A marathon of great beer in Philadelphia

This Sunday, November 20 will be a day of running, celebration, and great beer in the City of Brotherly Love. Photo: Fleet feet in Philly

PHILADELPHIA, November 17, 2011 — Over the past 18 years since the running of the first Philadelphia Marathon, running both as a passionate hobby and a competitive sport has grown by an incredible measure. The same can likewise be said of the craft beer brewing scene, in Philadelphia and across the country — at least the part about passionate hobby, if not so much competitive sport.

This coming Sunday, November 20, runners will be racing through numerous neighborhoods, each with their own identities, their own rhythms, and their own set of restaurants and bars that serve great beer. Much as they may wish to, the runners will not be able to stop for a beer along the way, particularly since establishments with liquor licenses in Philadelphia may not legally serve until 11 a.m. on Sundays. They and their spectators will want to take note of the many neighborhoods and the great beer that they have to offer.

Lace up your running shoes, or drinking shoes if you prefer, and follow along for this beer-drinking tour along the route of the Philadelphia Marathon.

Mile Markers - 0.00, 13.10, and 26.20

The starting line, midpoint, and finish line of the Philadelphia Marathon are all located at one of the most majestic sites in the city, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The neighborhoods of Franklintown, Fairmount, and Art Museum rim the Ben Franklin Parkway and lead up to the landmark museum. They are home to some of the city’s most stable residential streets and restaurant scenes of the past 10-20 years.

Many of the following provide an ideal setting for a post-race brunch.

  • Kite & Key (1836 Callowhill Street, 215-568-1818) - Serves a brunch menu from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Think about grabbing a chicken sandwich, burger, or french toast here to replenish. Wash it down with a local favorite like Sly Fox O’Reilly’s Stout (3.6% ABV) or Yards Philly Pale Ale (4.6% ABV).
  • The Belgian Café (601 North 21st Street, 215-235-3500) - Head north of the finish line for a more European brunch that runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Praised for its varied menu including numerous vegan and vegetarian selections, The Belgian Café is good for both a pot of mussels loaded with leeks, apples, and swiss cheese as well as a vegan plate of cream chipped “beef” (actually sliced seitan and seasoned tofu “cream”). A nice Belgian Witbier, like Kira (4.7% ABV) from Brouwerij Huyghe, would go nicely with many of the brunch plates.
  • London Grill (2301 Fairmount Avenue, 215-978-4545) - Not only does this 20-year-old neighborhood favorite have a pre-race marathon dinner planned for the night prior, the restaurant serves up a brunch menu from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Steak and Eggs or Brisket Hash may catch the attention of your post-race hunger. Or, if you are in a particularly celebratory mood, it might be the “Make Your Own Bloody Mary Bar”.
  • Bridgid’s (726 North 24th Street, 215-232-3232) - Belgian beers have been poured here longer than just about any other bar in the city. They also pour a Yards E.S.A. (6.0% ABV) on a unique gravity draft system from the second floor above the bar. Post-race on Sunday, though, you will need wait until 4 p.m. when they open to have a taste of this city classic.
  • St. Stephen’s Green (1701 Green Street, 215-769-5000) - You may wish to park your car near this, yet another, neighborhood favorite. It may be nearly 3/4 mile from the start/finish line, but think of it as a warm-up and cool-down for the long run. The payoff will begin at 11 a.m. when the restaurant’s brunch menu begins with dependable standouts like leek and potato soup, Green Morning Walk, and croque madame. A Kenzinger (4.5% ABV) from Philadelphia Brewing would be a tasty post-race rehydrater here at St. Stephen’s Green.
  • Filling out the neighborhood with a few favorites near the Museum of Art where good food and beer can be found post race include McCrossen’s (529 North 20th Street, 215-854-0923, brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), Rembrandt’s (741 North 23rd Street, 215-763-2228, brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Bishop’s Collar (2349 Fairmount Avenue, 215-765-1616, brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and Jack’s Firehouse (2130 Fairmount Avenue, 215-232-9000, brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Mile Marker - 1.75

  • Sugar Mom’s (225 Church Street, 215-925-8219) - As the runners begin to break a sweat during their second mile in Old City, they will pass nearby Revolutionary Era landmarks such as Christ Church (est. 1695) and Independence Hall. In one of the city’s more unique bar settings that is nearly impossible to accidentally stumble upon, subterranean Sugar Mom’s is full of arcade-style games, a piano, and some great local beer selections all set amidst a dimly-lit basement environment beneath a former sugar refinery. Be sure to stop here on Saturday after the Expo, as Sugar Mom’s is closed on Sundays. If instead you are looking for a jolt of locally-roasted coffee, back up on street level, you cannot go wrong with Old City Coffee.
  • A few blocks away from the race course in Old City, there are numerous options for finding a great beer, likely none more so than Triumph Brewing Company (117 Chestnut Street, 215-625-0855, open Sundays 11:30 a.m.), Eulogy (136 Chestnut Street, 215-413-1918, open Sundays 11 a.m.), and Beneluxx (33 South 3rd Street, 267-318-7269, open Sundays 5 p.m.).

Mile Marker - 3.75

  • For Pete’s Sake Pub (900 South Front Street, 215-462-2230) - As the race takes a relatively quiet few miles through South Philly, the options for finding a quality brew dwindle a bit, but this neighborhood gem at the corner of Front and Christian Streets stands out as one of the best. Opening at 11 a.m. for brunch, a breakfast burrito or shortbread waffles with fresh fruit along with an Allagash White (5.5% ABV) makes the perfect post-race meal before hopping on a nearby I-95 entrance to head home.
  • Kennett Restaurant (848 South 2nd Street, 267-687-1426) - Brunch begins at 12 noon here at this newcomer that has taken the Queen Village neighborhood by storm. The Italian Breakfast (gnocchi, vegetables, and topped with a fried egg) paired with a Victory Prima Pils (5.3% ABV) would be a perfect reward for a morning’s worth of hard work.

Mile Marker - 4.50

  • The crowd support will get decidedly more upbeat as the race turns on to legendary South Street for six blocks. Finding decent beer on South Street has ebbed and flowed through the years. In recent years, Bridget Foy’s (200 South 2nd Street, 215-922-1813, open Sunday 9 a.m.) and The Legendary Dobbs (304 South Street, 215-469-1179, open Sunday 12 p.m.) music venue have crept up the list of better beer bars on South Street.
  • The race turns north on 6th Street prior to reaching what should certainly be considered the top two on South Street: Brauhaus Schmitz in the 700 block and Percy Street Barbecue in the 900 block. At both locations, you will have no problem finding just the right meal and beer to cure what ails you after running for at least two early-morning hours. Percy Street (900 South Street, 215-625-8510) opens on Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and serves up incredible plates of brisket, ribs, sausage, cornbread, and mac & cheese along with a canned beer menu that boasts nearly 70 brands including Sly Fox, Avery, and Sixpoint. Brauhaus Schmitz (718 South Street, 267-909-8814) goes part way around the world for its German inspiration. For a Sunday lunch menu that begins at 11:30 a.m., the Strammer Max (an open-faced ham and Emmenthaler cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg) and a Gaffel Kölsch (4.8% ABV) is sure to help with all your nutritional deficiencies.

Mile Marker - 5.00

  • The race turns north back toward historic Independence Hall and passes nearby newcomers to the better beer scene in Philadelphia like the Iron Chef’s (Jose Garces) Chifa (707 Chestnut Street, 215-925-5555, open Sunday 5 p.m.), bourbon/tequila/beer joint Cooperage (601 Walnut Street, 215-226-2667, closed Sundays), and foodie heaven Talula’s Garden (210 West Washington Square, 215-592-7787, open Sunday 5 p.m.).

Mile Marker - 6.00

A tall, frosty beer

 

As the race heads west across town for nearly 2 1/2 miles on Chestnut Street, runners will pass close by several highly recommended spots for refueling with a great beer. None, perhaps, is more highly acclaimed than Monk’s Café.

  • Monk’s Café (264 South 16th Street, 215-545-7005) - If you have stayed the night in a Center City hotel, then you likely already know that you were near one of the city’s earliest Belgian beer boosters. They open for brunch at 11:30 a.m. on Sundays when mussels and burgers done at least a half dozen Belgian-style ways (and served accordingly with a side of pomme frites) might be just what you need to sooth your aches and pains. For a palate-awakening, there is probably no better place to drink the eponymous Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Ale (a noticeably tart 5.5% ABV private label brown ale brewed for the restaurant by Belgium’s Van Steenberge brewery).
  • Good Dog (224 South 15th Street, 215-985-9600) - Here they have darts and pool, but you may wish to sit more than stand after the race. Dogs are the theme everywhere you look on all three floors of this pub that serves brunch from 11:30 a.m. A nice flatbread pizza with a Yards Brawler (4.2% ABV) and a salted caramel brownie for good measure should help to get you back on your feet again soon.
  • Nodding Head (1516 Sansom Street, 215-569-6525) - All the bobbleheads at this unique brewpub are in agreement. Grab a Bill Payer Ale (a 5.0% ABV hoppy pale ale) and chicken wings, hot cakes, or crepes from the brunch menu that begins at 11 a.m. and you will be bobbing right along with the many hundreds of bobbleheads that line the walls.
  • Black Sheep (247 South 17th Street, 215-545-9473) - This Irish-style pub has been tucked into a brownstone on 17th Street for nearly 13 years and can serve as a comfortable post-race meeting spot to talk about triumphs over steak and eggs, Irish stew, or filet mignon sliders and a Bass Ale (5.0% ABV).
  • Jose Pistola’s (263 South 15th Street, 215-545-4101) - Brunch starts at 10:30 a.m. at this Tex-Mex favorite which includes standouts such as pierorgies, scrapple, empanadas, and waffles. Pistola’s features beers from all around the world; but when in Philly, do as we do with a Yards Love Stout, which at 5.0% ABV will be just what you are looking for.
  • Marathon Grill (1339 Chestnut Street, 215-561-4460) - There are five of these wildly popular restaurants throughout the city, none closer to the race course than the one at 13th and Chestnut Streets. As a spectator, you can grab a table as early as 9 a.m. and watch the steady stream of runners pass by this appropriately-named spot. Breakfast items run the gamut from pancakes to eggs to smoked salmon accompanied by fine brews such as Philadelphia Brewing Rowhouse Red (5.0% ABV) and Ommegang Witte (5.1% ABV). They recently launched Marathon Farm in Brewerytown, making this restaurant family a true local gem.

Mile Marker - 6.50

Just before crossing the Schuylkill River into University City, the race loops to pass by just a matter of blocks from the finish line, yet with many miles still to go, making the walk for spectators between the starting line and mile 6.50 quite easy. A few quality stops for beer and a bite are near by this area as well.

  • Cherry Street Tavern (129 North 22nd Street, 215-561-5683) - A classic neighborhood tavern in an assuming corner building located mere steps from the race finish line. Lacking in any pretension means that comfortable good times can be found over solid roast beer sandwiches, chili, and salads accompanied with a regional favorite like Yuengling Lager (4.4% ABV).
  • Doobie’s (2201 Lombard Street, 215-546-0316) - Even less assuming than Cherry Street Tavern is Doobie’s, a handful of blocks south of the race course. Not open Sundays, but yet a good place to stop on Saturday as you stretch your legs across town, Doobie’s is the kind of neighborhood dive bar to drop in for a Flying Fish ESB (5.5% ABV) and a sandwich.
  • Grace Tavern (2229 Grays Ferry Avenue, 215-893-9580) - Another entry in the Monk’s/Belgian Café/Nodding Head/Fergie’s family is this comfortable neighborhood bar at the edge of Fitler Square. Opens at 11:30 a.m. and bowl of blackened green beans with a Tröegs Sunshine Pils (5.3% ABV) creates a refreshing snack.
  • TenStone (2059 South Street, 215-735-9939) - Pool tables, sports on the television, and a chalkboard full of great beers make TenStone a longtime favorite of many in the Graduate Hospital area. When they open at 10 a.m. for brunch on Sunday, think BLT or Eggs Benedict along with a Victory HopDevil (6.7% ABV) and you will be thinking like a winner.

Mile Marker - 7.25

West Philly has certainly gained at least a handful of higher quality beer bars over the past several years. But, the race course veers off toward the Philadelphia Zoo before it really gets too deep into University City, let alone West Philly. Nonetheless, a few establishments near 34th and Market Streets are worth pointing out.

  • White Dog (3420 Sansom Street, 214-386-9224) - The White Dog opens at 10:30 a.m. and has a long legacy in Philadelphia serving up a menu of local and sustainably-sourced food like farm fresh egg quiche, pear and pecan french toast, and pork roll ciabatta sandwich. Grab a Stoudt’s American Pale Ale (5.0% ABV) and you can not go wrong.
  • Mad Mex (3401 Walnut Street, 215-382-2221) - This hotbed of Cali-Tex-Mex, Bad-Azz Margaritas, and a long lineup of craft beers opens at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday and will help you replenish your salts with a variety of chips, salsas, and dips.
  • MidAtlantic (3711 Market Street, 215-386-3711) - This relative newcomer to the edge of Drexel University’s campus is closed on Sundays, but could be a great spot for lunch or dinner the day before the race. They stock an impressive list of rotating drafts and specialty bottled beer selections, with a keen focus in the kitchen and at the bar on the mid-Atlantic region.

Congratulations! After a spin through tranquil Fairmount Park and 13.1 miles, you have reached the halfway point back at the Museum of Art. If you are running the half marathon, your day is over. If you are running the full marathon, do not let the finish line noise distract you. Store up a little of that energy because you are going to need it as the next 9 out of 13 miles will be relatively quiet and relatively barren of good beer. Read on to learn more.

Mile 17.00 & 22.00

After running a bucolic few miles northwest on Kelly Drive (aka East River Drive), the East Falls neighborhood brings out some Philadelphia University and other neighborhood supporters. A couple of relatively new bars to the area are pouring some great beer and are worth checking out. Falls Taproom (3749 Midvale Avenue, 215-849-1222, open Sundays 11 a.m.) is closest to Kelly Drive, while Franklin’s (3521 Bowman Street, 267-336-7420, open Sundays 11 a.m.) is set back a few more blocks within the East Falls community and very close to the Norristown (fka R6) train line.

Mile 18.50-20.50

All the action the runners will see in the second half of the marathon will be in the famed Manayunk neighborhood. A mile-long stretch of retail shops, bars, and restaurants, runners will get to see it all twice as they hit a turnaround point near the end of the business district. Following is a set of some of the neighborhood’s spots for better beer.

  • Manayunk Brewery (4120 Main Street, 215-482-8220) - Back in the mid-90s when Manayunk as a destination was exploding, the eponymous brewery on the canal opened and has been a popular brewpub and nightspot ever since. They open at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays and serve up a brunch that includes live jazz, build-your-own omelettes, Belgian waffles, and a carving station. A Manayunk Lager (5.3% ABV) or Schuylkill Punch (6.7% ABV, Raspberry Lager) will help wash it all down.
  • Flatrock Saloon (4301 Main Street, 215-483-3722) - Near the mid-point of the runners’ Manayunk Mile is Flatrock Saloon, another early entrant on Main Street serving up good beer in the mid-90s. Here, a celebratory bottle of special Belgian ale could be in order just as well as an American craft beer like Bear Republic Racer 5 to put a hop back in your step.
  • Couch Tomato Cafe and Bistro (102 Rector Street, 215-483-2233) & Le Bus (4266 Main Street, 215-487-2553) are two restaurants serving up fresh and local cuisine with matching beers from Yards, Tröegs, Dogfish Head, and Sly Fox. Le Bus opens conveniently at 9 a.m. and Couch Tomato at 11 a.m. to quell your post-race munchies and thirst.
  • Head a few blocks up the hill from Main Street into the heart of Manayunk’s neighborhood to find bars with quality beer selections like Old Eagle Tavern (177 Markle Street, 215-483-5535, open Sundays 11 a.m.), Terrace Taproom (3847 Terrace Street, 215-222-2222, open Sundays 11 a.m.), and Dawson Street (100 Dawson Street, 215-482-5677, open Sundays 12 p.m.)

Finish Line

You made it, well done! Whether you ran or spectated, you deserve a beer and a day off. The day off you will need to negotiate with your employer. The beer? Philly has it covered.

Read more of Bryan’s work at After Hours in the Communities at the Washington Times.

 

 

 


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Bryan Kolesar

Bryan Kolesar has been tracking down great beer for over twenty years. From the most hard-to-find delicately balanced low alcohol beer to the big monsters weighing in at over 10% ABV, he has yet to find a style that does not have a story to tell and a taste to share. Though, when pushed, Kolesar has historically staked a claim to the Saison style as one of the most versatile and his favorite.

In 2005, Bryan co-founded The Brew Lounge blog/website as a canvas to illustrate the best of the craft brewing industry and to document his own travels within it. Though he has lived in Philadelphia and is currently headquartered in the city's western suburbs, Kolesar shares a wealth of information and images that he collects from his travels around the world and some of the best beers that he has tasted along the way.

In 2010, Kolesar came aboard the Communities section of The Washington Times to contribute stories from across the craft brewing industry as it continues more than ever its explosive growth amongst increasingly more of the mainstream alcohol-consuming public. 

While the beer - its tastes, aromas, and incredible pairing opportunities with food - is often the beginning of a story, he often finds it more interesting to dive into the stories behind the people, places, and events associated with the final product. 

Locally around Philadelphia, he has been named a Beer Writer of the Year finalist multiple times, hosted beer/running events during each annual Philly Beer Week, served as a Philly Beer Geek judge, paneled local beers for submission into the Great American Beer Festival competition, judged beer and food competitions, been featured in local publications chronicling the beer scene, and been named the "Best Beer Guy" of 2008. 

In addition to his beer-y pursuits, Kolesar works a professional career in the business world by day and dabbles in distance running, cooking, homebrewing, gardening, photography, and is a staunch advocate for animal rescue/adoption. He lives with his wife, Patty, of fifteen years and has been a long time, mostly suffering, supporter of local Philadelphia sports.

Contact Bryan Kolesar

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