Joe Sixpack: For Beer Week, new places to find lots of brews
PHILLY BEER Week (June 4-13) will feature more than 700 events at more than 140 bars in the city and suburbs. It's a great chance to get out and bend an elbow at some of the region's classic joints.
Just make sure you save a bit of liver capacity to explore a handful of new joints that have opened just in time for the festivities.
The City Tap House (3925 Walnut St., University City).
Despite all its beer assets, Philly has never boasted one of those mega-tap bars with lineups of 100 or more faucets. We tend to be a bit more focused, with few taverns offering more than two dozen.
Run by the folks who gave us the Public House (Logan Square) and the Field House (Reading Terminal), the City Tap House opened last week with a splash of 60 taps. It's located on the second floor of the Radian apartments on Penn's bustling urban campus, but a step inside gives you the woodsy, stylish feel of an Aspen ski lodge. A rooftop patio features a green lawn and fire pit benches that are certain to become the prize seats.
Its dominant feature is a copper-topped bar beneath an open-beam ceiling, its taps lined up like soldiers ready for battle. Behind the scenes is a high-tech walk-in box equipped with rows and racks and valves that look like something you'd find in the crawl spaces of the Starship Enterprise.
Beer manager Andy Farrell (formerly of Bridgid's) has the challenge of satisfying both lowest-common-denominator tastes (all three corporate lights) and beer geeks (Terrapin Capt. Krunkles, Rodenbach Grand Cru).
He'll help out newbies and pros alike with an innovative tasting card that will allow patrons to keep notes to be uploaded to the bar's database. "It's good for people who can't remember their beer names," Farrell said.
The tavern will make its mark in a big way during Philly Beer Week when it hosts Bell's Brewery, from Michigan. The bar will pour an amazing 31 separate varieties of Bell's on tap on June 7 - an achievement that its local distributor says is a "world record."
Kraftwork (541 E. Girard Ave., Fishtown)
It's about time Fishtown got a second kick-butt, craft-beer bar to go along with the vaunted Johnny Brenda's. Kraftwork is the work of Adam Ritter (The Sidecar, in Grays Ferry), and the new joint more than holds its own.
Looking like a 19th-century Tacony workshop, its handsome bar is decorated with huge old hand tools, massive tiger maple-top picnic tables and barstools that weigh a ton. The U-shaped bar is an ideal perch to watch the weird, gritty street life of Girard Avenue.
Michael Thomas, from Bar Ferdinand, is the chef. So far, I've had only lunch, but the TLT (Trout-Lettuce-Tomato) washed down nicely with a pint of Flying Dog Old Scratch.
There's not a loser among Ritter's 24 taps (including a hand pump). Among the highlights: a spigot devoted to hard-to-find drafts from Japan's Hitachino Nest.
The Head House (122 Lombard St., Society Hill).
For years, Bruce Nichols (a board member of Philly Beer Week, where I'm executive director) has been running festivals and other events through his Museum Catering business; now he'll see what it's like to stand behind the bar.
He's partnered with property owner and sushi maven Madame Saito to revamp the defunct Zot Belgian restaurant just off Headhouse Square. They've brought in Tom Pittakas, the beverage manager who put Allison Two's suds list on the suburban map (before the restaurant dive-bombed earlier this year), to oversee the beer.
It still features that unusual small front bar (six taps). They've redone the room to give it the feel of a colonial tavern where the plan is to pour beers from a highlighted "brewery of the week."
To the rear lies a long bar (14 taps) and dining room that will serve "international cuisine." A second bar with another dozen taps will open later upstairs.
Meanwhile, that second-floor space will be used for large dinners, meetings and - in a notable development - the 20th Annual Jackson Tutored Tasting, on June 12, the final weekend of Philly Beer Week.
Other recent openings:
The Wishing Well (767 S. 9th St., South Philly) opened with much chatter over Chef Carmen Cappello's Shame Burger, an artery-buster with a hamburger topped by a fried egg, cheese and house-made scrapple. The beer list is ambitious, with drafts from Bell's, Terrapin, Lancaster, Victory, Weyerbacher and St. Bernardus.
Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery bailed out of its original location on Route 113 in Phoenixville, and moved in directly across the street at Maple Lawn Shopping Center (520 Kimberton Road).
Munk & Nunn (4382 Main St., Manayunk) is the new name and look for Yunker stalwart Zesty's. It's a Mediterranean-style gastropub with a modest (Duvel Green, Franziskaner) tap list.