At Their Best
Exclusive interviews with local legends and legends-to-be, from Shane Victorino and Tory Burch to young actress Patricia Raven and beer guru Lew Bryson.
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The fact that this savvy Pennsylvanian fashioned himself a career out of writing about and, better yet, drinking beer and whiskey is reason enough for Lew Bryson’s Best Beer Guru accolades. But his affable personality, expert analysis on all things hops and barley, and keen interest in suds history also makes the Newtown-based critic’s blog one heck of a read. “Seen Through a Glass” is a must for anyone who wants to know where the (good) beer is. In fact, we value his opinion so much, we had him pick his own set of winners this year. For more local beer knowledge from Bryson, visit lewbryson.com.
Best Belgian Flair: Manayunk
Brewery and Restaurant
The biggest brewpub in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Manayunk has always been known for mass-appeal beers. But new brewer Doug Marchakitus has brought some serious mojo with him, and the 500 or so people out on the deck are loving it. His Belgian flair is perfect for the masses—light and spicy in summer, rich and complex in winter. 4120 Main St., Manayunk; (215) 482-8220, manayunkbrewery.com.
Best Big Beers: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
From Newark, Del., to Lancaster, Iron Hill gets around. Thankfully, we’ve got brewers Bob “Medal Machine” Barrar in Media and Larry “Shaved It” Horowitz in West Chester. If you still think Iron Hill is all about endless pints of light lager and raspberry ale, try Barrar’s Russian Imperial Stout and Horowitz’s funky Belgian stuff. Various locations, ironhillbrewery.com.
Best Bocks: Sly Fox Brewing Company
The first Sunday in May, some 2,000 people gather just to watch goats race. OK, they gather to watch goats race and drink beer. Sly Fox always has at least five different beautifully malty bocks on tap that day—that’s better than any German brewer can manage. 520 Kimberton Road, Phoenixville, (610) 935-4540; 312 N. Lewis Road, Royersford, (610) 948-8088; slyfoxbeer.com.
Best IPA: Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery’s Hop Bomp IPA
Brian McConnell is one of the most overlooked brewers in the area—but he doesn’t mind. He just keeps cranking out the Prussia’s Pride IPA (whip-sharp bitter and polar-wind brisk) and dialing in the hops in a series of additional monster beers. Try to keep up with what he does; it’s a rewarding investigation. 1001 King of Prussia Plaza, King of Prussia; (610) 230-2739, rockbottom.com.
Best Porter: General Lafayette Inn & Brewery’s Chocolate Thunder
The General is a great place that’s full of history. And brewer/owner makes a variety of subtle, wonderful beers. His Chocolate Thunder is so rich it’s almost beefy. If Willy Wonka made porter, he’d take lessons from Leonard. 646 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill; (610) 941-0600, generallafayetteinn.com.
Best Saison: McKenzie Brew House’s Saison Vautour
Around here, if you’re a brewer and can’t master this spicy, refreshing Belgianesque beer, you may as well hang up your boots. Ryan Michaels and Gerald Olson’s Saison Vautour won the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival twice in three years. Enough said. 451 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, Glen Mills, (610) 361-9800; 240 Lancaster Ave., Malvern, (610) 296-2222; mckenziebrewhouse.com.
Best Sheer Variety: Victory Brewing Company
Victory is the Swiss Army knife of breweries. Lagers, ales, wild beers, Belgian styles, hefeweizens, IPAs, stouts—they do everything, and they do it well. 420 Acorn Lane, Downingtown; (610) 873-0881, victorybeer.com.