Day 1 in Philly – Bikes, Craft Beer, & Art

Handy maps made getting around central Philly pretty easy

Handy maps made getting around central Philly pretty easy

Usually I don’t plan my adventures in painstaking detail. This was no ordinary east coast swing. My buddy was getting hitched, which
meant the focus of our trip was celebrating his big weekend. But since I arrived a day early and with no pre-wedding plans to speak of, this seemed like an ideal time to get some quality Philly time in. Here’s how it went…

I lucked out and stumbled via twitter onto a treasure trove of good food and beer knowledge. In search of beer, somebody named kaedrin, and a couple other sources painted an excellent craft beer picture for me. This was augmented by a scan of some quality food options, good friends tips who were literally just here for a wedding, and my new food ace Dave Gatzke (this guy). Information in tow, 9am arrival time coming, I plotted (literally, using maps tool) my adventure. This is it:

9:00 am – arrive and head to Marriott downtown at market

10:00 am – first in line at my buddy’s (Dave Lizerbram – the Daves are everywhere) recommendation – Barnes Foundation Art

11:30 am – I only understand certain kinds of art, so I’m planning to be ready for the walk to Independence Beer Garden by now. To be clear, I really like art, just usually I prefer street corners or funky studios to museums. And I’m more of a performance kind of guy anyway

(Post-trip Update: On my way to the Barnes I saw a bike rental place on Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. So I decided to stop and pick up a bike for $38 for the day. I figured I could see more of the city, get a little exercise, and experience whether Philly was a bike friendly city. I did end up making the trip to the Barnes. I have to admit the narrated exhibits helped add to the interest for me. But in the end, very little of the actual art spoke to me in any meaningful way. It was a short trip, but one I’m glad I did. I looked at works by Matisse and Picasso and various others and really just couldn’t get into any of them. I didn’t  realize at the time what my mental block was, but on day three I found out on the Mural Mile.

The one photo I took from my time at the Barnes - this thing probably has meaning, I just don't know what it is

The one photo I took from my time at the Barnes – this thing probably has meaning, I just don’t know what it is


Independence Beer Garden was a fun spot I found courtesy of Kaedrin (twitter) – a solid beer guy named Mark. Pop up beer gardens all arrived in Philly this year and all I can say is…WHAT.THE.EFF!?! How is Philly, and all its terrible weather, finding its way to quick-turn beer gardens and we have some of the country’s best weather but our silly beer laws make such things really, really hard to pull off? Damn. Anyway, Carly was my bartender. She was super patient with my wide-eyed curiosity and too many questions. I tried three beers: Yards Pale (meh), Wolaver Pumpkin (lots of pumpkin, but really almost too much), and a full pour of the Sixpoint Bengali IPA along with some pretzel bites. The IPA was very mild. I occasionally like a mild version, but this wasn’t my thing. I drank about half, observed the bocce, and ping pong, corn hole and kitchen in a shipping container, and got ready to ride out to the new Washington Ave pier

Random, well-placed pop-up beer garden across from the Liberty Bell

Random, well-placed pop-up beer garden across from the Liberty Bell

12:30 pm – pacing myself, it’s off to Washington Ave pier to appreciate reclaimed public space and nature, love me some nature (especially when close to the city and I don’t have to, ya know, sleep in it).

2:00 pm – back on my horse, it’s up to NoLibs to check out much heralded Standard Tap

(Post-trip Update: first off, Standard Tap doesn’t open until 4pm, which I found out once I finally got there – my own fault for not consulting the Google. I actually went down to Yards Brewing. This was a short 10-minute bike ride back to the water and then up the road a bit. My experience at Yards was great for the setting and for seeing what a brewery and pub is like in another town. I’ll get to the beer in a minute.

Had a few very solid offerings at Yards

Had a few very solid offerings at Yards

Before I left for philly I’d taken a look at several beer sites and links. The one for Yards Brewing was especially enticing to me. You can read it for yourself HERE. But if you didn’t read it, just know that they are committed to responsible brewing practices, sustainability, and quality. In terms of the beer, I tried: Love Stout (great flavor but a little thin in mouth feel for me), Thomas Jefferson Pale (unremarkable), spruce (winner, very unique, well done, clean beer. Very pleased), Grand Cru (it was solid, really good actually), and the Pynk (unique, brewed with sour cherries, decent specialty beer), and a bourbon barrel aged ale that I rather enjoyed at Peggy’s recommendation.)

I had a sandwich there, but it was ordinary bar food, so if on a tight schedule with limited meals to enjoy I wouldn’t spend one on the smoked sausage with chili and cheese. As for Standard Tap, it was fine. I tried a few beers that were not at all memorable and then split. Wasn’t anything overwhelming on the draft list, but the hitching posts out front and the vibe inside were cool enough. And their environmentally friendly practices of getting energy off the heat from the walk in were stellar. On the beer front, I tried: Troegs Sunshine, Manyunk IPA, a Belgian session beer that was not my taste, and the one thing I had there I’d recommend, a Dock Street Trippel. I’d passed a place called The Abbaye a few blocks away on my bike so made my way there instead. Great call.

My glorious view inside The Abbaye

My glorious view inside The Abbaye

I was given this recommendation by my friend Sam, a former Philly resident who now holds it down for the two-wheeled set in San Diego.  She like good beer and good spots, so I had high hopes.  The Abbaye wasn’t great for its beer list, but I found a Fin du Monde to go with some mussels and settled in. Bartender was a very nice young guy planning his own trip west. I told him he ought to consider San Diego. We’ll see.)

3:30 pm – staying in NoLibs, quick jaunt to Yards Brewing to sample some local product. Hoping to explore the neighborhood a little, really hoping I can find me a bike to rent

(Post-trip Update: This obviously happened)

6:00 pm – back to the hotel for a nap. I did take a red eye after all and will have been going pretty hard

(Post-trip Update: ended up skipping the nap, dropping off the rental bike, and meeting up with a friend at McGillins. Having gone to an old bar in NYC I thought this’d be a cool place to post up. It was way more welcoming than McSorleys and better beer.)

Yep, 1860, that IS old

Yep, 1860, that IS old

I love these old pubs.  Mostly because of the gems you can find on the walls.  Like this

Just the type of thing that makes a really old pub worth the visit

Just the type of thing that makes a really old pub worth the visit

8:00 pm – posting up for a quick beer at Philly‘s oldest ale house. Nice. (Post-trip Update: In addition to doing this we walked to Nodding Head, another Sam recommendation. I wished I’d kept track, but remember having a porter of some kind that was decidedly above average.)

9:00 pm – dinner with wife at Cuba de Alma

(Post-trip Update: there is much to be said about our Cuban excursion in Philly. Sadly, as I am wont to do, this post has gotten a little long in the tooth.  And the lighting is perfect for romance, not so much for picture taking in the restaurant.  So I enjoyed the experience but can’t remember it very well. )

11:00 pm – drink at the Hop Sing laundry speak easy

(Post-trip Update: bummed I missed this. It was a Dave Lizerbram recommendation for cocktails.  Dave is one of the better sources of cocktail recommendations in the San Diego area.  I have sadness in my heart for having missed this one.  Alas.  Next time.)

If most of this happens I’ll be thrilled.

Day One in Philly is in the books.  What a wild ride.  So glad I found a bike.  Even more glad Philly gives you generally safe places to ride.  My friends had recently put on a massive bike ride called Bikes and Beers in San Diego that traversed the city, so we are slowly getting bike friendliness more right.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to find on the wall in Yards that my buddy John had gone bi-coastal with this cool bike event.  If you happen to read this in Philly, it’s on September 28, 2014, so not at all too late to get on it. Return to Philly index HERE.


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