From Tap to Table
by Emily Kovach
For two years, Saint Benjamin Brewing Company has been working out of their brewhouse on an industrial-meets-artist-lofts stretch of North 5th Street. They’ve been kegging Philly favorites—try the Inca India Cream Ale and Wit or Witout—for wholesale to area bars. But this past May, owners Christina Burris and Tim Patton went into the bar business themselves. Just in time for the much-hyped Craft Brewer’s Conference, they opened the big, beautiful wooden doors to their brand new taproom, a place they hope will become both a neighborhood hangout and a destination for thirsty tourists.
While the space—about 50 seats, including a long bar—retains some of the raw aesthetic of the building (unfinished textured walls, high ceilings and exposed brick), it brings some polished touches as well: gorgeous light fixtures, sleek barstools and the coolest ceiling fan you’ve ever seen.
“We’ve been in brewery taprooms that are just echoey warehouses with polished concrete floors,” Patton says. “It serves the purpose of making money, but it’s not gonna be anyone’s favorite bar. We didn’t want to do that... we wanted this to really feel like a Philadelphia bar.”
With 12 taps, a hand pump, a menu of creative bar fare (trust us—the deep-fried Cajun peanuts are a must), and a bring-your-own-vinyl records night, it truly does feel like a well executed craft beer bar. A look through the giant glass windows behind the bar is a good reminder that the beer on offer is made onsite and tastes incredibly fresh.
The brewery itself, which went through a major overhaul in January, has expanded from 400 barrels per year to a target of 4,000 for 2016. While Saint Benjamin produces large quantities of its core offerings, head brewer Andrew Foss loves to try special releases, like Baxter’s Best, a dark extra special bitter, brewed with unfiltered tap water in celebration of the Philadelphia Water Department’s five year stormwater management plan. This beer, which is named after the water treatment plant where Saint Benjamin gets its water, seems to represent the company’s brewing ethos: reinterpretation of historical styles with creative twists, all while commemorating the city of Philadelphia.