The brewpub scene in Eastern Montgomery County, which has grown slowly since Forest & Main opened in Ambler in 2012, is picking up steam, with two new pubs opening last month and a third due to debut later in April.
Ambler’s Tannery Run Brew Works at 131 E. Butler Ave. has a full menu from a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef along with its dozen beers on tap. By contrast, Bill’s Best, operating out of a commercial building off the main drag at 57 S. Keswick Ave. in Glenside, serves pretty much only pork sandwiches, designed to showcase the company’s signature product: barbecue sauces. The third, Track 3, under construction in Dreshertown Plaza in Dresher, will be a hybrid coffeehouse, microbrewery, and pub designed for all-day operation.
Here’s a rundown.
Five years ago, homebrewer Timothy N. Brown was considering opening a brewery, “but I thought the market was too saturated,” he said. More recently, with nothing seeming to stop the boom, “I thought the market can certainly handle more.”
Weavers Way Co-op, of which he is a member, had struck a deal to lease much of the ground floor of a downtown building occupied by an exercise studio. When the Bottom Dollar Food store down the street closed, Weavers Way changed course and leased that space.
Brown; his fiancee, Carly Chelder; and their business partner Mac Comly decided this was the right place at the right time. And then came fitting out and licensing. All told, opening was more than a year and a half in the works.
To find the name, they looked down. Tannery Run, a creek, runs directly below the building.
They set up the storefront with a concrete floor, garage door in the front, a 16-seat bar to the left, seating in booths and at tables for about 60 people to the right, and the seven-barrel brewhouse in the rear. It’s designed to be family friendly, with Ping Pong and foosball among the games and a Tuesday trivia night.
Co-brewers Brown and Comly are getting more out of their brewery by using a system they call splatch brewing, with which they can split a batch to create additional varieties, such as the Belgian and American IPA they call Double Dragon. Right now, the tap list includes a dry stout, an American pale ale, a Belgian strong dark ale, a German pilsner, a porter, and milk chocolate stout in nitro. There’s a cider on tap, as well as four Pennsylvania wines and cocktails made from Pennsylvania spirits.
For now, they’re keeping their beer in house, though they expect to use the services of a mobile canner.
Chef Gina Cavalier’s menu includes chili studded with beef and bacon, four flatbreads, three sandwiches, and house-made ice cream.
Tannery Run Brew Works, 131 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, 215-613-1113. Hours: 4-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Sunday.
In the early 1990s, Bill Fehon, a high school teacher at the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, started making barbecue sauce out of the kitchen of his family’s home, which he had built with his own hands. “He was giving [jars] out as gifts,” says his son Jason, a producer and weekend DJ at WMMR-FM (93.3). “Everybody wanted to get on his list.”
A decade ago at age 50, Bill Fehon was diagnosed with frontotemporal degeneration, a rare kind of dementia. His wife, Diane, and five sons decided to turn the sauces — original, spicy, and honey — into a business, which started production in 2011. The idea was to raise awareness and send 10 percent of every sale to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.
Bill’s Best found manufacturing space in Glenside in 2013. Jason Fehon, who also has tended bar for years, decided to expand the business’ scope by marketing beer along with the sauces, carving out space for a tiny brewpub that opened March 14. (On the pub’s off days, the sauce is being bottled in a 60-gallon steam kettle in the next room.)
“You can think of us as a corner bar,” said Fehon, who works alongside his mother. “We’re really a corner brewery.”
They’re keeping the menu simple: just a barbecue sandwich made with pork from Stryker Farm near Allentown, which is a barbecue sauce customer, a soup, a cheese sandwich, and bagged snacks. The sandwich, served on a brioche bun, is a mountain of juicy pulled pork, and you get to choose five toppings, including fresh jalapeños, dill pickles, blue cheese crumbles, Cheddar, bacon bits, and coleslaw.
The Fehons work with brewer Synn Synnestvedt on a few varieties. “We just say to each other, ‘What do we want to brew this week?’ ” Recently, their list included Due North, a fruit-forward NEIPA; Due West, a bitter DIPA; Random Task, a session IPA; and a kolsch ale.
Bill’s Best also pours beer from other Pennsylvania brewers, as well as Stony Run wines and cocktails using spirits from Boardroom, Mermaid, and Red Brick.
Bill’s Best, 57 S. Keswick Ave., Glenside, 215-517-6970. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday.
Joe Burdo, a neuroscientist married to a molecular biologist, has had two hobbies over the years: homebrewing and coffee roasting. The couple’s training and careers took them from San Diego to New England to Central Pennsylvania. After relocating to Montgomery County nearly three years ago, Burdo decided to combine his hobbies and take them pro.
Track 3′s day will start at 6:30 a.m. with coffee and pastries before segueing into beers (eight on tap) with an easy-to-execute pub menu (tots, wings, calzones, sandwiches) offered from midday into the night.
Three beers will have coffee in them. One, a stout, will not be kegged with coffee. Rather, Burdo said, you’ll get a glass of beer and a shot of cold espresso.
As for the name: Burdo and his Massachusetts business partners, Dave Bentley and Michael Pousland, noticed that some of their favorite rock songs are the third track of their respective albums, such as “Wild Horses” from the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. The atmosphere, Burdo said, will have a strong music theme.