Alas, the ale is long gone, the building is shuttered, and the creek is buried underground; all that’s left of Philadelphia’s once bustling Dock Creek harbor is the colonial building that once housed the Man Full of Trouble Tavern (c. 1759).Society Hill is now a swanky, upscale neighborhood, so it’s hard to imagine that it once was a dockyard filled with taverns patronized by pirates such as Blackbeard. Today is Dock Street is an anomaly in the perfect grid system of Old City (you can see the creek on the lower edge of Penn’s 1683 map). The creek itself has been covered up since 1820 and converted to a sewer, but you can still walk the cobblestone street that marks the course of the creek.
Philadelphia has always been a beer city and it was in these taverns that the founding fathers plotted revolution. In the 19th and 20th centuries Philadelphia was home to over 90 breweries. Prohibition brought an end to the production of beer in Philadelphia, but the resurgence of craft beer led to a new boom and now Philadelphia is considered one of the best beer cities in America. Fred’s top Philadelphia (city proper) breweries (in no particular order):
These first 3 are within a 10 minute walk of each other on Spring Garden Street:
Yards: Solid beers and a line of “founding father” brews based on original recipes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin (Fred’s favorite), make this a “must” stop on any Philadelphia beer tour. They serve food and offer brewery tours. Spring Garden, just north of Old City.
Roy-Pitz Barrel House: A newer brewery. A bit loud, but great beers and decent food. Spring Garden, just north of Old City.
Triple Bottom Brewing: Across the street from Roy-Pitz in an industrial space. A new place with a well rounded selection of styles. Yummy bar snacks. Spring Garden, just north of Old City.
Dock Street: Named in honor of the breweries that once lined Dock Street, they have amazing beers and great pizza in a renovated fire house in West Philadelphia . It’s small, so expect crowds. They recently opened a second location at 2128 Washington Ave. in Point Breeze.
Evil Genius: Tasty beers (although try the “Purple Monkey Dishwasher Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter only for the name – not because it’s good) and a good place to chill. Mainly appetizers. Fishtown.
Standard Tap: Not a brewery, but a British-style pub serving local beers and locally sourced food. A great one stop shop to try a variety of Philly beers. Northern Liberties.
City Tavern: The place to go for a colonial tavern experience. It’s a re-creation of the original tavern in Old City that served as a hangout for the delegates to the continental congress. They serve food based on colonial-era recipes (and Yard’s founding father beers). A bit pricey, but an experience. Run by Chef Walter Staib of PBS’s “A Taste of History.” CLOSED as of 2020.
Attic Brewing: The first brewery in Germantown in over 100 years (the Haines family once ran a brewery on the Wyck house property), this new craft brewery has an outdoor beer garden, where you can bring in food from next door’s Deke’s bbq. Their Bloodhound Brown ale won a GAB silver medal. 137 W Berkley St.
Hard cider is also making a comeback. There are now several breweries in the area, including Young American in Germantown. In addition to the pub, they have a cute outdoor seating area and a small food menu including yummy sourdough pretzels, soup and hand pies. 6350 Germantown Ave.
A beer tour of Philly should also include a stop at McGillian’s Olde Ale House, the oldest operating tavern in the city (c. 1860). A bit touristy, but still very much a local hangout. They have their own beer, decent pub food, and a free daily help-your-self soup pot (lentil on our visit). Between the fireplace and holiday decorations, it’s a great stop during the Christmas season. Center City.
Still on Fred’s “to try” list: Saint Benjamin, Bar Hygge, Brewery ARS, Second District, 2nd Story Brewing, Crime & Punishment and Urban Village.