Back to Back Visits to Human Robot Beer
Something that would be considered a new fad in the United States, but an old tradition in the Czech Republic, would be the side-pull pour of lager. I’ll supply you with my interpretation, which is a special draft faucet that pours beer with greater velocity, and results in a glass of beer with a decadent head of rich, creamy foam. Follow the link at the bottom from Pilsner Urquell to learn more. To the average bear, you might think this is the same thing as tapping a keg of beer at a party that hasn’t been chilled properly and filling pitcher after pitcher of foam. This is not that. Anyway, I have been enamored with drinking well-made lagers served out of a side-pour faucet and got to drink a good deal of them last year in Portland, Maine. One brewery that especially got my attention was Schilling Brewing out of New Hampshire that I got to drink at the famous Novare Res Bier Cafe in Portland.
Shortly after this trip, I began seeing Instagram stories showing the fluffiest of beers coming from a seemingly new brewery called Human Robot. I was immediately intrigued and found out that it was right in Philadelphia, miles from my hometown in South Jersey. I asked my dad if he wanted to go check it out and he said he wouldn’t go without me. So, after months of watching airfares go up, I finally booked a flight to visit Philadelphia with the purpose of checking out Human Robot Beer and drinking mugs of lager with my dad.
Full disclosure, I did reach out to the owner Jake to let him know I’m super interested in what they have going on, but that I wasn’t there for business unless you consider gulping lager business. Unfortunately, Jake had other commitments but I did get to meet and hang one of the co-founders, Chris Roller. My dad and I met at Human Robot just in time for lunch. At noon on a Monday, this big beautiful old brewery maybe only had 5 – 6 customers, so it was a small, intimate setting. It’s impossible to take my dad out to drink beer unless good food is tied in, and luckily that was covered. Within Human Robot Beer, they have a kitchen that they sublet to a company called Poe’s Sandwich Joint. We each had our first mug of Czech 10, a Czech-style pilsner poured out of the famed side-pull faucet, and immediately my dad’s face lit up. I hyped up this place that I admittedly never visited before, and I think he was skeptical until that very first sip.
Poe’s Sandwich Joint
Before we went down the lineup of lagers, we needed to get a good foundation of food in our bellies, so we pulled up the Poe’s Sandwich Joint menu on our phones. The menu is decked out with classic Philly sandwiches, Italian Hoagie, the roast pork with provolone, and then veered off into other sandwiches on an amazing, hinged roll. Instead of Human Robot having to run a brewery and a restaurant, they farm it out to these sandwich masters, and it seems to work out very well for all involved. I forget what pops ordered but I had The Splatter – Prosciutto di parma, capicola, genoa salami, hot capa ham and extra sharp provolone with lettuce, tomato, onion, house long hot hoagie spread, EVOO, parmesan cheese & oregano. Just unreal. Take a look at their menu, you might cry. [link]
Running down the focused draft list, we tried the Czech 10, which is a well-executed Czech style pilsner, then the Polotmavy, which is a “half dark” Czech style lager that maybe resembles a dunkel or Vienna lager. I don’t think that does it justice, but that’s as best as I can compare this style. This was also on the side-pull faucet and pours with a big creamy fluffy head.
I could have just drunk the Polotmavy for the rest of my stay if not the rest of my life, but I thought I should try the other beers. Hallertau Pils, perfect and fresh. Rösten Helles, drinkable, thirst quenching. They offer a full sized and a half pour or smaller pour, so I got to try these with no issue of feeling too full. Pops and I finished out with another Polotmavy or two before calling it a day. We had a great experience, thanks to Chris who answered our questions and bartenders Dickie and Josh.
Oh yeah, Milk Tubes!
Human Robot has a few traditions they upkeep, but they might be most famous for their Milk Tube. At the top of this article, I explained they are pouring Czech-style lagers on a side-pull faucet. Another Czech tradition turned US craft beer fad is the Mliko pour, which amounts to a mug of dense wet foam. Human Robot has taken this fun and taken it a step further by filling a stange glass filled with foam. Human Robot’s recommendation is to toast then chug, and that’s just what I did. It’s fun and tasty. Chris recommended visitors begin their session with it instead of putting it in the middle or end.
Human Robot on a TUBESDAY night
After spending the three plus hours at Human Robot on a quiet Monday afternoon, and knowing the bars well enough in Philly, I decided to head on back the very next day, solo to see what it’s like and to try the rest of the beers I hadn’t tried.
The first thing you need to know is it’s not Tuesday at Human Robot, but TUBESDAY. Milktubes are $1 off from $3 to $2. So yeah, I started the evening off right with some Milktubes. Our friendly bartender, Josh, was working and all was well right off the bat. They debuted some Berliner Weisse with optional syrup in these lovely cocktail glasses so I started off with that. I ordered another Poe’s sandwich because I’m a fatty on vacation. I ran the gamut. After a Milktube and a Polotmavy, I tried their Italian Pilsner, Il Cielo. Very clean and drinkable. Tried their baby IPA Weebo. Baby IPA might have been coined by our friend Daniel at Forest and Main, and it’s a way better term than Session IPA. Sampled their Imperial Stout, Stone House mornings, it was fantastic but maybe out of place. It was nice as a nightcap pour.
Foot Traffic on a TUBESDAY
The more I think I understand the average beer drinker, the less I do. The tasting room was packed and the outside C-19 style bier garden was full. I sat at the end of the bar near the door and got to witness some serious business being conducted. About every ten minutes, a working professional would close out their tab, but not before ringing up a few four packs to-go. There isn’t a lot of room in this Fishtown neighborhood to park, and if you have been to Philadelphia, you’ll know that’s the deal with the entire city. My guess is the patrons took an Uber like me or were on foot nearby. Either way, it was amazing how well the brewery’s business seemed to be doing on a Tuesday night.
The bottom line
Human Robot Beer is very chill, not intimidating, and is a place for beer drinking perfectly executed, no nonsense beer. We often talk about craft lager rising in popularity in the vast sea of IPA. With the type of formula Human Robot Beer is using to fill a much needed void, I can see this being part of a turning point in current craft beer culture. There was no aspect of hype culture, ticking culture, collecting culture, hoarding culture as far as I could tell, and that made for a very enjoyable to day visit.