Philadelphia's rightly proud of its collection of beer bars, but even our most social drinkers need reliable retail to ensure their booze receptacles refrigerators stay full and happy. Here are our picks for the best craft beer stores and bottle shops in the city. If you're planning to come through for Philly Beer Week, visit these spots to stock up on beers you can't find in your home town.
Chris and Heather Fetfatzes' Hawthornes provides the neighborhood it's named after a bevy of beer options—close to 1,000 bottles, 11 draft choices and a dozen additional beers available in growlers—to stay or to go. (It's also a full restaurant and hangout space with a working fireplace.) The selection, which strikes local, domestic craft and Euro/Belgian notes, can be overwhelming, but "we always have a 'beer dude' on hand to help," Chris says proudly. Swing through on Wednesdays for complimentary tastings.
Bottle Bar East
"Over 1,000,000,000 styles of beer served," exclaims the sardonic sandwich board outside Fishtown's Bottle Bar East. That's a slight overestimation, but uncle/nephew duo Mike Kellett and Brad Helder, who also own the nearby Xhale Cigar Lounge, are sitting pretty in the high hundreds. The space, which has a full bar, full kitchen and a mezzanine level with seating and games (foosball!), features a well-rounded selection, with a particularly nice selection of hop-bomby West Coast beers. Now that the weather's broken in Philly, BBE's bigger movers include two bottles sourced from neighboring Delaware—Dogfish Head's balanced 61-Minute, brewed with Syrah grape must; and Old Dominion's surprisingly dry Cherry Blossom Lager.
The Bottle Shop
East Passyunk Avenue is Philly's fastest-growing food corridor, but The Bottle Shop has been at it since 2010, their 500+ craft beer roster (plus four taps for growlers) predating the arrival of most of EPX's hopping restaurants. The food offerings here are modest (mostly packaged snacks), but that doesn't stop patrons from plopping down at tables armed with bottle openers and brought-from-home board games. Newly stocked products include beers from Terrapin, Evil Twin, and Deschutes. Also keep an eye out for sub-$10 large-format options—the light, sneaky-stiff Double White from Long Trail's limited-edition Brewmaster Series, recently.
A nondescript shopping center that boasts cultural hubs like Pep Boys and Dunkin' Donuts doesn't exactly sound like the ideal environment for beer nerds, but South Philly's Beer Heaven proves to be a well-stocked exception to the rule. They stock upward of 900 choices and are particularly beefy in both the Euro and American large-format categories—nice prices on cult picks from Goose Island and Maine Beer Company, to name just two.
Local 44 Bottle Shop
Spruce Hill's well-regarded Local 44 expanded into an adjacent retail space to open this retail shop about a year back. "We take the word selection seriously," says co-owner Leigh Maida. While the 400-ish bottle cold-case lineup is leaner than some competitors, L44 augments it with separate shelves stocked with rare beers and ciders. If you want a cold one while you peruse, they've run lines from the twin beer engines at the bar across to the shop; local faves Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale and Yards Philly's Best Bitter are on at the moment.
The Corner Foodery
With locations in Wash West, Northern Liberties and Roxborough, The Foodery is the most recognizable name in the Philly bottle shop game, but their latest space ticks thanks an ambitious approach to the food part of the equation. A partnership with 13th Street restaurant The Corner, this Center City newcomer has a tighter selection than its compadres, but a smart, affordable menu from chef John Taus bridges the gap (get the porchetta). Guests can pick bottles from beer manager Kyle Sebring's fridge collection as they go, or dip into the drafts, which recently featured choices like Bullfrog Edgar IPA and Chouffe Biere du Soleil.
It looks like your average Center City deli, and it is—reliable place to grab snacks, pantry items, hoagies—but Monde also happens to stock some incredible craft beer options, with value being the biggest draw. Few shops carry this many individual longnecks priced below $3 (grab a Duck Rabbit for $2.29), meaning you can often escape with a high-quality mix-a-six for well under $20, a difficult achievement at many bottle shops. Sales are a common occurrence, too. Check in often to nail down some nice big-bottle deals—recent steals include White Birch's two-year-aged barleywine and the Lost Abbey/New Belgium collab Mo Betta Bretta for around $10 a pop.
What's a craft coffee house doing on a list of Philly's best bottle shops? The Newbold neighborhood's Brew, which shares real estate with the original location of Aaron Ultimo's award-winning Ultimo Coffee, has the distinction of being both. Sip a Counter Culture Americano while perusing the taut selection of craft beer, American and otherwise. Fridays and Saturdays often see complimentary tastings for customers, with brewery-centric dealage rotating every month. In May, for example, they're moving 21st Amendment sixers for $9.99 a pop.