At the Standard Tap, they threw away the church key

Don’t ask for a bottle of Bud at the Standard Tap, Northern Liberties’ newest old tavern.

And forget about ordering a can of Yuengling, a quart of Coors or even a bottle of one those fancy-shmancy microbrews.

The bar – on the site of one of the city’s oldest taverns at 2nd and Poplar streets – sells only one kind of beer: draft.

“Fresh draft beer is so good, it made no sense to sell bottles,” said the bar’s co-owner, William Reed. Especially, he said, since “we have so many great, local – underappreciated – breweries within an hour of here.”

So the Standard Tap, which opened last month, features a line of 11 spigots and two hand pumps that spray only Philly-area suds. On Joe Sixpack’s visit this week, Victory Golden Monkey, Yards ESA and Stoudt’s Pils – all brewed within 60 miles of the pub – were filling up the $4 pints.

The proud selection of locals is reason enough to drop by this neighborhood stop.

One step inside, though, and you’re immediately struck by a sense of history, of Philadelphia brewing tradition.

Located within a block of America’s first colonial lager brewery, the bar likely dates back to the mid-1700s, when it was known as the Bull’s Head Inn. Actually, Reed and his partner, Paul Kimport, aren’t certain about that lineage.

“We traced the history back to 1850,” Reed said. “If the Bull’s Head wasn’t on this site, it was right next door.”

The building’s shell is about all that’s left from those days, though.

Reed and Kimport did a Norm Abrams job on the building, refurbishing it with handcrafted wood furniture, restoring the plaster walls and tin ceiling and outfitting the kitchen. The main attraction is a 15-foot-long solid cherry bar they designed and fabricated themselves.

Neither of the owners is a carpenter by trade. Kimport (who is chef) is a former server at Striped Bass; Reed was the brewer at the now-defunct Samuel Adams Brewhouse.

Though Reed would like to serve his own ales some day, he won’t be making them on site.

“This isn’t a brewery,” he said. “It’s a tap.”

Nearby: The 700 (2nd and Fairmount), with an excellent bottle selection and taps; and Poor Henry’s Brewery (American and Poplar streets).

About that name: “We wanted something industrial-sounding. Then I came across the Standard Feather Co. [in nearby Fishtown], and we loved the sound.”

Strange but tasty menu item: Smelts for $7.

Juke-box favorite: “Marquis Moon,” by Television.

Beer Radar

* Large, huge, massive – there are not enough words in Joe Sixpack’s vocabulary to describe the keg presence next week at the Khyber (56 S. 2nd St., Old City). A dozen casks of high-octane winter brews – all plugged in 1998 – will pour from the faucets on Wednesday at the bar’s Big Ass Beers Fest II.

Among the year-old malt monsters on tap: Flying Fish Abbey Dubbel, Dogfish Head Big Winter Ale, Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde and Victory Old Horizontal.

The festival starts at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but you pay for the pints and food, catered by Blue Ox Brauhaus.

* Tix are on sale ($40) for the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s annual Book and the Cook beer-tasting with Michael Jackson on March 4. Since this is the 10th year the British hops-sniffer has sipped suds with the sarcophagi, the museum is throwing a $150-a-head black-tie dinner on March 3 to benefit its Sumerian dictionary project. Info: 215-898-4890.

* The bottom of the Belgian barrel has been officially scraped: Stella Artois is here.

The beer’s multinational brewer, which also produces Labatt and Rolling Rock, calls Stella Artois “Europe’s favorite Belgian lager.” Big deal. That’s the equivalent of being named America’s favorite Canadian merlot.

Friends, Belgium is far better known for its outstanding ales – lambics and saisons and and trappists and abbey-styles. Many of those brews have been available in the city for the past decade.

You want a great imported pilsner, try something from the Czech Republic (Pilsner Urquell). You want a cheap pilsner, stick with Bud.

* Fact of the week: Anheuser-Busch, which controls nearly half of the American beer market, sold 95.7 million barrels of beer in 1999. Put in appalling perspective, A-B produces more beer every six weeks than the entire microbrew industry has produced since it started in 1983.

Not sure if it means anything, but Anheuser-Busch this week was named an official sponsor of the presidential debates for the 2000 election.

Joe Sixpack, by staff writer Don Russell, was written this week with a bottle of Fantome de Noel.


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