2nd Story Brewing, Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia treated me well. Ever since my adventures to Utah last summer where I thought I would be just fine and suffered greatly at the hands of a society that is incredibly restrictive of their booze and women, I have this lurking sense of anxiety when I decide to do things alone and independently. It hasn’t stopped me. Clearly you’ve seen how far I’ve come on my solo travels since my post nearly a year ago about my visit to Squatters but that doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t think about that feeling of being stranded in a city where you don’t know anybody and everything just sucks. But that feeling didn’t even begin to cross into my consciousness when I was in Philly because I had a great time.

Monday morning, after spending the night with Nicole in Baltimore, I caught a bus back to Philly to continue my urban exploration of the City of Brotherly Love. The weather was gorgeous, warm but not hot, and the people were the perfect mix of disinterested in my bullshit and caught up in their own. My first stop back in the city was not a brewery, but rather, the Mutter Museum. I’d highly recommend checking it out. After that, I strolled around the city without much plan. I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed to hit up another brewery so I didn’t even make the effort. However, fate had other plans, and as I wandered around, wondering what I should do with my final two hours before I needed to head back to the airport, I stumbled upon 2nd Story Brewing while trying to figure out where I was and why was the road closed, even to foot traffic.

As I am an “adult” with a “real” job that forces me to be in an office from approximately 9am to 5pm every day, much as the Dolly Parton song suggests, I am not very well acquainted with the 2pm on a Monday brewery scene. But not to fear, because most people probably aren’t. I say that because I was one of two people in the entire place. 2nd Story is more of a brewpub, which means they have a full menu and a very restaurant-y vibe. I would have loved to eat there, but I had already eaten at Five Guys about an hour and a half prior and was in no mood for more food. But that is alright, because that left enough room to drink four beers. At 2pm. On. A. Monday.

The first beer I had was the Pier 53, which was an America IPA. Now, let’s talk about this term. “American” IPA. I was always under the impression that there are IPAs and there are APAs, but in my time in Philadelphia, I learned of the term “American IPA.” But here’s the rub. I still don’t know if they are different or not. Some places on the web are just like “APAs are America IPAs” and other places are like “no, they are similar but NOT the same.” I also consulted Nicole on this matter, but since she knows just about as much about beer as I do she was also very confused. But regardless, it was good.

Also, while I was sitting at the bar, the bar manager and restaurant manager had very different ideas on what kind of music they should be listening to and the poor bartender seemed to be stuck in between. The bar manager was very into the Grateful Dead and the restaurant manager was very into Tom Petty and they kept switching back and forth, and bitching at the poor bartender for allowing the other guy to change the music. At first I thought it was a friendly kind of joke, but over the course of my two hours at this brewery, sitting at the bar, with no one else in the place to dilute the experience, I realized that they were not fucking around.

My second beer was a Anniversary Triple IPA. I think I enjoyed it, but I also think I found it a little too hoppy. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited almost three months to write this and then I could’ve had a more insightful thought on the matter, but unfortunately, I have been busy being a social butterfly and not a depressed shut-in as of late, so I haven’t gotten around to writing while the memories were fresh.

The third and forth beers I had were both their Que Hora Es? Mexican Lager. It was like a Landshark, but better! But still, I would rather have a Landshark for the sake of irony alone.

Overall, I would say this was  radically different kind of brewery than Evil Genius. This was very refined, traditional, and focused on your classic “beer flavors” whereas Evil Genius was really big on the kitschy and kooky things you can do with beer. That doesn’t make one better than the other, but just that they are radically different places with completely different styles of beer.

But the one thing I would like to note about 2nd Story is not about their beer, but about their bathrooms. There bathrooms are the most inclusive bathrooms I have used outside of a liberal arts college campus. They didn’t have men’s or women’s restrooms but rather just “restrooms.” You walked into this space with a long line of sinks, turned a corner, and there was a long line of floor to ceiling stalls. You walked into your little cube, used it, walked out, and washed your hands. Everyone was together. In one place. It didn’t matter who you were or how you identified. You just peed and went on your way to the communal hand wash station. That is amazing, especially for a city with such a reputation as Philadelphia. I loved it.

So, in close, Philadelphia is great and I can’t wait to go back. They had so many breweries I didn’t get a chance to visit but the two I went to were amazing. Can’t wait for the next adventure in the City of Beertherly Love.

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Evil Genius Beer Company, Philadelphia, PA

Picture it: Thursday, April 19th. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A weary case manager sits at her desk with her officemate and boss brainstorming quick weekend getaways to help her manage the lingering winter blues that have gotten her down. Anything within 8 hours. Those are the only guidelines. No reasonable solution is offered. The hope of a weekend away dims. Fast-forward three hours, she sits at her desk, eating some sort of leftover from the previous night that cannot quell her hunger for adventure. She’s clicking through Google Flights, trying to look forward to her summer trip to Colorado. And then she sees it. Airfare. $6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Good God, that must be a mistake. $6? There must be a missing zero or a decimal error or something. But no. It is not a mistake. Within minutes, she has herself booked on a $6 one way flight to Philly and $6 back. Between terrorism fees and taxes, she has herself a $25 round trick ticket to the city of Brotherly Love leaving Sunday morning and returning Monday night. She did it. She escaped the Good Land another time.

Dramatic? Yes. But guys! I went to Philadelphia! One two days notice! With no plans! And nothing but a backpack! Was it crazy and impulsive? Yes. Did I have a good time? Yes. Did I drink beer? Of. Fucking. Course I drank beer. So welcome to this fine edition of the blog where I talk about one of the most delightfully silly and meta and nostalgic breweries I could have come across. Evil Genius Beer Co. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

So, I have been trying to get out to Philly for a while, but this trip was so sudden and unexpected I had nothing in mind when I got off the plane at Philadelphia International Airport. I didn’t research any breweries and all I had was a note on my phone with a list of things recommended to me by my officemate. And his list was mostly comprised of his sentimental attachment to his hometown and less interested in my base pleasures, which is beer.

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The actual list.

But anyways, I found myself standing in the designated rideshare pick-up area frantically googling “breweries philadelphia” because I had nothing planned and I just chose the first one that popped up on the “near me” list without even looking at their website. And can I tell you how big of a mistake this was? Just kidding. It was actually one of the most perfectly random Google suggestions that could have crossed my way.

My Lyft driver was quite concerned about my course of action, I must say. He told me numerous times he would never be okay with his daughter, no matter how old she was, just blindly wandering the streets of Philadelphia alone and into some brewery without any plan or purpose. And when he pulled up to the curb, he asked if I felt safe getting out and if I didn’t, he would take me somewhere else. Other than the obviously questionable subway that ran overhead, it was very much the neighborhood you find a brewery. People were hugging in the streets. There was a place on the corner serving brunch with a cute chalkboard sidewalk sign out front. This is where my people were. This is where I belonged. Of course, before I truly departed from my Lyft, I told the driver if I was stabbed, I would haunt the shit out of his car. But we had a good rapport so I do not feel guilty about this at all.

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First nice day in Philly, so the windows were open.

Walking in, the place had just opened. It was 12pm on a Sunday and there were two guys sitting at the small space at the bar, and another bunch at a table. To order, you walk up to the counter and they have a small queue system in place. I decided to go for a five-pour flight to start my day and stood and stared at the board behind the taps with wonder and awe. While having a brewery theme is, to an extent, niche and obnoxious, it can be done right. As mentioned in the Broken Bat post, some themes can be fun. I will also say that the specific theme that Evil Genius was going for also had the ability to be tacky or abused or too kitschy. But, they handled it with grace and dignity, and I was not annoyed by it. Which is saying something as I am annoyed by almost everything. All their beers were named (maybe inspired?) as pop culture references. It was like the Gilmore Girls of beer, really.

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The beer menus were on VHS clamshell cases.

So, as I stated, I got a five pour flight to start. The beers I got in the flight were the Kill It! Kill It With Fire!, #ICANTEVEN, ET Goes Home, Aziz! Lights!, and Scotty Doesn’t Know. The Kill It! was a style of beer that I am not familiar with at all. Mostly because I don’t know anything about beer and I have been running a beer blog for over a year now (I know this because I just paid for another year at this beautiful domain) and I still don’t know shit. But anyways, it was a Biere de Garde with plum and elderberry.  I thought it was good but I didn’t quite get the plum and elderberry flavors. The thing I did appreciate about this beer was that it was beer. That might sound silly, but with a lot of beers (especially some of the ones I’m about to talk about in this very post) with the experimental IPAs and sours, the taste of beer is lost to the kookiness. But this beer was beer, which is something I want to start getting back to more. Beer flavored beer.

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The #ICANTEVEN was a watermelon blonde ale which I did not like. Not because the beer was bad but because it tastes like watermelon. Guess what family? I hate watermelon. I hate it so much. Now, you might be wondering, “Hey, dumb ass, if you hate watermelon, why did you order a beer that was supposed to taste like watermelon?” And the short answer of it is that I am, in fact, a dumb ass. The long answer is that I like watermelon flavored things. Like Jolly Ranchers and juice. But this beer legitimately tasted like watermelon, not the chemically reproduced in a lab equivalent of a memory of what watermelon used to taste like once upon a time before the Great War. I think that speaks to how the beer was made (with real watermelon I would guess) but it also means that I had a hard time finishing it. (But I did finish it because I’m a Guida and Guidas don’t leave beer on the table. That’s alcohol abuse.)

The ET Goes Home was a Double IPA that tasted like strawberry milkshake. Or at least that is what is was supposed to taste like on paper. In practice, in my notes, I wrote that the gimmick outsold the taste. Philly was nearly a month ago at the time of me writing this (timeliness be damned) so I’m not sure I have more to elaborate on the matter.

The Aziz! Lights! falls into the same category as the #ICANTEVEN which is simply. I am an idiot. This was a cucumber IPA, and I am sure to someone it is refreshing, but I don’t like cucumber. Why did I order this? It tasted like cucumber. Unless a cucumber has spent the majority of it’s life in vinegar and comes out a pickle, I will not eat it. I will not let it diffuse in my beverages. I won’t let Jimmy John’s put it on my veggie sandwich. I. Do. Not. Like. It. And I did not like this beer. Because I’m, again, stupid.

The Scotty Doesn’t Know was a oatmeal pale ale. Apparently I liked it because all I wrote in my notes was “‘Twas good.” Which honestly, is probably a glowing endorsement from me. I don’t even know myself that well anymore.

So, after I wrapped up my flight, I was starving to death because I hadn’t eaten all day. And I had just flown in from Milwaukee. But, as I believe in thoroughness of life and was also having a grand time reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara pre-Golden State Killer capture (read the book, it’s amazing), I decided to have one last beer. So I got a full pour of the Stacy’s Mom citra IPA. My notes on this beer say this is “what I live for” and it’s light and “less pretentious” than many IPAs. Now, let me take a moment to be self reflective on this statement. Assuming a beer can be pretentious and priding another beer in being less so, in and of itself is pretentious. I think I was starving to death and a little too up on my own bullshit at this point. But guys, I was in the city of Brotherly fucking Love. The city of the Super Bowl Champions. The city that for the last two and a half years of my life I have had to listen to my officemate prattle on and on about how about his the greatest city in the world, no matter what the Schuyler Sisters insist on. I was wrapped up in my love of Philadelphia and was totally fine being pretentious. I had wandered into a city I had never been in before with just a backpack on my back, no plans, no where to go, and I was feeling free and independent. This is what happens when I travel alone. I get too into my own bullshit.

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But anyways, by the time I finished the Stacy’s Mom, I needed to get food. I should mention that there is a light menu at the brewery but my aforementioned officemate had given me an extensive list of food recommendations that I needed to tackle in my less than 48-hour stopover in Philadelphia and I could not waste a meal on a salad. So I closed my tab and headed out.

Since visiting Evil Genius, though, I have become an avid fan of their social media accounts. This is a brewery run by nerds for nerds, and it devastates me that I do not live closer to the lab and cannot visit more frequently. I will also say that the only moment of melancholy I experienced on my solo travels was in this brewery as I sat there reading the beer list and taking in the atmosphere thinking about how much Jake and Ashley would’ve loved that place. The beertender said my told my total was twelve doll hairs at some point. Doll. Hairs. That’s shit Ashley would’ve been all over. I won’t get too sappy about my visit to Philly (especially since I have another post in this two-part City of Beertherly Love series coming up), but this brewery was a great first impression on the city. It was unassuming and disinterested in being anything other than what it wanted to be. It’s definitely on my list for when my friends and I inevitably return. I loved Philadelphia and can’t wait to go back.