The single most frequent question beer-drinkers ask me (aside from how I convinced the Daily News to pick up my beer tab) is: Where the heck can I buy the beers you write about?
These people don’t actually speak in italics, by the way. But they are thirsty enough for great beer to whine about the sad state of beer distribution in Philadelphia. Though craft brews are finding their way into some neighborhood taverns, it’s still pretty hard to find a decent place to pick up a sixpack.
Restaurants mark up their sixes big-time.
Takeout stores, with their limited fridge space, stick to Coors, Bud and 40s of Colt.
Logic would tell you the best place for a broad selection would be distributors. But the state’s anti-consumer liquor law defies logic and forbids them from selling anything less than a case.
That minimum isn’t such a big deal when you’re talking about laying out 15 bucks for a mainstream beer you’ve tasted 100 times before. Sooner or later, you’re going to finish off all 24 bottles.
Micros and imports are a different matter, though. At 25 bucks or more a case, it’s like putting all your chips on double-zero and hoping you’ll like the taste of that chocolate-raspberry porter.
So what do you do if you want just six bottles of a potentially great beer? Well, it’s back to those takeouts. Thankfully, a handful in the city and ‘burbs provide an extraordinary selection.
As a public service (and as an attempt to end some of those italicized questions from beer fans), here’s a handy guide to the top takeout beer places in and around Philly. Each has at least 100 quality beers to go, and most will give you a price break if you want to mix and match different brews in your sixpack.
(Sorry if I’ve forgotten your favorite. Give me a yell if you know of a great takeout spot we all should know about.)
- The Foodery (10th and Pine streets, Center City). The corner store has some of the most knowledgeable beer aficionados around; they know what you want to drink.
- Terry’s Delicatessen (2016 Darby Road, Havertown). Joe Sixpack grew up on Mrs. Terry’s hoagies and imports from more than 30 countries.
- Ashton Market (Springton and Marshall roads, Upper Darby). More than 750 beers, cross-referenced on the store’s computer.
- Food Tek (24 S. 2nd St., Old City). Lots of imports, strangely displayed on their sides in deli cases.
- Kitchen USA (1933 Spruce St., Center City). Not a huge selection, but some surprises and cigars.
- Epicurean Restaurant and Bar (902 Village at Eland, Route 113, Phoenixville). The fine restaurant has an adjoining takeout shop featuring more than 300 beers.
- Landis Restaurant (118 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne). More than 150 beers, plus cigars.
- Michael’s Deli (Valley Forge Shopping Center, King of Prussia).
- Civeres (State Road and Lansdowne Avenue, Clifton Heights).
One of the best by-the-bottle stores in the region, State Line Liquors (1610 Elkton Road, Elkton, Md.), is hosting a best-of-brews tasting from 7 to 9 tonight. Elkton’s a bit of a haul for most of us, but this store is worth a side trip if you’re heading down I-95. Tonight’s tasting will feature the favorite beers of State Line’s customers. Call 800-446-9463 for info and directions.
Poor Henry’s Brewery (829 N. American St., Northern Liberties) has started bottling its beer, for what it’s worth. The brewpub is a nice spot for a drink, but I’m still waiting for a little more oomph out of its beers . . . Meanwhile, Yards of Manayunk is still wrasslin’ with its bottler. Plans are still on tap to produce 12-ounce bottle-conditioned ales (an English version of Sierra Nevada) . . . The second annual Beer Season starts Dec. 1 at the Grey Lodge (6235 Frankford Ave., Wissinoming). Hunt 12 featured beers (including local winter favorites Dogfish Head Immort Ale and Victory Old Horizontal) and you get a free T-shirt.
Remember when Rolling Rock was the in-beer of the yuppie crowd? Latrobe’s finest spent its 15 minutes in the spotlight until “30Something” crowed Dock Street as the yup beverage of choice. Well, Rolling Rock is going back to basics and, according to its press release, will “embrace” its “core equity.” No, not its lager, stoopid. The bottle! From now on, all Rolling Rock will be sold in those painted green longnecks – and that includes those delightful one-gulp seven-ounce ponies.
LAST BUT NOT YEAST
Another empty reminder of Philadelphia’s beer past is hitting the dust. Demolition crews are bringing down the John Hohenadel Brewery on Indian Queen Lane in East Falls.
Old-timers might remember its slogan, “Have a Hohenadel.” But since the company stopped brewing well before Joe Sixpack hit the legal drinking age, I can’t tell you a thing about the lagers it once produced. I’d love to hear from anyone with memories of the brewery.