Food & Drink
DRINK: In Praise of Philly’s Bottle Shops
by Danny Barron
Pennsylvania is one of 18 states with controlled alcohol stores, where the state runs or contracts the sale of alcohol. In Philadelphia alone, the state operates 49 stores, named “Fine Wine and Good Spirits.” Beer is mainly sold through distributors, basically warehouses that only supply cases of beer (24- and 30-packs). Having a car, or at least a friend with one, comes in handy when stocking up, lest you end up walking several blocks after purchasing whatever you can carry.
To buy anything less than 192 ounces (about 16 cans or bottles) becomes a bit of a hassle. You can buy a six-pack at a bar or corner shop, although depending on your neighborhood, you’ll end up stuck with something that’s spent more time reinventing the can than its taste.
So take into consideration the local bottle shop, a curated display of craft brews that’s been trending in Philly over the past year. With cooler-walls and hardwood floors, bar-like counters, and sometimes tables, the bottle shop provides a cozy feel, like walking into someone’s house to be greeted with “hey, help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge!”
The Bottle Shop on East Passyunk in South Philly opened in 2010. Along one of the best avenues in the city, the shop supplies a extensive selection of local beers and a well-rotated seasonal stock. For take-out, go ahead choosing your own six-pack by grabbing a holder by the door and picking up whatever satiates your fancy. There are also tables where you can grab a cold beer and chill, lending greatly to its home-y feel. A bottle costs somewhere in between distributor and bar prices, about two to four dollars a piece
One of The Bottle Shop’s South Philly neighbors is Beer Heaven, down on Washington Ave and Columbus Blvd. While a little out of way for most, this store is more like your average get-in, get-out corner store, but like its name suggests, it’s a beautiful little spot with a seemingly-larger collection of craft and microbrews
Last year, two other shops opened to great excitement. Local 44 added a bottle shop right next door to its location at 44th and Spruce in West Philly. Open til midnight, the shop has carved itself a bit of a niche in the neighborhood, where other options are a couple of nearby pizzerias that sell six-packs at what feels to be more expensive than it should be (even if that is the game played in this city).
Bottle Bar East is nestled along Frankford Ave in Fishtown U.S.A., just north of Center City. It stays open until 2 a.m. unlike the other shops which close by midnight, lending credence to its own statement of being “not a typical bottle shop.” Of course, it’s not. It’s a bar, serving drafts and pouring growlers in the back, with a pretty rad menu (incorporating the phrase “Aggressive Face Stuffing”) to complement your drinking. The coolers up front are expertly stocked with the excellent craft beers, and plenty of Pennsylvania’s best. While PA’s laws require most bars to close at two., the suggestion is that while you can’t stay here, you don’t have to go home empty-handed.