the ultimate beer hunt // the philadelphia craft beer scene

thewino1After a short stint in the rural suburbs of Bucks County, I can happily announce: my fiancé and I have moved into our new Philadelphia apartment! Now that we’re (somewhat) settled, it’s our mission to fully explore our new city. And where did we start? With the Philadelphia craft beer scene, of course!

It took us a few more months than we initially planned. But we’ve made the transition from bagel-loving, bodega-shopping, subway-riding New Yorkers to cheesesteak-devouring, soft-pretzel eating, Santa-booing (jklol) Philadelphians. All we need now is our go-to list of bars for post-work happy hours and weekend benders, and we’ll really be locals, right?

Over time, Sean has weened me off Miller Lite and introduced me to the more nuanced creations of craft breweries around the country. This has been both good and bad:

  • The Good: Craft beer tastes like, way better than a lot of mainstream beers. Plus, girls look really cool ordering it, ya know?
  • The Bad: Craft beers tend to have a higher alcohol content, meaning my beer-induced hangovers are aplenty these days.

So where am I procuring said hangovers? We started with this handy list from Philadelphia Magazine, which ranks the 50 best bars in the City of Brotherly Love. In the two weeks since becoming residents, we’ve been ordering up craft pints at a few of these establishments. All in the name of research, of course. Here are our findings.

Varga Bar // 941 Spruce Street

In my years visiting Philadelphia, I’ve passed by Varga more times than I count. They have an abundance of outdoor seating, a rotating draft list, and a menu selection of updated and re-imagined bar food staples (duck confit wings, whaaat?). You can see why it’s quickly becoming one of my Philadelphia favorites. After a night of drinking there on Friday (one too many Lagunitas Pils), Sean and I ended up going back on Sunday afternoon to sample their crab meat, truffle, and fontina fries, and their draft list had already been updated. Also, as a result of the cheese fries, our lives will never be the same again.

varga-bar-680uwPhoto credit: Varga Bar

Strangelove’s // 216 S. 11th Street

We went to Strangelove’s on a Friday night at the tail end of happy hour, and it was PACKED. Luckily, with dual bars on the first and second levels, we were able to find standing room upstairs. Here, we settled in for a few beers. Not luckily, standing room meant we couldn’t taste test the french onion dip that we saw at almost every table. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our Pennsylvania-brewed beers (Victory Festbier for her and Yards Love Stout for him). We would most certainly return to try out some (or, all) of the menu items. Bonus points for good happy hour beer pricing! We dig you, Strangelove’s.

strangeloves-nighttimePhoto credit: Philly Mag

MilkBoy // 1100 Chestnut Street

We wandered up to MilkBoy more for the poutine than its beer selection, but LO AND BEHOLD, the poutine is no longer. Ever the adventurers, we decided to stay for a drink, and we managed to nab an outdoor table along 11th Street. At MilkBoy, beers come in cans and they come cheep, which is juuust fine by us. I went with the Sly Fox and Sean went with the Sixpoint. I think. We were drunk.

milkboyPhoto credit left: Midtown Lunch / Photo credit right: Kevin McMahon

Our outdoor table on the busy corner of 11th & Chestnut proved to be a prime people-watching location. At one point, a four-man marching band drummed by because, Philadelphia. All in all, if cheap beer is your jam, this place is a good go-to in Center City.

The Cambridge // 1508 South Street

Since leaving New York, we’ve had a void in our hearts where The Penrose used to be. Missing our favorite Upper East Side spot so dearly, we wondered if we would find a new hangout in Philadelphia that could match Penrose’s burgers and bloodies. COULD WE? Enter The Cambridge, similar in vibe and style but with an even larger craft beer selection than its New York counterpart. We’re not quite cool enough to hang out here, but we’ll force our way into the hipster wait staff’s collective heart and stay there until they feed us all the burgers. Also, all the everything.

TheCambridge_R.Kennedy04-680uwPhoto by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

The Industry // 1401 E. Moyamensing Avenue

My sister lives about two miles south of us in a South Philly neighborhood called Pennsport, known for its family vibe and cluster of Mummers’ clubhouses and bars. On a quiet corner of Moyamensing sits one of Philly’s best new bars, The Industry, which was recently opened by the guys behind another one of our Philadelphia favorites, Good Dog. The Industry caters to, duh, people in “the industry,” offering a 20% discount to servers, bartenders, chefs, and restaurant peeps across the city. And, its kitchen is open until 1:00am, good for both people in the business AND for people like us who just like to eat.

the industry collagePhoto credit: The Industry

On an evening mid-week when we were looking for a good place to watch the Flyers game (read: Sean wanted to watch the Flyers, I wanted beer), we settled in at the bar of The Industry. For their nightly happy hour, all Pennsylvania brewed beer was on special. That meant an evening full of Troegs and Sly Fox brews, which is always just fine by us, and we topped those off with an order of the mac & cheese croquets and a burger. Success.

With only two weeks under our belts in Philadelphia, we’re making real progress on our craft beer hunt. Where to next, Philadelphians and beer-lovers alike?! Warning: if no one comes up with additional suggestions, we’ll be forced to return to the Cambridge over and over until we try every menu item.


the wino



  1. October 29, 2014 / 16:06

    If you guys love Lagunitas, you must visit the taproom in Petaluma!! It’s only 45 min away from Napa, so you’ll be forced to finally meet me– I mean go wine tasting in Napa. Also, mac and cheese croquets– WHAT?!
    Natalie @ In Natalie’s Shoes recently posted..Getting Ready for Puerto VallartaMy Profile

  2. November 2, 2014 / 23:21

    My husband and I love craft beer. He loves Lagunitas. We used to have a pub walking distance from our old apartment and we have had many times where we were practically crawling back. Ugh. I could totally see myself sipping something cold and hoppy at Cambridge though!

    • November 5, 2014 / 10:16

      one of the best parts of living in the city is having a handful of bars/pubs/restaurants within walking distance. alsooo i’m off lagunitas at the moment due to a severe hangover last weekend :/

  3. November 4, 2014 / 12:09

    Being from Pennsylvania, I hate to admit I don’t know much about Philly. In my defense, I am from clear on the other side of the state though! It looks like you’ve been doing a great job sleuthing out all the best craft beer breweries and I’ll have to save this list for the next time I head home to PA. Maybe I can make a stop to discover Philly.
    Jennifer recently posted..Puffins and the Pompeii of the NorthMy Profile

    • November 5, 2014 / 10:14

      you have to make a trip here! though, i’ve only been out west to pittsburgh once, soooo…

    • November 5, 2014 / 10:13

      philly has definitely stepped up its food & drink scene since i lived here briefly about four years ago! aaand, always nice to see a fellow bucks county-er. bucks countyian?

  4. November 4, 2014 / 16:41

    Seems like a perfect way to acquaint oneself with a city… Good luck on your mission and your enjoyable craft beer sessions…. Plus, I Hope you enjoy Philly as much as NY, wait you did enjoy NYC right?

    Stay A NYer, Craig

    • November 6, 2014 / 09:57


  5. November 7, 2014 / 16:17

    Why isn’t the bar on “It’s Always Sunny” on here? I mean, that is a real bar, RIGHT? Seriously, Philly is a great beer town, and I haven’t been there since 2002. My best friend moved there out of college. He lived in one of the high rises next to the art museum. I remember hitting tons of great bars and discovering Dogfish for the first time. Of course I also discovered Yuengling and thought it was pretty good, too. Thankfully my tastes have gotten better since then. Thought that Dogfish was the best beer of my life, and it probably was at the time. I imagine the city has changed so much since I was last there. I’ve always said it’s one of my favorite American cities.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Travel in Books: Finding Inspiration on PageMy Profile

    • November 10, 2014 / 11:35

      youd be surprised how much philly has changed, even in the last few years. it’s such an amazing food and beer city! if you come back, we’ll treat you to at least one yuengling (though we just call it lager here).
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..laws to travel by – #63My Profile

  6. November 11, 2014 / 02:52

    Wait, what.. you moved?! LOL seems we have lots of posts to catch up on! I’ve always wanted to go to Philly, and drinking your way through time seems appropriate enough to get to know a city — I like it! 😉
    Kieu recently posted..Don’t judge me – the Asian things I packMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge