The Manayunk Craft Beer Scene – Nightlife in the Neighborhood
The Manayunk Canal, which runs directly behind Main Street - for a better view, just click directly on the photo, to enlarge it.
/ CC BY 3.0
The Manayunk Craft Beer scene has its roots in a great, centuries-old historical irony. The original inhabitants of Philadelphia - the Lenni-Lenape Native Americans - called this particular area on the banks of the Schuylkill River "Manayunk" - meaning, in their language, "The Place Where We Go To Drink". Seriously.
And historical irony aside, the Manayunk Craft Beer scene is also very complicated, due to the existence of two separate Manayunks. The first is the cool, trendy, upscale part, which we describe as Vibrant Manayunk - Main Street and Its Environs. The other is Neighborhood Manayunk, which is the rest of the neighborhood, largely unchanged from its industrial rowhouse history.
This is significant, because of the railroad tracks, which bisect the neighborhood - and make walking or driving from one Manayunk to the other, very difficult. And it is tricky and challenging even for Philadelphia natives, and thus, even more so someone from out of town, or someone who hasn't been to Manayunk, prior to its renaissance in the 1990s.
In addition, Manayunk does not resemble one aspect of Center City - its streets are not laid out on a neat grid pattern. They have unusual names, are laid out haphazardly, and often dead-end unexpectedly. In addition, compared with flat Center City, Manayunk has very rugged terrain and many hills.
Accordingly, we recommend visiting Vibrant Manayunk, and those establishments on Main Street - currently, only Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant. (But more places will be added, though.)
However, in terms of Neighborhood Manayunk, we only recommend visiting those places, if
you happen to be a craft beer aficionado,
and you're a Philadelphia native.
(We're not craft beer aficionados, but we did the research, and so that's why there's so much detail on them...)
However, even if you are a craft beer aficionado, but you're from out of town, don't waste time traveling up to Manayunk, just to go to the craft beer places in Neighborhood Manayunk. There's nothing in them, that you can't get in Center City - whether in Old City or Rittenhouse Square, or a little further in Fairmount. You're going to get all the way up to Manayunk, and experience difficulty in both finding them and finding somewhere to park. Stay in Center City or Fairmount or the southern end of Northern Liberties, and find your craft beer there.
However, if you're coming for Vibrant Manayunk, anyway-
Before You Read Further - Check Out Our Comprehensive Traveling to Manayunk Guide
Due to the aforementioned challenges, we strongly recommend that if you are planning to visit Manayunk, that you first take a look at our comprehensive guide for doing so, the
Traveling to Manayunk Guide
- which covers
SEPTA Regional Rail
service, taxicabs, and parking. It's well worth your investment of time, to do so in advance.
Our Highest Recommendation: Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant, 4120 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127, 215.482.8220
We give our highest - and thus far only - recommendation to
Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant
- which is located at 4120 Main Street, near the intersection of Main Street and Shurs Lane, near the southern border of Vibrant Manayunk.
Hours of Operation
Lunch - Monday - Saturday: 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Dinner - Monday - Thursday: 4:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Friday & Saturday: 4:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Sunday: 1:00 PM - 9:00 PM
You can also eat late at the Manayunk Brewery, as the kitchen is open for a while...
Monday - Thursday - 10:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Friday - Saturday - 11:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Sunday - 9:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Sushi Bar (not our thing, but if you're interested...)
Sunday - Wednesday - 4:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Thursday - 4:00-11:00 PM
Friday - Saturday - 4:00 PM - 12 midnight
(No sushi available on Monday, however.)
Sunday - 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM
Live Jazz Brunch Buffet:
Sunday - 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM
They also offer something which their web site describes as "Table Side Magic - For Grownups Every Friday and Saturday night from 6:30 to 8:30 PM"
Craft Beers at Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant
Nearly all of the suds available are Manayunk craft beer; the only stuff they don't brew themselves are some Corona and Heinekens.
The three most popular Manayunk craft beer offerings, are the Bohemian Blonde, Schuylkill Punch, and Krook's Mill. Although they are not the only ones on the menu, they are the ones which they offer for sale in six packs.
Examining each in turn (we've never tried them, but based on research):
The Bohemian Blonde is a Munich Helles Style Lager, the lightest one available - a golden lager. (It maintains a Philadelphia tradition, as America's first lager was brewed in the city, by German immigrant brewers in the 1840s.) It is 4.8% ABV, and 25 IBUs. (The menu helpfully describes what an IBU is, an acronym with which we weren't previously familiar; it stands for International Bitterness Unit, so use that information, accordingly.)
The Schuylkill Punch is a Raspberry Lager. The brewer tosses in a quarter-ton of raspberries (literally), both red and black, into the mix. Its name is inspired by an old phrase used to describe Philadelphia's water - "Schuylkill Punch", from the river. It is 7.0% ABV, with 14 IBUs.
The Krook's Mill derives its name from the 19th century building that Manayunk Brewery calls home (more about the historical Krook's Mill, below). It is an American Pale Ale, copper in appearance. It is 5.3% ABV, and must be extremely bitter, with 40 IBUs.
In addition, Manayunk offers five other craft beers, with our favorite name being the Rye of the Tiger, which we find very witty. It is an inside joke for Philadelphians. It is a reference to the theme song of the movie Rocky III, called "The Eye of the Tiger", by the band Survivor.
Of the six Rocky films, the third installment is most notably remembered for Mr. T's performance as the villain, Clubber Lang. Perhaps the best known scene is his confrontation with Rocky Balboa, at the unveiling of the
at the apex of the
- located at the world-class
Philadelphia Museum of Art
... Although in the movie, the statue is shown at the top of the steps, in reality, the statue is at their base and off to one side. It never was actually at the top, aside from filming. It spent two decades in front of the old Spectrum in South Philadelphia, before being moved to the Art Museum in 2006. But we digress.
The Ambience of Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant
When you walk in, there is a hostess table and a glass case, offering Manayunk Brewery gear and growlers for sale. There is a sushi bar with a marble countertop, along with a long, conventional bar. In addition to the bar, there are several marble tables with high bar stools.
Separating all of this from the main dining room, is a divider of exposed brick, with a wooden top. Two and a half of the dining room walls are exposed brick, with the one long wall in the back being half exposed brick at the top, half stone at the bottom.
The walls feature vivid, modernist, and colorful renditions of the musicians Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Bob Marley.
Next to the main dining room,, in addition to the sushi bar, is a huge blackboard, with a chalk-written list of the beers being purveyed that day, along with their ABV%s.
A unique feature is a "Toledo No Springs/Honest Weight" scale, where you stand on what looks like a black door, surrounded by brass railings, and you can check your weight.
The reason why the scale is there - it is an antique scale that was used to measure the weight of wool being processed by Krook's Mill, as it was brought into the mill, back in the early 20th century. This is yet another nod by Manayunk Brewery, to its past.
Next to the scale is an ATM and a coat closet (and an increasingly rare sight - a pair of pay phones).
When you're on the scale, you see another vivid rendition, this one of "Satchmo" - Louie Armstrong.
Just to the right of Armstrong, there is a brick archway with a sign reading "River Club at the Manayunk Brewery - Please visit us upstairs!"
Before you go up, you see a plaque on the wall, erected by the owner of Krook's Mill, thanking the crew that helped to remedy the effects of a flood suffered on June 23, 1972.
The staircase is very steep, and use the railings when ascending it.
The Second Floor, Interior
The first room you see is an upstairs bar, with Manayunk craft beer on tap. Renditions of Johnny Cash and Billie Holliday are on one wall, all of white exposed brick.
Another room, generally available for private parties, has hardwood floors, vintage photographs of Philadelphia on the walls, and a large picture window, with a view of Main Street.
The River Decks Overlooking the Water
If the weather is nice, we particularly recommend that you eat and/or drink outside, on one of the tiered decks. The most recent addition, dubbed Harry's Shack was constructed about five years ago. You're directly over the water there, and it's very pleasant. There is also a covered outdoor area, too, in case it's too hot and/or it's raining...
The History Of Krook's Mill and Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant
In 1822, Anne Dawson - presumably for whom the nearby Dawson Street is named - opened a textile mill at the mouth of the then-new Manayunk Canal. Nine decades later, in 1912, just five years before America's involvement in the First World War, the Krook family constructed a new mill on the site. The Krooks placed a cornerstone from the 19th-century mill into their building - and this building is the one which currently houses Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant.
In 1992 - eight decades after the new building was opened, and 170 years after Dawson's original mill - the old Krook's Mill finally closed for good. The property lay vacant for four years.
In 1996, as part of the larger craft-beer movement, Harry Renner IV opted to reopen the mill as a microbrewery. It served its first beer to the public on October 17 of that year.
Three years later, in 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused extensive damage to Manayunk, including the Manayunk Brewery. But the next year, in the first year of the new millennium, the deck over the Schuylkill River was added. In 2003, it diversified its menu, with the sushi bar and and stone pizza oven.
In summary, Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant is a great example of Philadelphia's ability to convert obsolete, industrial buildings into entertainment centers - which is a good way of defining the Manayunk renaissance of the last 20 years.
Right Down the Block - Mad River Bar and Grille - 4100 Main Street, 215.482.2666
From purely a Manayunk Craft Beer perspective, the Mad River Bar and Grille does not rate as highly as Manayunk Brewery, for the simple reason that it isn't a microbrewery. However, from an overall perspective, it's just as cool a place to hang out.
Like its neighbor, it was bedeviled by Hurricane Floyd as well. Its original incarnation was The Edge, a rollicking place that the impact of Floyd abruptly and unfortunately ended. It would eventually re-open as the River Deck Cafe, then evolve into Chemistry, and is now known as the Mad River Bar and Grille. It is the fifth location of a chain that began in New York City in 1998. Accordingly, it has a Western lodge theme, with skis and antlers everywhere.
The Manayunk Craft Beer Scene - Neighborhood Manayunk, Away From Main Street
As previously noted, there's no point for you to travel to these places, unless you're both a craft beer enthusiast, and a local Philadelphian. These are very different in ambience, lighting, and size, than the ones on Main Street - they don't have modern designs, and they are a lot smaller. They don't have decks overlooking the Schuylkill.
Basically, they are Manayunk neighborhood corner bars, that happen to stock a large number of craft beers, both on tap and in bottles.
The Dawson Street Pub - 100 Dawson Street
This place has Belgian Duvel signs outside its walls; it has been operating for the last 22 years under the same owner. It has a dozen taps and three beer engines; a digital jukebox, and a single flat screen TV.
The Old Eagle Tavern - 177 Markle Street - Corner of Markle and Terrace
It has been open for about seven years, as of May 2010. The proprietor is also the owner of another bar in South Philadelphia called Devil's Den, which is more upscale in tone.
The Old Eagle Tavern specializes in IPAs, with the most popular being the West Coast IPA and the Bell's Oberon. They also have unusual ciders, such as Original Sin Hard Cider. A large number of beer signs festoon the walls, the most distinctive being an illuminated, circular black sign for Arrogant Bastard Ale, featuring a snarling gargoyle with a full beer stein, declaring to the viewer, "You're Not Worthy". For entertainment, it has a digital jukebox, a pair of flat screens, as well as a red pool table and bar bowling game in an adjoining room.
For Summer 2010, they have come up with the idea of "Beer Floats" - ice cream floating in beer. The Lindeman Framboise Raspberry, with vanilla ice cream, is the most popular.
Union Jack's Pub - 4801 Umbria Street
This place is a split-level, with the bar on the left side when you enter. Up on the top level, with a large Union Jack flag on the back wall, there are three cushioned booths with lamps, and a corner booth with a wooden back. The most distinctive feature of the decor is the retro art on the walls, from the early 20th century. There is a poster of the New York Herald Tribune dated December 12, 1936, announcing the abdication of the British Crown by King Edward VII, to marry an American, Wallis Simpson. Another is a poster from World War I, by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation, proudly proclaiming, "Thanks to the American Navy, The Air Road to Europe Is Open!" Behind the bar, hangs a replica of the blue 2009 flag displayed at Citizens Bank Park, commemorating the Phillies' second consecutive NL pennant in 2009.
For entertainment, there are a couple of flat screens, a digital jukebox, electronic darts, and a PGA golf video game. The bar game Quizo is offered on Wednesday nights. In terms of food, the wings are the most popular, followed by the Big Ben Burger. In terms of craft beer, there are a dozen taps, which vary constantly.
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