly bartender may have thrown in a few extra that made for an excellent visit. Josh was great company too! He is working on a 1 year plan of his own, saving up money, paying off all his debt, and ditching the desk for an alternative way to live life. He’s very outdoorsy, loves skiing (not snowboarding, he’s a purist) and has the right frame of mind to join the nomadic lifestyle. I’m writing all this partly to keep him to his word, so we can meet up more often on down the road. He started up a site of his own, Truck Camper Porn, that he can safely visit while at work dreaming of the day when his little Stanley will come along.

Pat's King of Steaks

The next day I decided to head down into the city to find myself a delicious Philly, which was very, very high on the top of my list of “things I must seek out in my travels”. On my list of favorite “foods” Philly’s are 6th on the list, after Italian, pizza, bacon, corn, and sushi, just barely beating out gyros, in 7th place. So I scoured Yelp and I asked our TRP friends, where should I go? Everyone knows Geno’s and Pat’s have a long time, Travel Channel glorified history, but are they really the best? Yelpers suggested neither were the best and it seemed to be an all out battle between Jim’s and John’s Roast Pork, but Rick’s and Tony Luke’s also came highly recommended. With so many 3 and four letter average men names how can one decide? I took the easy road and decided to visit the first, where they claim it all started, Pat’s King of Steaks. I was worried that it was a tourist trap, and it was, but from other reviews I’ve heard, it seems I visited on a day where they kind-of, sort-of had a good sandwich. Nothing I’d ever return for and nothing like the superior cheesesteak I had from Phil and Jim’s a week later, that we conveniently swooped up before going to watch our SKC play (loose to) the Union in Chester, PA. That cheesesteak made my travel quest absolutely complete, thinking it couldn’t get much better, drinking a FreeState Stormwatcher, tailgating before a SKC soccer game, in Philly, eating a Philly. Josh thinks it’s funny I call them Philly’s. Apparently that’s not what they call them over here, but I do, and I love them.

Turns out there was something better than the Philly Cheesesteak I had from Phil and Jim’s and that just so happened to be the Philly Cheesesteak Eggrolls I found at Iron Hill Brewery (my 199th brewery for those keeping track).
Iron Hill Brewery West ChesterJosh took me to the West Chester brewery, and again I was surprised and delighted to find that they also had a very long list of their beers on tap. Iron Hill is a chain brewery of sorts, they have 10 locations throughout PA, NJ and Delaware, but it is privately owned. Iron Hill started in 1994, when homebrewers, Kevin Finn and Mark Edelson teamed up with Kevin Davies, the restaurant expert, to to produce food and beer that is “fresh and inspired, consistently crafted.” Their commitment to quality and service has worked out quite well for them and the bartenders we met certainly shared the vision. They told us that the brewers have 5 house beers that they are required to brew, but are allowed free reign over the rest of the beer recipes, selection and seasonals. They were able to describe all the beers they poured us and even took the time to suggest a few of the more specialty beers for us to try. Once Brian got back to Philly I took him to the Phoenixville location where we met Tim Stumpf, the head brewer. He was very nice and sent us on our way with two 750ml bottles, the Sasquatch American Barleywine and Saison, a Belgian-style Farmhouse Ale. Many thanks again for the love Tim! We always share beers that are gifted to us with other beer friends we meet along the way.

Andie picked me up on a Friday to join me visiting my 200th brewery before Brian returned, which also happened to be her 99th brewery visit. We chose Argilla Brewing Co., an hour south in DE as our destination. We chose wisely, because we were visiting for lunch and they had some of the best pizza I’ve had while on the road. A $2.00 cheese slice special just can’t be beat! Argilla is a tiny 1.5 barrel brewery, which makes it the smallest brewery in the state of Delaware. We met Kevin, the son of pizza shop owners of Pietro’s Pizza, who had been homebrewing for many years and convinced them to open a new location to include a brewery. They are just a few months old but had crafted 3 delicious beers that were on tap for our visit. I started with the Black IPA, dark, thick, a bit more smokey than I’d prefer, but still tasty as ever and Andie had their IPA, which was a bit more citrusy, so something right up my alley. Kevin gave us a short tour of his nano setup, which was one of the most beautiful one’s I’ve seen. At 1.5 barrels it wasn’t the smallest brewery we ever visited, but it sure was close. I could have spent a few more hours and ate a few more slices, but our time was cut a little short because I had to go pick up Brian from the airport. There were more beerventures awaiting!

Argilla Nano Brewery

Argilla Nano Brewery

Andie gave us the heads up that it was a quick drive to Yards Brewing Co. from the airport, which was perfect, because it was definitely on our list of breweries to visit, so off we went! We arrived around 4 in the afternoon, before the evening rush came in and made our way to the bar. I immediately noticed one couple in particular that was sitting at the bar. The guy had on a brown t-shirt that read PintLabs across the back. I walked straight up to him and asked: “Are you the guy that made the BreweryMap app?” He said, “yes I am! I’m Jason”. And wouldn’t you know it, we just so happened to be in Philly at the same time at the same brewery, without even planning to meet. It makes it even more random to know that Jason and his wife Erin actually live in Raleigh, North Carolina and were up in Philly visiting on Erin’s work trip.

Brian and Maria with Jason and Erin from The Cupcake Brewery at Yards

I wrote the guys at PintLabs about 6 months ago, introducing myself and hoping to get something working between BreweryMap.com and The Roaming Pint. We use their app a lot in our travels and am hoping to get TRP’s maps working with their expansive database one day. They were nice enough to get on a call with me to talk about it more. So needless to say, Yards was an excellent visit! We tried a few of their beers and had a great time talking with Jason and Erin and hearing about their new endeavor in Raleigh, The Cupcake Brewery. Turns out Erin is quite the baker and she’s been combining craft beers and cupcakes for sometime now. She told us of her Dark Chocolate Bacon cupcakes and her Blood Orange Spice cake lightly spiced with a sour winter ale. We were having such a good time we all decided to go visit another brewery and grab some dinner, so we headed not too far away to Triumph Brewery.

Triumph was a little different than most of the breweries we’ve visited. I think we were lucky to walk in and get a table right away because the place was packed. It had a trendy, upscale kind of feel to it. Since we were going for dinner and the place was packed, we didn’t get a chance to sit at the bar and chat it up with the bartender about the beers like we mostly do. I wasn’t drinking at this point because I was the one that would be driving us home, but Brian ordered the IPA and seemed to like it. My favorite part of this visit was the mussels I ordered. They were incredible. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their meal, but I’m telling you, the mussels and calamari in a garlicy red sauce served with french fries may have been the best meal I’ve ever had a brewery. I can’t be for sure, but I’m damn sure it was amazing. I would go back for sure and next time learn a little more about the brews!

The sampling line-up we shared with Andie

So as you can see we successfully drank and ate our way through Philly and we were fortunate enough to host a tasting/dinner with Andie and her husband Greg the night before we left. We’ve been collecting some good beers lately and Brian was nice enough to bring me back some of my favorite beers from Kansas, so I felt good about the beer selection we had lined up for Andie. She graciously approved and provided some tasty burgers to accompany the beer we opened. Between the 3 of us, we all left that night feeling good. Philly lived up to my expectations and now I have new friends that I can go back to visit. Just one of the many perks that makes my life so amazing. Thanks for reading through this lengthy post! Turns out you can do a lot in two weeks in a city!

To the breweries we missed… we will be back. So much beer, so little time. Woe is me.

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