Phoenixville Pa – already a “go to” night spot for the GenX and Millennial craft beer crowd – with Sly Fox less than 10 minutes away – a craft beer destination since 1995. Now in 2017 Phoenixville boasts four other craft microbreweries (all within walking distance of each other) a craft distillery, top flight bottle shop, and rumors of even more to come.
Can four craft breweries be sustained in a relatively small location like Chester County’s Phoenixville? 28 Miles northwest of Philadelphia, and not particularly accessible by public transportation – who’s gonna drink all that beer – and will all the breweries survive?
Starting from the east on Bridge street is Iron Hill Phoenixville one the growing chain’s 12 brew pubs. It has been the only craft brewery in the center of town for over 10 years. Often overlooked by craft beer appreciators, in the past several years Iron Hill has gone out of their way to create inventive and flavorful craft beer – including a line of varying IPA’s powerful enough to make any hop head geek quite satisfied. They have some great brewers – (Chris LaPierre and the now head brewer of the fine 2SP– Bob Barrar, being just a couple), and have been producing award winning consistently high quality craft beer for decades.
That said, Iron Hill tends to appeal to the business set, family groups and those that like the food and then beer. Is this bad? I don’t think so – but I do recall when it was announced that Iron Hill was coming to Ardmore, Jean Broillet of Tired Hands told me that he wasn’t concerned at all about them as competition “the people that drink my beer don’t go there”. Well, I do go to them both – and Iron Hill’s standby Ore House IPA is really good. Can’t complain about the sweet bitterness of Buena Onda, either, and beer prices there are reasonable.
Let’s walk down Bridge Street to the intersection of Main, take a right and half a block down and there is “Root Down”. Filling a rehabbed factory building, this place has some of that “Tired Hands-ish” vibe – with the graffiti etched logo over the industrial bar, open and airy factory look with the tanks behind chain link behind the bar.
We watched subtitled Samuri movies while drinking an impressive array of IPA’s pales and tasty Saisons – even an ”Altbier”. The place was jumping on a Saturday afternoon, with a few kids running around and a cheerful vibe. You can visit some pinball and arcade games in the back and watch the exposed kitchen. The place just radiated with “Millennial” and a lot of beer focused socializing. Open only two weeks when I visited in mid July, surprisingly they offered a full dozen of inventive beer on tap – like “Slag” their American Pale Wheat ale clocking in at 67 IBU and 5.9 ABV, and “Flavor Crystals” their 8.6% Double IPA. They appear to be off to a great start.
Continuing west on Bridge (walking a bit less steady, I acknowledge) we cross the street and stroll into “Crowded Castle” – a classy place, with exposed brick and a well appointed modern look contrasting with a really cool copper tinted tin ceiling.
Crowded Castle was about 6 weeks old, and offered 6 brews including a Pale, IPA and Red Ale. Their big beer is the “MOD quad” bringing a hefty 9.8% ABV to the table. This place had a sophisticated but family feel. It’s the kind of place you could root to succeed, as the owners and family were very evident – chatting with the customers and running glassware from the kitchen, doing whatever they could to make their brewing dream come true. I will have to check back to see how they grow, as while the look was great, when we visited it was pretty quiet.
A couple of blocks further down – our final craft location (as of now) is the over two year old Stable 12 Brewing Company. Having made it through their early boot strapping stage (I told their story in a 2016 post – at their one year anniversary) they are now a well established small craft brewery, canning and distributing locally. They have an extensive out door beer garden and some fine beers for hop heads and Kolsh and Saison lovers as well.
There was an air of comfort and confidence there – a clear local favorite and approachable by newcomers alike — yet offering diverse beers as wild as “Sugar Coated Pony Kisses (IPA)” and “The Farmer’s WIfe” a chardonnay barrel aged Saison. The patrons also looked comfortable in the corrugated tin decorated tap room dominated with the place’s horsey logo. Outside in the beer garden people kicked up their heels with some rock tunes and quaffed “Wild West Cost IPA” (100+ IBU, 7.8% ABV) – and why not grab a 4 pack of pint cans on your way out?
So what do we learn from this – other than if you throw in the venerable take out beer mecca “The Foodery” across the street from Stable 12 – you have a cool five stop beer crawl in downtown Phoenixville with dozens of high quality, diverse craft beers at your disposal?
If you want a business lunch or family gathering along with a reliably high quality beer with a complete food menu – Iron Hill can’t miss. Want to down a couple of local favorite tasty IPA’s while warming your back at a beer garden – there’s Stable 12. Want to cool in the AC and enjoy a beer in a brightly lit modern environment, Crowded Castle may just meet your needs. Or, if you are looking for some more edgy styles and feel, drop by Root Down and play some Pac Man with your double IPA.
All good. All craft – there’s a place for everyone and anyone to enjoy it in Phoenixville. I look forward to checking back in 2018 and see how this newest, and crowded “beer destination” matures.