Walking across a dark-stained hardwood floor, amidst an amber-lit nightlife and into a cloud of buzzing energy, you pass the long, vintage-wooden bar and take in all of the atmosphere…and unique beer selections. Philadelphia is a city with as much character and diversity in its beer scene as the city itself.
With each bar you go to in Philadelphia, you get a different taste of what the city has to offer — not only beer-wise, but also in food, environment and overall uniqueness. The city has great diversity when it comes to all aspects, which makes it a special city to visit. Hitting every bar in Philly would be a lengthy endeavor and financial guilt trip, so I’ve put together a top 5 list to get the most character the City of Brotherly Love’s bar scene has to offer. Each bar selected offers something different and intriguing for the beer scene in Philly; Monk’s Café for the European craft beer love, Barcade for the college student, City Tap house for the family outing or meeting up with friends, Standard Tap for the only offering local craft beer, and Varga Bar for those harder to find brews.
1. Monk’s Café on S.16th St
Owner Tom Peters, who is also co-chairman and co-founder of Philly Beer Week, wanted to create a craft beer bar that would focus on European craft, particularly Belgians. Monk’s Café was opened in South Philadelphia with that goal. Here you will find all of the best Belgians available in this part of the state. The bar has nineteen available draft lines and have thirteen, currently, devoted to Belgians and the rest to US craft beer, currently including Allagash, Firestone Walker and Russian River. The final tap is the Monk’s Flemish Sour Ale that was brewed by the Van Steenberge Brewery in Belgium solely for Monk’s Café. At any given time, Belgians will dominate the taps. Along with a great selection of beers on tap, Monk’s also has an extensive bottle menu. They offer close to 130 different Belgians along with beers from all over the world including Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and Germany. Not to be left out, Monk’s does offer US craft but not to the extent of the different European styles available. Popular ones include Dogfish Head, including their limited releases, Lost Abbey, Jolly Pumpkin, Allagash, Russian River and about 26 other local and nation wide craft brews. They also offer a unique menu that everybody would be sure to enjoy with a wide arrange of food from all over the world, including Belgium. Monk’s Café is definitely a place to visit for those who enjoy the hard to find Belgians. But everybody will find a beer they’ll enjoy here, even if you’re a whiskey or wine drinker.
264 S. 16th Street Philadelpiha, PA 19102
2. Barcade on Frankford Ave.
Located in the Fishtown section of the city, Barcade is a popular destination for the younger crowd who enjoy US craft beer. Your first steps into the bar are what you would normal expect when walking into a bar; chalkboard with what’s on tap, bar, music, groups of friends having a great time. Take a few more steps in and look to your right and you then realize why this place is called Barcade. There is an expansive room that is filled with 43 classic video arcade games from the 1980’s and 90’s, including the favorites being Tetris, Ms. Pacman and Super Mario Bros. Not to be outdone by the impressive arcade game selection, the beer selection is just as good with 25 taps offering beer from all over the country including seasonals. Barcade carries those lesser-known breweries, which currently include Old Forge The Eleven IPA from PA, R.J. Rockers First Snow Pale Ale from SC, and Shed IPA from VT. Barcade offers specials almost everyday for food and drink. With reasonable prices for a pint of beer and $0.25 for all arcade games, its no wonder this place is popular for the local college crowd.
3. City Tap House on Walnut St.
With a very modern and inviting layout, City Tap House in University City boasts a staggering number of 60 available taps which means somebody is sure to find something new to try each time they go. Instead of focusing on one particular style or region, City Tap House gives a very broad range of available beers on draft. This makes it a perfect place to try all different styles of beers from local, national and international craft brewers; although, like all the other bars in the Philly area, they tend to support the local brewers a little bit more. They offer all of the main hitters for each style City Tap House is the place to visit in Philly if you are just being introduced into the craft beer scene. Since they offer the classics of each style, you’ll be able to see which styles you like and then branch off from there. With a rather large venue with outdoor seating available, City Tap House is the perfect place to go out with friends for drinks or dinner.
4. Standard Tap on 2nd St.
Standard Tap is the go-to place for lovers of local craft beer in Philly. A rather smaller bar compared to the others, but it gives you somewhat of a homey feel. With there recently renovated tap system to take them up to twenty available taps, Standard Tap’s beer list are from breweries from Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and Southern New Jersey, this is the place to try all of the local popular favorites. Breweries featured, with others making special appearances, are Victory from Downington, PA, Weyerbacher from Easton, PA, Yards from Philadelphia, Tröegs from Hersey, PA Dogfish Head, Flying Fish from Cherry Hill, NJ with many more available daily. While most bars have the occasional cask conditioned brews, Standard Tap always have two available served from their hand pumps from local breweries. Local craft beer is not something to be taken lightly in Philadelphia, and Standard Tap doesn’t spare any expense in order to make sure they have the best local beers on tap.
5. Varga Bar on Spruce St.
A 1950’s diner inspired bar with a modern twist, add great beer selection and food on top and you have all the makings for another unique Philadelphia bar to visit. Varga Bar has nineteen available taps with rather unexpected brews each time you go; such as Flying Dog Green Tea Imperial Stout and Penn Chocolate Meltdown Stout. This is the place to go if you want to try those hard to find beers that are only released in kegs and in limited quantities in the Philadelphia region. They do also offer a wide variety of US craft bottles and cans. Again, a variety of those available are more or less than relatively harder to find ones with something different, new and exciting coming in fairly often. Varga offers the throwback yet modern atmosphere with the addition of great beer that all beer lovers are bound to enjoy.
These five are just a sample of what craft beer bars in Philadelphia have to offer. They each offer different environments depending on your personality or mood, but you are bound to have a great time eating great food, drinking even better craft beer while spending time with your friends. The locations of these bars are located throughout different, unique parts of the city. So for somebody’s first time visiting Philadelphia, not only do they get to experience the local bar and beer scene, but they also get to explore the city. These bars also offer a great selection of appetizers and entrees that make them the perfect place to go out for great beer and great food. To see what is currently available at all of these, and other craft bars around the city, visit phillytapfinder.com for the most up to date offerings. The list is updated daily so you know what to expect will be available when you get there. Most bars also list “what’s up next” in case you get there and the beer you wanted to try was already kicked. Cheers!