My friends and I were brainstorming ideas for a 21st birthday celebration when we stumbled upon an all-night event that would do just the job: Philly Brew Tours. There isn’t a much better way to celebrate your 21st than pretending to be sophisticated in the art of alcohol as you pack yourself into a van and have a paid guide drive you to various breweries. Make sure to caption your Instagram “Finally Legal!” with the beer-clinking emoji just like all other humans who have ever turned 21, and you’ll be on your way to a 21st birthday success.
Being the somewhat responsible friend (take that as you will), I decided to take notes on the various breweries and beers we tried throughout the night. We went to four different breweries and taste-tested three or four beers at each one. Here are my thoughts, including my friends’ opinions, listed in order of breweries attended:
Yards Brewing Company
Located right on the Schuylkill River, Yards has an authentic “brewery” feel. The bar, or drinking area, is located right next to the brewhouse, separated only by a wall of glass. So, as you sip on your beer, you can admire the enormously large, metal tanks that made it.
Favorite: Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce
The fan-favorite at Yards was by far Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce. Using local, organic spruce tips, this beer tasted just like a Christmas tree! The recipe was inspired by Penn’s very own Benjamin Franklin, who called for barley, molasses, and essence of spruce in his beers.
Second Favorite: Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale
This beer is considered a Strong Golden Ale and pays homage to our Founding Father, and brewer, Thomas Jefferson. The ale had a strong honey flavor and great carbonation – an amazing choice to kick back and relax on a nice summer’s day.
Least Favorite: General Washington’s Tavern Porter
Apparently, the recipe for this beer was inspired by George Washington’s porter recipe he sent in a letter to his troops. This porter was dark, with a hint of dried fruit at the end. My friends and I were not fans.
Most Interesting: Love Stout
If you’re a chocolate and coffee lover, this beer is for you. The beer is actually made from chocolate malt and will leave a delicious dessert flavor in your mouth. And who doesn’t like dessert?
2nd Story Brewing Company
Right off of the Schuylkill River and in the heart of Old City, 2nd Story is located in one of the most desirable areas in Philadelphia. The brewery has its own restaurant so we were feasting on chicken wings, grilled cheese and pretzels with cheese dip. Yeah, our mouths were in heaven.
Favorite: Bipartisan Pale Ale
The Bipartisan Pale Ale had everyone wanting more. This beer had a deliciously tropical and fruity taste, but not in a typically “sweet” sense. Adored by beer-lovers and beer-haters alike!
Second Favorite: Fritzie’s Lager
This beer had what my friends and I called a “sour flower” aftertaste – whatever that means. It was a little sweet, but mostly malty.
Least Favorite: Dark Money Saison
The Dark Money Saison was quite the disappointing porter. The carbonation in this beer was flat, and the beer didn’t actually taste much like beer at all. It had a strong chocolate after-taste, though, so at least it had something going for it.
Most Interesting: Bipartisan Pale Ale
The Bipartisan took the cake for both Favorite and Most Interesting. The beer had a lot of unique and bright flavors. And, it smells like roses!
Dock Street Brewery
Dock Street Brewery occupies an old firehouse right near Penn’s campus. Along with their brews, they make amazing wood-fired pizzas and also specialize in a supposedly-incredible Sunday brunch. This place is a hipster-haven.
Favorite: Bubbly Wit
Like the name suggests, this beer is brewed with 100% champagne yeast. I can almost hear the classy bells ringing. For the get-beer-or-go-home types, this might not be for you. Some friends felt it was too much of a “wanna-be-champagne” beer for them. Others loved the taste of this light, sweet, refreshing and bubbly beer. This beer would be a perfect companion for a day at the pool or oceanside.
Second Favorite: S’Orachi Pale Ale
For the sweet-lovers out there: this beer is for you. The pale ale is brewed with Pilsner, Rye and Caramel malts. This sweet beer left a hint of lemon and spice flavors in our mouths. Another beer perfect for the dog days of summer!
Least Favorite: Oatmeal Stout
The name says it all. Oatmeal Stout? No, thank you. The beer is actually brewed with oatmeal, barley, and chocolate malts. Too many flavors for one beer.
Most Interesting: Bubbly Wit
Bubbly wit takes the cake for most interesting; we’d never had, or heard of, a beer and champagne combination drink. It was interesting and delicious.
Of all the breweries, Brauhaus Schmitz felt the most like a proper bar. You can order one of those huge jugs of beer that all of your friends who studied abroad and went to Oktoberfest drank from. Located in the heart of South Street, it was definitely a fun place to end our night. A fun and cute little note: their tables are made from the same barrels that once held the beer!
Favorite: Braubäcker Berliner Weisse
This beer was our absolute favorite from the whole tour. It tastes a bit like a strongbow cider with a tart taste like lemonade. Light, refreshing, bubbly and sweet. We learned it’s apparently called a “sour” beer, made with Brett yeast.
Second Favorite: Frankenheim Alt
Frankheim Alt is a dark beer with a slightly fruity undertone. I personally hate dark beers, so I was not a huge fan. Those who favored dark beers to light, though, loved this one.
Least Favorite: Mahr’s Der Weisse
This one was horrendously repulsive. I almost spit the beer out back into the tasting cup. It tasted strongly like cherry medicine – AKA the worst taste, ever. In addition, it was flat with little carbonation. I’m a big fan of sweet beers, but this beer had an almost twisted sweet flavor – kind of like licorice. Personally, I would rather take Banker’s to the face than have to try this beer again.
Most Interesting: Frankenheim Alt
Typically dark beers don’t have a fruity taste to them, so this one was refreshingly unusual for us. If you’re not a huge fan of dark beers like me, try this one and it just might warm you up for other dark beers down the road.
If you’re looking for the most fun night out, I would suggest going to Brauhaus Schmitz or 2nd Story. These two places have room to dance and definitely get rowdier late into the night. If you just really love beer, then Yards and Dock Street are probably a better fit for you. These two places were much more about the art of brewery than the art of partying. Overall, Philly Brew Tours was a great experience for beer-haters and beer-lovers alike. The guide was personable, informative and responsible. Would recommend: 9/10 (because nothing is perfect).