Joe Sixpack: New pubs, beer springing up all over

Posted: February 25, 2011

WE'RE JUST two cold, gray months into the year, but 2011 is already showing sunny promise. Here are six signs that better days are on the horizon.

The Grainery

Center City will get a new brewpub as early as next month, at 1113 Walnut St. OK, the owners (the same folks behind East Falls' candlelit Fork & Barrel) say it's not really a brewpub because just four of its 26 taps will feature beer brewed on the premises.

Nonetheless, local beer fans are thirstily anticipating the new addition because the man behind the kettles will be Terry Hawbaker, who built a rabid fan base as brewer at the Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport. (A couple of summers ago, he created a stir when bottles of Bullfrog Frambozen sold out in 10 minutes.)

Co-owner Matt Scheller said Hawbaker will be brewing "some crazy stuff" to go along with the restaurant's cocktails and gourmet specialties from Scandinavia, Belgium, German, England and Italy. Cuisine will be "fresh, local and rustic."

Forest & Main

With their hometown, local feel, brewpubs go with Pennsylvania boroughs like hops goes with malt. West Chester has one, Media has one, Phoenixville has two, and now Ambler is getting one.

Gerard Olson, the assistant brewer at Malvern's McKenzie Brewhouse, is partnering with Daniel Endicott to open a brewpub in a Victorian building at, yes, Forest and Main streets. "There's a lot of fun, fresh energy coming out of the borough," said Olson, who expects to open by late spring or early summer.

What's on tap? Endicott specializes in English ales while Olson earned his chops with McKenzie's award-winning Saison Vautour. So expect to see plenty of easy-drinking, cask-conditioned farmhouse-style ales.

Tired Hands Brewing

A little farther down the road, Jean Broillet IV, an assistant at Iron Hill Brewery, in West Chester, expects to open a brewpub in Ardmore. He's playing his cards close to the vest because he's still in the permit and licensing phase, but he expects Tired Hands to serve Belgian and French-style farmhouse ales, with an emphasis on "localization and simplicity."

To build the anticipation, Broillet's been tooling around to collaborate with other breweries on a number of varieties. Look for Biere de Norma - a biere de garde he brewed at Vermont's Hill Farmstead Brewery - to show up shortly on local taps.

And, on March 27, Downingtown's Station Taproom will host a beer dinner featuring Trois Enfants, a black rye saison Broillet brewed with Ryan Michaels of McKenzie's and Tom Baker of Earth Bread + Brewery.

George Washington

Tavern Porter on cask

This dark ale from Yards, a re-creation of Washington's favorite recipe, has been around for years, in bottles and draft. But until last Sunday at Kennett (2nd and Christian, Queen Village), I'd never tasted it hand-pumped from a beer engine. Velvety-smooth and chocolatelike, this version could be a replacement for sadly departed Chocolate Thunder, the strong, cask-conditioned porter from the now-closed General Lafayette Inn & Brewery.

The Beer and Wine Mill

Jason Harris, the owner of Montgomeryville's Keystone Homebrew, has picked up his tiny shop and moved it up the road (435 Doylestown Road, Route 202) to a romping, 24,000-square-foot former furniture factory.

This isn't just a home-brew store. When Harris is finished with the project, the facility will house a bottle store, cafe, do-it-yourself wine-on-premises shop, keg-and-bottle-filling station, satellite wineries and more. It sounds like Disneyland for beer and wine freaks.

It will be warm

by Philly Beer Week

The streets will flow with suds June 3-12, and this year the annual celebration will feature an outdoor beer garden at the Four Seasons Hotel (Logan Square). The nightly garden will showcase local brewers and serve as a central meeting place for visitors gathering before heading out to dinners, pub crawls and other events.

Opening Tap will again be at Independence Visitor Center (June 3), followed by the International Great Beer Expo (June 4) at the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal. More info at www.phillybeerweek.org.

Joe Sixpack is by Don Russell, director of Philly Beer Week. For more on the beer scene, sign up for his weekly e-mail update at www.joesixpack.net. E-mail: joesixpack@phillynews.com.

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