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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sic Transit Gloria Brewpub, Sic Transit Gloria Philadelphia

Dan Gross reports at the Philadelphia Daily News website that the locked-down Independence brewpub will rapidly become a sports bar, confirming what Uncle Jack and Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell said at the time of Independence's abrupt closing. The particulars:

THE OWNERS of the Public House (18th & Cherry) will soon open the Field House (1150 Filbert), a giant, high-end sports bar on the site of the former Independence Brew Pub, which closed abruptly last month.
Brian Harrington confirmed yesterday that he and partner Gary Cardi signed a lease last week on the property and are hoping for a Nov. 15 opening.
They're going for a similar American fare menu to their popular Public House, and Harrington says "it's not your onion rings and frozen appetizers type of place." The bar will have a raw bar and the pair hope to attract conventioneers as well as catering to a local crowd.

Sigh. I guess I should be happy it's at least a local "giant, high-end sports bar", and not another damned ESPN Zone.

But you know? I'm not. I'm still pissed that this great site for a brewpub never reached its full potential. I blame Jim Bell and his pissing contest business tactics, I blame the Dock Street management folks for not committing immediately to the brewery expansion that was desperately needed, and I blame the following owners for their constant announcements of big changes right around the bend that somehow just never occurred. I blame the beer geeks who could never see past the Guinness and Miller Lite taps to give this brewery-handicapped place a fair chance and support the beers that Tim Roberts did such a great job brewing.

Nodding Head's great, Triumph is excellent, and although Manayunk suffers from the same beer confusion Indy did -- I just got a press release about a Corona event there -- there's still damned good beer being made there. (Whoops. Forgot Dock Street. Sorry, haven't had a chance to get there since it opened!) But where the hell are all the brewpubs that should be in this town?

You'd think that with the big Belgian jones this town obviously has -- Bridgid's, Monk's, Eulogy, Abbaye, Zot, the brand-new Belgian Cafe and the Beneluxx Tasting Room -- that a Belgian-beer brewpub like Brewer's Art would be up and running... Anyone? Anyone? Iron Hill, by God, I love you guys, but why no Philly Iron Hill? Can't be the money, right, they've got a big building fund warchest.

Gordon-Biersch builds big lager palaces like mad in Virginia; does Lagerville USA get one? Nope. I'll tell you what: if I were Dick Yuengling, or one of his daughters (okay, try not to think about that one too visually), I'd open a Yuengling brewpub in Philly. It's a freakin' natural, and done right -- like in the Independence site -- it would kill, and they'd sell even more Lager...and maybe we'd finally see some of those specialty recipes from the old days that they used to tease us about. A game menu for that upstate touch, decor like the brewery taproom, a big giftshop, a big promotional on the first day of deer don't have to pay me for the idea, Dick: it's yours. Free.

But no one does anything. All we do is yap about how great we have it here. Well, you know, it's pretty good. Yeah, yeah, I know, I can get a very wide variety of beers, and there are some excellent bars -- I don't really have any complaints about the places that are here, love 'em -- and there are restaurants with real beer lists. I know that, hell, I've said it too, I've been a big friggin' cheerleader for this town.

But I've also been to both Portlands, I've been to Pittsburgh, I've been to DC, I've been to Madison, I've been to Köln and Düsseldorf, and I'm telling you, we could do better, a lot better, and more people should be saying so. Philadelphia needs more brewpubs to truly be a great beer town.

The floor is open.


Bill said...

Actually, and alas, Chicago's a terrible brewpub town. Some great beer bars, but brewpubs? It has two Goose Island brewpubs, a Rock Bottom, and... well... um... Luckily, Chicago's suburbs have fantastic brewpubs. But I'd guess Milwaukee has more brewpubs than Chicago, and Madison way more.

Lew Bryson said...

Well, there's Piece, too, which I liked a lot, but...yeah, you're right. I'll amend that to Madison. Thanks.

Bill said...

Gawd, forgot Piece, and me a Cheap Trick fan.

Anonymous said...

Still not as bad as Boston. Besides Cambridge Brewing Co. (which is a great brewpub despite their lack of an everyday IPA) there is Rock Bottom and John Harvard's. I have nothing against chain brewpubs in general as I like the Chicago and Denver RB locations and also love Gordon Biersch, but the Boston location is one of the one's that garner RB's reputation as a "corporate" brewpub. And the John Harvard's is hit or miss depending on their seasonals.

And the beer bar scene is not all that impressive either for the great beer town we are supposed to be.

If I could only convince my wife that we need to move to Portland...

Lew Bryson said...

Ain't Boston Beer Works still open?
Sorry to hear about the Boston RB. Is that a re-tooled brew moon like the one we have in Philly? We've got an outstanding brewer here, Brian McConnell (who unfortunately gets next to no props locally), and it's a real asset, beer-wise.

Ah, Portland. Tell you what: you convince my wife, and I'll convince yours, and then you and I can take about a month of drinking to settle this whole IPA thing. Deal?

Anonymous said...


Great point about Philly's lack of brewpubs. Cleveland (my hometown) is half the beer town that Philly is, but they've got one of the coolest bars I've ever been to -- The Great Lakes Brewing Co. brewbub -- right there in the city. It is perenially packed. I have to think a Yuengling, Victory, Dogfish, Flying Fish, etc. bar would take off here, too.

Anonymous said...

Throw NYC in their as well, brewpub wise. The day Triumph or Iron Hill FINALLY expands into NYC will be a great, great day. Not to take anything away from the existing brewpubs there...OK...yeah for the most part they're boring so...

Can someone convince Vinnie C. to open RR-East in NYC? Thanks.

BTW Lew...someone needs to put a bug in Gordon Biersch's ear about the HUGE expansion going on at the casinos in CT. It's sickening to see that conglomerate of wealth being supplied beer by the poor guy running the cheesy extract system. Rock Bottom already said no (yes I e-mailed them).

Unknown said...

Well, there's exactly one true brewpub in NYC, Chelsea, and it's pretty solid across the board. Heartland (brews in Brooklyn) is, yeah, pretty boring and inconsistent.

If we could get an Iron Hill, or a Triumph -- I wouldn't dare to dream Mr. Cilurzo would think about opening in NYC, D-Rap notwithstanding -- then maybe NYC could start to move back toward the mid-90s brewpub heyday for this city.

Unknown said...

Here is my opinion...first I do not think that the Independence was a great location for a brewpub. Its hidden under that dark part of Arch St., with a decent Italian place across the street. After eating all that heavy italian food who wants to drink beer (not the way I think but the tourist mentality)?

There's no parking around there, there's throngs of kids hanging around the Gallery Mall, and at least in my circles, we don't want to go hang out at a place where SEPTA meets tourists. I know Dock St. isn't technically classified as one but if you are gonna do a brewpub, do it like they did, hire an outstanding brewer to draw people in, and open it up in a fringe neighborhood, NOT DOWNTOWN. The people who live in the neighborhood will thank you too because it means they, or their older teenagers can get jobs there after school, and not get in trouble.

If you try to compete with the downtown selection forget it. Read Triumph's beerfly reviews on BA. Alot of them state something like, nothing really here to keep me interested so we went over to the "better beer bar" across the street (Eulogy).

Seriously, beer drinkers even traveling ones, want big beers now. If you are a brewpub, you better plan on making at least one of these and keeping it on at all times if you expect to draw people in. I think in Philadelphia the most successful brewpub would be if some trappist monks moved in from Belgium and opened a brewpub.

Anonymous said...

Good rant Lew! Was just in town recently and happen to drop by (not drink since I was with my daughter) the new Triumph and also checked out Dock St (unforunately closed). I can say these are 2 very nice additions to the Philly beer scene and much needed. Still, Philly has plenty of room for more brewpubs. Do I think Philly is a great beer town? No. I think its a good to very good beer town. I guess depending on how adventurous you are. Its no Portland or Seattle or San Fran, but who really is. I've gotta say, I wasnt all that impressed by Madison, but my last visit did happen 2 years ago. Hope to see more local brewpubs pop up in Philly.



Unknown said...

Yeah casinos...not long ago I posted something regarding to Yards looking for new space on BA. Hello, Chester!!! Parkside!! Eddystone!! Ridley waterfront (yes there is a marina here with only one stupid macro bar)!!!

Lew Bryson said...

I disagree with you on almost everything here, Rebecca: I'm sure you're not surprised!

Indy had a great location: there is traffic all OVER that part of town. It's not necessarily a good location for you, sure, but tourists and conventioneers have to drink and eat too, eh? And there's parking right across the street: it's not cheap, but neither is the parking for Monk's or Nodding Head. you point out, there's a SEPTA stop right there. Suburban guys like me like that.

I appreciate what you like in a brewpub, but brewpubs have to be different. If they're all the same, it's like having restaurants all the same. Not good.

As far as competing with bar selection, look at Nodding Head. They do just fine, they sell every drop of beer they make, and they don't brew crazy. They brew drinkable beers. They've added some big stuff, but they make their money on Grog and Berliner. BeerAdvocates don't keep brewpubs open, and they don't keep breweries afloat, and a brewer will go under if they make pleasing BAs their prime goal.

Now... this part, on the other hand, would rule: I think in Philadelphia the most successful brewpub would be if some trappist monks moved in from Belgium and opened a brewpub. Bring it on!

Lew Bryson said...

It's funny, Davo. This wasn't going to be a rant. I was just going to post that I was bummed that a brewpub had been replaced by another damned sports bar. And then things...happened.

Anonymous said...


I totally forgot about BBW. I wonder why? ;-) Maybe I haven't set foot in a BBW in about two years? The salem location makes a couple of interesting beers (pumpkin and an orval clone of sorts) and the canal street location was heading in a positive direction when it started making belgian styles a few years ago, but the quality never seemed to progress. I read somewhere that one of the partners was leaving, and the other partner wants to focus on expansion over quality.

Their beers were never drinkable to me - yeast gave all their beers a similar cloying aspect that made them hard to drink.

Unknown said...

fair enough about the tourists Lew but I was at the Media beerfest earlier in the year talking to Gordon G. and their Hoptimus Prime DIPA keg kicked in two hours. Even he was thrilled that people loved it so much. I agree with you!! I too like Gordon's beers, just not the 700 level...Berliner Weiss I agree is a special beer, its won lots of awards, Gordon had great insight to start brewing that beer when nobody else was around here. and ditto for the Grog, its great too.

I guess I did seem to be expressing the beer advocate viewpoint, this is why blogs are good. I appreciate others' knowledge but personally I don't feel I am a typical BA because I don't like imperial beers.

Unknown said...

I think brewpubs in malls are a great idea, this is why I so conveniently get to Rock Bottom KOP so often. But Franklin Mills is so far away from the west, north and downtown, plus its a discount mall at that, plus there is Jillian's to compete with...and the Gallery is not a real mall, at least to me.

Lew Bryson said...

Okay, you were at a beer festival, and a huge hoppy beer was popular, and...wait, you lost me on how that helped your argument. Beer festivals aren't real life! Just ask Larry Horwitz.

But yeah, you sure aren't a typical BA. Heh. Except for the passionate part, that you got!

Not sure what you mean about the malls: I think a brewpub at Franklin Mills would be a disaster. Haven't seen too many mall-based brewpubs succeed; of course, I haven't seen too many mall-based brewpubs, period. Stewart's is in a big plaza and does well, the Rock Bottom out in Pittsburgh packs 'em in, and I guess the RB in KoP does okay. Otherwise? Dunno.

Anonymous said...

Now try Albany, NY for lousy brewpubs. And losing brewpubs.

Big House, Big House Grill, VanDyck and Malt River have all closed fairly recently. Yes, Albany Pump STation is here, beer is great, food is sporadic. Brown Brewing is great on both food and beer but they are still up for sale I believe, since they want to move onto production brewing.

Mahars is a world class beer bar so long as you miss the YUSHies and SUNY Albany studentia that accumulate there.

Now i did find a little place in Tannersville, NY (close to Hunter and TAP NY) that has over 300 bottled beers and some unusual food alomng with a knowledgeable wait staff, this was a gem. (Last Cahnce Cheese Shop on Main Street)

I also think that they are putting in an Old Chicago Pasta and Pizza restaurant in the Albany area. They bost 110 drafts, but there are a lot of the usual suspects from what I gather on the website. Only time will tell.

I'd love to have the variety of places some of you have.

Its not beer hell but maybe beer purgatory.

Lew Bryson said...

I know, I must sound like a real ass complaining about Philly. If it weren't for the constant stream of folks saying how great it is here... It's good here. But it's not great, and it could be great, but we need more. I do recognize that there are many folks who wish they lived in a place this 'okay.' Sorry.

Anonymous said...

's ok Lew, I'm originally from Central Bucks County myself and I'd bitch about Philly too. Who better to be a pain in the ass about someplace than someone who lives there?

I'll buy you a cheese steak wit' and some soft pretzels.

Rick Sellers said...

Sounds like I have it pretty good in Sacramento... but I knew that.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Lew: "Haven't seen too many mall-based brewpubs succeed; of course, I haven't seen too many mall-based brewpubs, period."

DuClaw in Arundel Mills Mall. With its traffic, you'd think they're the only brewpub in the Baltington-Washingmore area. It's usually a freakin' zoo whenever I show up. Look also at Red Brick Station in White Marsh, Md. and Rock Bottom in Arlington.

But back to original topic: Look at Baltimore. By this time next week, we'll be down to two in-city brewpubs, one "tied house" brewpub with brewing in a far-flung distant town, two suburban brewpubs (and that's being generous calling Ellicott City a "suburb"), and one production brewery. Losses: Brimstone, Globe Brewing, Baltimore Brewing, Sisson's, that Champion Billiards abomination, and Bare Bones (same suburbs definition). In my book, we need at least one more brewpub just to get back to "acceptable".

Lew Bryson said...

Hey, you guys want to go on about your own towns, dammit, start a blog! I'm whining about Philly here...

Anonymous said...

"I'm whining about Philly here..."

Tangent Brewing Co.! Start your own!


Honestly, as Fertile as that Crescent is down there it is puzzling not to see more of its fertility spread into the city. In time perhaps? If not new blood then maybe Triumph can just open like a half dozen more spots in town? Works for me.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like its time to update the books, Lew! :)

Lew Bryson said...

We were just talking over a 4th edition last week...AAAAAAAAA!!!!

ksqdomer said...

why don't you just bankroll the "Dude" and get it over with?

Anonymous said...

You haven't posted in so long I have to comment on your archives ;-).

How bout that RB KOP??? Brian McConnell's Barleywine=2007 GABF gold medal!! He seriously could be in the top five local brewers shortlist [Dude, O'Reilly, Dude's protege Ryan, and Gordon G. would be the other 4]. Nice!

Plus what I meant about the malls was that I am a chick and I like to shop! Its handy to go have a fresh pint from an award winning brewer after scoring great deals at Nordstroms and Bloomingdales sale events! Not just me, but a few of my past boyfriends also took advantage of the brewpub's convenience and preferred to sit there drinking pints while waiting for me to finish shopping, lol.