Ranking Our Regional Brewpubs
- Chinon00 Jan 17, 2008 10:59 AM
So I decided to rank the fifteen regional brewpubs that I’ve visited at least once within the past year according to atmosphere, food and of course beer (Atmosphere 0-2pts Food 0-3pts Beer 0-5pts). The highest possible score therefore is 10 points. Here they are:
Appalachian Brewing Company (Harrisburg, PA) 6
Bethlehem Beer Works (Bethlehem, PA) 6.5
Dogfish Head (Rehobeth Beach, DE) 8
G.G. Brewpub (Glenside, PA) 4.5
General Lafayette Inn (Lafayette Hill, PA) 6
Independence Brewpub (Philadelphia, PA) 6
Iron Hill Brewery (North Wales, PA) 7
Lancaster Brewing Company (Lancaster, PA) 6
Manayunk Brewpub (Philadelphia, PA) 5.5
McKenzie's (Glenn Mills, PA) 6
Nodding Head (Philadelphia, PA) 4
Rock Bottom Brewery (King of Prussia, PA) 6
Slyfox Brewpub (Phoenixville, PA) 8
Triumph Brewery (Philadelphia, PA) 7
Victory Brewpub (Downingtown, PA) 7.5
Of the places that I have been on your list I think your rankings are very generous. I have been to many brewpubs from Maine down to the Carolinas and I think when it comes to brewpubs that our area is quite poor.
Honestly there isn't a brewpub in the area that I would give more than a 6 and the only one on your list that would get that would be Iron Hill (West Chester and North Wales).
Independence Brewpub is closed. I guess that means they score a zero.
And only a 4 for Nodding Head? While their beer is hit or miss (2/5) their food is usually good (2/3) and nothing wrong with the atmosphere - (1.5/2). That's 5.5 from me. People trash this place and I'm not sure why.
For atmosphere and food I looked at it like this (and I could be wrong).
I think that overall Triumph (both in Phila and New Hope) has very good atmosphere for example because: the staff is knowledgeable and friendly, the crowd is cool, and they have a nice sort of modern layout and design with plenty of points of visual interest. They’ve never been unreasonably noisy either when I’ve been (which is more of a personal preference I know)
For food, since we are talking about pub food essentially I referenced the food at really good gastropubs (e.g. Royal Tavern) as being 5 out of 5 and went from there.
Note: I’ve yet to have visited a brewpub with food as good or as interesting as Royal Tavern, Tap, etc.
Note 2: I gave General Lafayette 1 of 2 (atmosphere), 1 of 3 (food), 4 of 5 (beer)
Note 3: IMHO if you scored 5pts or below you shouldn't be in business.
You asked my opinion and I gave it. Sorry that I don't agree with everyone.
As I posted above, I've been to many brewpubs, especially in the New England, New York State and some in Ohio and when it comes to brewpubs, this area pales in comparison.
That said if we take out my out of state experiences out of the equation then I guess the General's beer would be more like a 3.5.
I travel a lot and I will be sure to visit Brewer's Art in Baltimore (as suggested by Buckethead) when I get a chance. The website looks fantastic. But could you please breakdown a few places that you've visited in New York State, New England, etc via atmosphere, food and beer that you really like. I'd really appreciate it.
First of all General Lafayette has cask conditioned ale (two handles) and that in and of itself deserves extra points. I do not find their food to be bad, and I am a food snob. They have comfort food there (mac and cheese), good wings, a good chicken cheese steak, a decent steak salad, and a good charcuterie plate. I have also been to a beer dinner there where the food was outstanding.
I put their food way over Rock Bottom food which I find to be a glorified Applebees and the atmosphere in Rock Bottom feels like a warehouse, where you cannot hear yourself think.
Re Victory, their food is pedestrian though their pizzas are pretty good. The best reason to go to Victory is to try beers there they dont distribute.
Have you ever been to the Brewer's Art in Baltimore? If Dogfish Head counts as 'Regional', I'd say they do too. Their beers are not very widely available in Philadelphia as they don't bottle anything, they only sell kegs, and precious few of those from what the bartender there told me. Southwark (4th and Bainbridge) has their Resurrection on draft, so do a few other places. Anyway, the atmosphere there is a 2/2, the food is at least a 2/3 (great burger and fries), and the beers are easily a 5. If you ever get down that way, definitely go there. Actually it may be worth the trip all by itself, it's a 90-minute (or so) drive or an hour train ride.
You cannot rate Brewers Art without recognizing number 1, they try to be a european style restaurant. They try to pair beers and food together and they have a good selection of cheeses. They are a food destination for people who do not like beer and they have a great wine list (for a brew pub).
Also noted about Brewers Art is they have guest beers on tap.
If you are willing to include Harrisburg and Rehobeth then I would say you must consider Stoudt's in Adamstown. No doubt some of the finest micro-brewed beer in the region.
I broke down Nodding Head as 1/1/2 (average atmosphere, below average food and beer). In the many years that it has been open and that I've been going I can't recall ever having a memorable meal or beer there. I simply can't say that about any other regional brewpub that I've visited. I scored G.G. Brewer's slightly higher (0.5/1.5/2.5) because I actually have found myself intrigued by one or two of their beers and I find the Wednesday bar menu a treat and at a great price (if they still have it). I can't name one beer (or meal) that I've truly craved (or remember) from Nodding Head.
I've only been to Sly Fox and Victory and would probably rate them about where you do. Victory has zero atmosphere and fairly poor food but top beer. Sly Fox has better atmosphere and food but the beer I would give it hair less unless they have a bunch of their "single hop" IPAs on tap. I've always wanted to go to DFH but never made it. They are my favorite brewer in the US.
Someone mentioned New York and New England brewpubs. There's one fairly unknown in Western Mass call Opa Opa. Food was very good and the beers were outstanding. It's sort of in the middle of nowhere unless you are from the area or go to one of the 5 colleges.
I agree with your sentiments about Sly Fox v. Victory. Although I gave them both 5s for beer, I personally give Victory the nod over Sly Fox but (like you) only slightly. My thinking was like this:
• To score a 4 for beer means that although you brew remarkable beer I can immediately think of several places that I think serve significantly better beer across the board.
• To score a 5 means that you brew remarkable beer and I cannot think of any places that are significantly better.
So therefore I don't consider Victory to be significantly better than Slyfox.
PS – This year’s IPA Project at Sly Fox was remarkable.
Below I've sorted by Philadelphia region, ratebeer.com's “Best Brewpubs 2007” http://www.ratebeer.com/ratebeerbest/.... I don't know what their criteria were but I found it interesting. My only major beef was ranking Bethlehem Brew Works over: Slyfox, Dogfish Head, General Lafayette or any Iron Hill establishment. Note: I've added the ranking out of 100 in parenthesis.
Bethlehem Brew Works (#28)
Iron Hill – North Wales (#29)
Dogfish Head (#37)
General Lafayette (#40)
Iron Hill – West Chester (#49)
Appalachian Brewing Company (#58)
Nodding Head (#81)
Iron Hill – Newark (#88)
McKenzie’s Brew House (#97)
re: Bob Loblaw
Well some of the areas best brews (Victory, Yards, Dogfishead,) are really trying to be regional brewers and the food is an after thought. The experience of visiting the brew pub is almost secondary to trying beers. We lost several of the best examples of brew pubs, namely the original Dock Street, and the original Sam Adams Brewhouse (which personally I liked better than Noddinghead).
Two brewpubs that were not mentioned were Porterhouse in Lahaska, PA (until recently contract brewed by Yards, do not know what has happened there.) which I would give a 3 - 4 for its beers, 3 for its food and 3 for its atmosphere. Its best attribute is that its smoke free, it has limited parking and gets crowded. The range of the beers is pretty good, and they sometimes have guest beers available from yards.
The other one that is just within the greater Philadelphia area is Shipp Inn in Milford PA. Home of "Best Bitter" they are a true authentic british style brew pub. Atmosphere is great, nice place to meet the locals and have some pretty good food (Stilton skins, wings, Scotch Eggs, Tiddy Oggie etc). On Sundays they do a mean Roast Beast and Yorkshire Pudding. The beer is brewed with the Ringwood process (they got their yeast from Shipyard in Maine), so you have to like the buttery diacytals that this process produces. I do. Other beers there include a great porter, several good stouts, and one of the few milds that is still brewed. They also have a wonderful selection of guest beers both on tap and about 200 in bottles. I would give this 4s across the board, and give them kudos for not having a tv in the bar and for going non smoking before the whole state did! They are found in Milford NJ, right across the river from Upper Black Eddy which is in Upper Bucks County.
Finally people who like microbrews and seafood should check out Crabby Larry's in Chalfont, PA. A seafood restaurant and a small brewpub, they do a couple of interesting beers including their Wild Oat Winter Warmer, and their Whiskey Vanilla Porter. Also a great place to get Oyters Po'boys and great fresh seafood through out the year. 3's across the board.
I lived in Philly for three years and personally found Nodding Head to be excellent for both food and beer -- and compared to other places within walking distance, the food was a decent value. I liked their BPA (Bill Payer Ale). As for Independence, I'm glad to hear it's gone. It had this prime location at Reading Terminal/Market East Station, and squandered it with forgettable beer, loud music and mediocre food. I still recall the pizza I sent back at that place -- undercooked dough, sickeningly sweet sauce and cheap cheese of indeterminate origin. Rock Bottom ought to grab that place and establish a presence in Center City.