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Thursday, May 11, 2006

South Philadelphia Tap Room in Philadelphia, PA

I need to come clean. I have experienced 'beer writer envy'. See, for close to the past year, I have been getting real tired of hearing practically everyone and their mother writing and raving about South Philadelphia Taproom. And, yet, with all of this hype I somehow continued to dismiss it until just this past weekend. In all honesty, I was a bit prejudiced by the neighborhood. Now, I am a city guy through and through. It's just that I found it very difficult to believe that a good (check that, very good) beer bar could survive, let alone open, in this area of South Philly. For anyone familiar with the area, you need to go past South Street, past the Italian Market, past the cheesesteak restaurants, and through some dicey neighborhoods to get to 15th and Mifflin Streets. Don't get me wrong, it's not the hardcore ghetto here but, at the same time, it's far from a bustling neighborhood. I think it will be quite a while before any of the trendy scene from other parts of the city find there way to this neighborhood. But, for the time being, better beer lovers from far and wide are trekking their way to SPTR. (Oh, and if you want to take the train...jump off of the Broad Street subway line at the Snyder avenue stop and walk approximately 3 blocks). How did this little visit come about, you may ask? Well, I was sitting in my humble home office on a beautiful Saturday morning catching up on some reading and some podcasts. Ironically, I was reading Jack Curtin's Atlantic Ale Trail column in the April/May edition of Celebrator. In there, Jack wrote about his own pleasure with SPTR. So, it was perfectly timed when Patty stuck her head in and asked if I wanted to ride with her into Philadelphia because she was getting her cut and styled. Depending on the circumstances and my level of selfishness at the current time, I may or may not accept. But, I instantly saw the opportunity to have close to two hours for exploring a new beer bar. "Can you wait 10 minutes?" I asked. She was happy for the company. And, selfishly, I was finally going to see SPTR! After dropping Patty off at her appointment, I wound my way through the city to SPTR. An easy parking spot along the street within steps of the front door allowed me to quickly slip into a bar seat. Predictably, the place was practically empty on this particular Saturday afternoon. It gave me a perfect opportunity to chat it up with Candice, who was working the bar at the time. She gave me the three year history of the bar, as it came to age as a destination beer bar, and their plans to break through the wall to the neighboring building to double the size of their space. She told me of wild tales from crazy weekend nights. She described how on some nights the wait for a dinner table can be close to one hour. She talked of how the neighborhood is ever-so-slowly changing, with average real estate prices breaking through the 6-figure range....Unbelievable for many long-timers in the neighborhood. To describe SPTR in a nutshell would be to call it your favorite neighborhood hangout and a high-quality beer joint wrapped together. With a couple of TVs, a seriously interesting menu, a down-to-earth urban tavern environment, and great beers from both the local and the world scenes, you can start to understand why SPTR is getting such rave reviews. Are you wondering yet what I had to drink? Funny you should ask. The special offer on Saturday and Sunday afternoons is $3 IPAs from Yards. Very good beer, nice price......sold. Great way to start the afternoon. How about some food? Definitely; you check out the menu here and you will see that it is hard to refuse. My choice was the Wild Boar Burrito. And what an excellent choice it was! Not only was it extremely delectable with cheddar jack cheese and some chipotle ranch sauce to spread over the top. But, for the nice price of $8, I also got a large size salad as an accompaniment. Then, for seconds I moved on to the Dogfish Head Aprihop (which I last had two years ago). My third and last beer was Ommegang's Hennepin ale. Of course, all this did was quench my thirst and remind of their Belgian festival in July! Generally speaking, there are 13 taps which include a fair representation of fresh local beer like Stoudt's, Sly Fox, Yards, Victory, and Troegs. And, then there is a decent selection of well over 50 bottled (maybe close to 100) beers spanning this country and the world from Canada to England to Germany to Belgium and to Japan (Hitochino). See, who says you can't get good beer deep in the heart of South Philly? I can only imagine which frontier is next!

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