Philly Beer Culture 101

Philadelphia has been widely recognized as one of the best beer cities in the world. Heart((beat)) explores how Philly beer culture is fostering a captive young adult following despite recent evidence suggesting that nationally, this generation’s enthusiasm for the beverage is on the decline.

So many options, so little time. One wall of choices offered at the Beer Shoppe in Ardmore.
So many options, so little time. One wall of choices offered at the Beer Shoppe in Ardmore. Photo credit V. Marchiony.

“Drinking is very integrated into social life,” explained Arcadia University graduate student, Philadelphia resident and self-proclaimed beer snob Tricia Whiting.

After a long day of work or school, (or both) it’s common for young adults to retreat to a local bar for a beverage or two. But why select beer over other types of alcohol? With beer, it’s possible to custom tailor each evening’s level of inebriation more precisely than may be possible with cocktails. Plus, there’s the added bonus of avoiding the sugar-crash-hangover that famously accompanies a night spent consuming fruity mixed drinks and wine.

Beyond the practical, there’s a powerful cultural component that elevates beer drinking from a mundane race to get wasted to an exciting and sophisticated, yet affordable way to explore an adult right of passage.

“It’s about quality over quantity. […] It’s not a competition. My friends and I will order nice beers and talk about them and that becomes part of the experience,” Whiting explained.

Fortunately for young Philadelphians like Whiting, such experiences are of a particularly high caliber thanks to Philly’s top-notch beer scene.

Beers on tap at The Beer Shoppe.
Beers on tap at The Beer Shoppe. Photo credit V.Marchiony.

In 2011, Esquire magazine placed Philadelphia on its list of the seven best cities for beer in the United States. Later that year Philly became one of only three U.S. cities to make travel authority Frommer’s roster of the top 14 destinations for beer in the entire world. GQ jumped on the bandwagon in 2012 by ranking the City of Brotherly Love among its five must-visit locations for beer lovers. Then in 2013, Forbes instructed its readers to make a summer pilgrimage to Philly Beer Week, the nation’s first and largest beer celebration of its kind, which will return for its seventh season this May.

We didn’t get to this point overnight, though. As with any Philadelphia tale, some historical grounding is critical. Consider that there were already taverns here by the time William Penn arrived in 1682 and that a century ago, Philadelphia was widely accepted as the most outstanding brewing city in all of the Western Hemisphere.

With so much time invested in building this lauded beer culture, it should come as no surprise that the avenues for beer exploration are seemingly endless. The Greater Philadelphia region currently boasts dozens of award-winning breweries (Flying Fish, Yards and Victory, to name a few), more than 400 craft beer restaubars, with new bottle shops and home breweries popping up daily.

Though this makes the Philly beer world an enticingly diverse pursuit for many, it could pose an intimidating challenge for the novice consumer. Luckily, the Internet is chock full of Philly-specific resources for everyone from the established connoisseur to the hesitant 21-year old who couldn’t tell a hop from an artichoke.

Patrons perusing the vast selection of craft beer available at The Beer Shoppe in Ardmore, Pa.
Patrons perusing the vast selection of craft beer available at The Beer Shoppe in Ardmore, Pa. Photo credit V.Marchiony

If human interaction is more your style, you’re in luck- as Whiting mentioned, discussion is half the fun of any beer experience.

“We love beer, we love talking about beer, and we love helping people find their new favorite beer,” said Dan Anderson, staff member at The Beer Shoppe in the Philly suburb of Ardmore.

Philadelphia’s beer culture is thriving, accessible and enthusiastically embracing new recruits. Remember, don’t be afraid to use your bartender and fellow patrons to help guide you through the vast menu. Beer is a passion Philadelphians love sharing.

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