Beers and foods from local breweries, BBQ spots and pubs in the Philly area

Brisket, Brews and Reviews

We want to showcase the best barbecue and beers around the Philly area. With our blog and Instagram account, Brisket and Brews follows wherever the taps are flowing and the food is smoking.

"Cradle of American Libation"

A century ago, Philadelphia was known as the centerpiece to brewing in the Western Hemisphere. Philly's D.G. Yuengling & Son is the oldest functioning craft brewery. The city is home to more than 60 breweries, which can be found along The Philadelphia Craft Beer Trail.

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Although we'd love to try all the food and beers in Philly, we know there are plenty of beer drinkers with stomachs to fill who know the best spots around. Feel free to send in your finds to our Instagram page for a feature! Also DM recommendations and we will feature you in the post.

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East Branch Brewing Co.Khyber PASs PubConshohocken Brewing Co.Estrella Tacos Y MasTin Lizard Brewing

East Branch Brewing Co.

If you get lucky enough when walking up to the old stone firehouse building, you may get to smell the smokiness of the barbecue. East Branch Brewing Co. opened its second-level restaurant and bar in April, and it does not disappoint.

Khyber Pass Pub

Old City has plenty of hidden gems lining the cobblestone streets and filling the brick buildings that make you truly wonder what it would be like if these walls could talk. A few blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, sits a one of those gems — Khyber Pass Pub.

eAST BRANCH BREWING CO.

If you get lucky enough when walking up to the old stone firehouse building, you may get to smell the smokiness of the barbecue. East Branch Brewing Co. opened its second-level restaurant and bar in April, and it does not disappoint.

Holding off to feature this spot as the first Brisket and Brews find, the brisket and beers are something special. Located in Downingtown, the brewery first started producing its beers in September and added the food just a few months ago, but you would never know.

The taps keep flowing the seasonal favorites and the 10-barrel brewery's star players. With 12 taps filled with diverse flavors, everyone can find something they like from pale ales to its German styles to the darker ale and oyster stout. The newest additions are the Antoine and the Carte Blanc. Antoine is a french farmhouse ale that has "aromas of lemon, pepper and earth." Carte Blanc is a German pilsner with "notes of white grape and peach of the nose" and "a mild spicy herbalness."

One of my favorite beers is East Branch's Alluvium, left, a lighter IPA with tastes of "citrus, dank pine bitterness and tropical fruit with a touch of sweetness." The New England-inspired IPA has a balanced taste and cleaner look. Another popular draft is Great Expectations, right, a refreshing American Wheat Ale with mild hop notes brewed with orange and grapefruit. The pints range from $5-7 and bar-goers can get flights of beers at $2-3 for each 5 oz. East Branch also offers 32 oz. crowlers for $10-12 and 64 oz. growlers for $18-22.

And the bar doesn't stop at its beers, they offer craft cocktails like an Old Fashioned, Rum Punch and "Everything Nice," made with Bluebird Rye Whiskey, lemon, honey and Korean chili flake served on the rocks. The cocktails are made with PA spirits, and the bar offers PA wine from Penns Woods Winery and Wayvine Winery & Vineyard as well as PA cider from Dressler Estate cidery. For just opening in September, these guys have some serious skills and know how to support local, and we haven't even gotten to the kitchen yet.

The kitchen has a variety of mix-and-match options from shareables, sandwiches with choices of toppings and sides, and main dishes filled with freshness. But let's get talking about the main star: Brisket. USDA certified angus prime brisket, smoked with oak, from PA of course, seasoned with salt and pepper. Keeping it simple.

East Branch offers some amazing Brisket options like its sandwich on a toasted potato roll that can be topped with garlic aioli and slaw, Korean barbecue sauce and kimchi, or pimento cheese and bread n' butter pickles. But the main dishes are where the Brisket is put on its pedestal: the slab of brisket, the new brisket mofongo, and the best dish there — Brisket Noodles.

When you order this dish, the server will most likely ask if you like spice. Safe to say they look out for you, but don't let that make you timid. The spicy szechuan chili oil that sits in the bottom of the bowl adds a tasty heat to the noodles and the brisket, especially if you mix it up once it comes out. The slab of smoked brisket sits on top of sesame noodles with kimchi, peanuts and scallions.

Talk about a different take on brisket at a brewery. This is it. I heard that this dish was amazing and when I ordered it, the server said it was his favorite. And after the first bite into the brisket, then the noodle with a bit of the spice, I was sold. I couldn't stop eating it, every bite being something new, and aside from the chunk of brisket on top on the noodles, bites of brisket on the side of the noodles fall apart in your mouth like butter. The spice in the dish fills you up as much as the food itself. And the food is so good you almost forget about the great beer you have sitting right next to the bowl to cool your mouth off.

Before opening the kitchen and bar on the second floor, East Branch operated its bar on the first floor, and welcomed food trucks to feed its visitors. Expanding its area within the former firehouse, the brewery now hopes to open a third-floor rooftop area soon.

The East Branch brews don't only fill the taps at its own bar though. Below the bar is the new restaurant Estrella Tacos y Mas. East Branch has all its beers on tap at Estrella, which gives the restaurant easy access to great beer and gives the brewing company a whole new reach.

Can't wait to keep a look for them to branch out and get their beers on taps other places and see what the construction to the rooftop area brings.

To keep up to date with East Branch Brewing Co., follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Khyber PAss Pub

Old City has plenty of hidden gems lining the cobblestone streets and filling the brick buildings that make you truly wonder what it would be like if these walls could talk. A few blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, sits a one of those gems — Khyber Pass Pub.

As the first recommendation to Brisket and Brews, the pub has a history in Old City. Prior to the end of 2010, visitors knew the space as The Khyber, a fun bar filled with new live bands, originally opened in the 1970s under the name with a history unlike any other in this part of Philly. But in November 2010, Khyber Pass Pub launched its renovations to the space, expanding the tap system to 22 rotating beers and bringing in the Southern-style menu, which brings us in eight years later.

Walking under the wooden sign, past the old wooden door, the dark space welcomes you with a vintage bar, crafted in 1876 by German woodworkers and used in the Centennial Celebration. The 22-taps behind the bar are filled by a scattering of PA beers, like Philadelphia Brewing Company, Tröegs, Victory, and Sly Fox.

While the menu is filled with great food, and Khyber Pass even offers what looks like a killer brunch — New Orleans Brunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. everyday — you'll have to wait for the brisket and some of the other barbecue platters and sandwiches. But, oh, is it worth it.

We stopped in early in the day for a lunch, and the waitress let us know that the brisket wouldn't be ready until around 5. We stayed for a few beers, then spent a few hours walking around Philly, spending most of the time at the Independence Beer Garden (great outdoor spot to check out, while it's warm out.)

Safe to say we came back right at 5 with hungry stomachs. Sticking with a Philly beer, I went with Philadelphia Brewing Co.'s Kenzinger, a light-bodied combination of "German Pilsner malts and American Noble hops."

We started with the Southern appetizer of Boudin Balls, which I never had before, but the sausage-filled rice balls were served with "Steen's cane syrup-creole mustard sauce" and pickled onions. The spiciness is matched by the rich flavor, and the mustard rounds it all out for a blast of flavor. Highly recommend starting out with this appetizer, and another one — the bacon grease popcorn. I think every other time a server came out of the kitchen, they were carrying the popcorn.

Now for the main star of the visit — the brisket platter. It comes with two sides. The "big-ass biscuit" caught my eye, and I'm a sucker for some good sweet potato fries, but I made sure to ask my server what he'd recommend. Immediately he said, "Oh, definitely the collard greens and mac and cheese." A bit hesitant on the collard green, since I never had them before, but I trusted his enthusiasm behind his answer.

With the appetizer, the server also put three bbq sauces on the table: a Kansas City tomato-based sauce, a South Carolina mustard-based sauce, and the last, a North Carolina vinegar-based sauce.

Then the platter came out in all of its glory.

Four thick slabs of brisket and generous bowls of collard greens and baked mac and cheese.

At first sight, I could already tell the brisket would melt apart. And that it did. The flavor in the hickory-smoked brisket was amazing by itself. Then I grabbed one barbecue sauce after another, each amazing and totally different in its flavor. I switched between the three sauces and the brisket on its own, getting new flavors in every bite.

I've heard of collard greens as a Southern staple, and these greens lived up to my expectations. Done perfectly, they were a bit spicy but tasty and had me going back for more even after I had torn apart and cut more brisket to dive into; a great contrast to the savory mac and cheese. The baked top and the creaminess of the mac and cheese round out the platter for a perfect array of flavors. From the sauces to the greens to the mac and cheese, all the flavors stood up to the rest. The Kenzinger beer was the perfectly refreshing taste to go with the meal.

And, yes, I did have leftovers. Yes, I did make sure to squeeze in some of the tomato-based and mustard-based sauces to have later. Most importantly, it tasted just as good the second time around.

Khyber Pass Pub has the type of menu that will have you coming back to try everything. The Southern sides and main dishes offer something new with different combinations every time. The rotating beer list features PA beers and a good variety from all over.

While heading in for the food is highly recommended, the bar is a fun place to sit and have a few beers, hang with friends and just enjoy the music and good vibes.

Check out Khyber Pass Pub on Instagram.

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Conshohocken Brewing Co, Bridgeport

The "Beer Here" sign and the trademark man-on-the-bike logo welcome visitors to Conshohocken Brewing Company's Brewpub in Bridgeport. Just a short trip from the original brewery and Tap Room that opened in April 2014, the Brewpub is located at 3 DeKalb St. The brewery's second location has 14 taps and two levels of dining areas.

Opening in August 2016, the Brewpub has three barrels the brewery uses for small, experimental beers, and it's open seven days a week. The kitchen makes fresh foods, from tacos and sandwiches to soups and salads to entrees like its "Brewer's Pie" and Glazed Salmon. Also small bites like a Bavarian soft pretzel and beer fried cheese curds are nice snacks to have when going to grab a few beers.

A cool feature about the Bridgeport location is its outdoor Beer Garden open Wednesday to Sunday. The tap trailer has six taps. The food truck serves sharing plates, street tacos and other snacks. Giant Jenga, Connect Four and corn hole are fun additions to the area next to the Schuylkill River. If you get lucky, you might even get to hang with some dogs.

Conshohocken Brewing Co. has opened two more location, the Rec Room in Phoenixville in December and the Town Tap in Havertown in January, serving up more delicious foods and brews.

The Brewpub's bar sits next to its barrels, and visitors can buy four-packs of its canned beers — highly recommend the refreshing Summer Madness, a summer farmhouse ale "full of lemon/lime zest aromas and flavor and a touch of funk," as well as Blood Money, a blood orange IPA.

Blood Money also comes on draught for beer drinkers that like an IPA balanced by citrus and hoppy flavors. Another draught to try is the brewery's self-titled beer, the Coshohocken IPA. The smooth IPA has "aromas of citrus fruits with a subtle earthy spice characteristic."

The menu is filled with plenty of options, whether you want to do shareable starters or small bites or full meals. I went with the Boneshaker sandwich — a large pile of delicious rosemary and garlic infused pulled pork topped with melted provolone cheese all on a kaiser roll, with Italian long hots and a pickle on the side. Safe to say the name is quite fitting because the size of the sandwich is much larger than what I was expecting. I ended up cutting the sandwich in half so I could hold it easier, then ate the pulled pork off the second half.

The pulled pork has the nice garlic and rosemary taste, and I'm glad it has a different taste than what most people may associate with pulled pork: one packed with heavy bbq flavor. The provolone melted on top is a nice addition to the simple sandwich. The refreshing taste of the Conshohocken IPA goes well with the sandwich.

Overall, Conshohocken Brewing Company knows what it's doing, especially if they've opened four locations in less than five years. Each place has a fun environment with something different, but the food, great beer and laid-back, fun vibes are welcoming constants for a good time wherever you go.

Follow the brewery on Facebook and Instagram, and check out each locations' individual social pages.

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Estrella Tacos y Mas

Tucked in one of the corners of Estrella Tacos y Mas hangs a poster of a cactus with words that read, "Bloom where you are planted." The restaurant's Austin, TX roots were planted in Downingtown, PA and opened two months ago, but they are strong in the local community.

The restaurant claims to be "a lifestyle." The fun environment inside and outside gives the Downingtown community a place to hangout, grab a few beers and some great food. If the weather's nice you can catch customers hanging outside all day enjoying the food and drinks and even playing cornhole.

Estrella opens at 7 a.m. each morning, except Monday, with a full selection of breakfast tacos, are served all day. Another specially is the sopapillas, "hot sweet dough served with powdered sugar and dulce de leche." To drink, customers can get coffee drinks and breakfast cocktails, like a Screwdriver, a Bloody Mary, a "Mimosa-ish," made with Bluebird Rum, orange juice and Dressler Estate sparkling cider, or a "Monkey-mosa," made with Victory Golden Monkey, Dressler Estate sparkling cider and a "splash" of orange juice.

25 taps flow into the bar, filled by about 12 local craft breweries, most notably East Branch Brewing Co., who was our first feature. The restaurant shares the 100-plus-year-old building with East Branch and showcases a few of its brews.

East Branch even makes a house beer specific to Estrella — the Estrella Family Traditions Bock. The dark beer has a smooth taste that pairs well with the intensities of the barbecue.

Other local craft breweries on tap are Levante, Victory, Pizza Boy, Troegs, Stable 12, Yards, Root Down, Neshaminy Creek, Highway Manor, Stoudt's, and Aurochs. With so many taps, visitors are sure to find new beers every visit, whether they come in just to hang out and grab a few drinks or sit down and enjoy the awesome tacos and food from the Estrella kitchen.

The four breakfast cocktails are perfect to go with the breakfast tacos. The rest of the day, Estrella bartenders are mixing up some serious drinks. Whether you mainly stick with beer or go right for the cocktails, there's a drink for everyone. The cocktail list has 11 choices, ranging from a Margarita and Mojito to the "Chilton" and the "South Congress" vodka drinks to Smokey and Spicy Classics rum cocktails. Guests can even enjoy white or red sangria pitchers, ciders and wines by the glass or bottle.

Just like the long list of PA craft beers, many of the wines, ciders and spirits are from Pennsylvania wineries, distilleries and cideries.

The menu is packed with big flavor that matches well with the long list of local PA beers and cocktails.

Estrella brings the Texas flavors to the Downingtown-area with their smoked brisket, sausage wraps and starters. Stop in when Estrella opens and you'll find killer breakfast tacos made with chorizo, bacon, eggs, beans or Texas brisket.

But the specialty is the H-Town taco. More on this perfectly-crafted, breakfast brisket taco below.

Don't think it's all tacos at Estrella. The "Mas" still packs a punch full of flavor and has some great foods to try. When it comes to starters, many different dips and salsas are available like caramelized garlic guacamole, refried bean dip, "tres salsas," and the beer queso.

A starter specialty is the "Pop's Nachos," nachos topped with char-grilled sirloin, Estrella's cheese blend, pickled jalapeños, queso fresco, roasted jalapeño salsa, pickled red onions, cilantro and sour cream. A perfect start to a great meal, the nachos are a great mix of Estrella's homemade foods piled onto nachos.

Soups, salads and sandwiches also fill the menu. Texas Brisket Chili. Cucumber Tomato Fresca. Spicy Southern Friend Chicken Sandwich. Jalapeño-Chorizo Sausage Wrap.

These "Mas" options have me wanting to go back and get something new each time. But it's hard to even think about getting away from the tacos options: breakfast tacos, fried avocado, Texas-style brisket, carnitas, PA craft beer and bean, applewood-smoked chicken thigh, and spicy Southern friend chicken.

I want to try all of them. But even just one taco has caught my tastebuds — that H-Town Taco.

House-smoked brisket. Bacon. Refried Beans. Topped off with a fried egg and Estrella cheese blend. It's a masterpiece.

When the waiter sets this taco in front of you, the smokey smell hits you. You may wonder, "How could this taco hold all of this?" That homemade soft taco is surely strong enough to hold everything. Pick it up. You'll be blessed to see the broken yolk run down the taco, over the brisket, bacon and refried beans. Bring it closer to your mouth and nose. That beautiful, hearty smell gets even better.

From the first bite to the last, the brisket packs a punch, and mixed with the rest of the fillings, it's a perfect creation of great texture and even better tastes. Every bite is something new with the meats, egg and the refried beans on the bottom.

By itself, the taco has enough flavor, but Estrella doesn't stop there. Before you even get the food, the waiter will bring out four signature salsas with a variety of flavors —roasted jalapeño, tomato poblano, tomatillo, and an orange-colored fourth salsa. Highly recommended, the roasted jalapeño salsa gives a good kick to the hearty taco.

The food came to the table quickly after ordering it, but it was gone even faster. This brisket taco has big Texas flavor right here around Philly, and it did not disappoint.

Only being open for two months, Estrella already has their menu settled and their roots planted. For anyone looking for great tacos at an exceedingly-worthwhile price, this is the place. The Texas-style mixed with local drinks and a fun, open environment makes Estrella a must-visit.

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Tin Lizard Brewing Company

Take a ride down Route 30 from Downingtown to Philly and you're bound to find more than enough stops to fill a "Brisket and Brews" crawl. Tin Lizard Brewing Company is one stop that surely won't disappoint. Tin Lizard opened its doors in Bryn Mawr last year with a great drink selection and Southern-inspired food.

Troubled by a burst water pipe, the brewpub, at the corner of Lancaster Ave. and Warner Ave, had to take a three-month pause in January. But Tin Lizard Brewing had its grand re-opening in April, full of music, fun, beer, local cocktails and Southern food. The first floor brewpub and its upstairs outdoor seating create a nice environment met by even better beers and foods.

Tin Lizard's beer selection offers seasonal selections, like the Tainted Love Summer Ale and Circus of Sour Berliner Weisse, along with the reliable, creative choices like its Prophecy Pale Ale and Moonhaze Daydream Northeast IPA.

The brewing company also welcomes collaborations with guest brewers. The just-tapped Shattered Wheat Pale Ale, pictured above, was a collaboration with Joel Piazza from Main Line Brewers Association. The pale ale has a refreshing taste that goes well with the savory tastes of Tin Lizard's barbecue.

With a good variety, the brewpub's beer selection has many options for all beer lovers. But for those who may not want beer, Tin Lizard offers local wines, from Fero Vineyards & Winery, and spirits like The Revivalist Botanical Gin, Kinsey 4-year Bourbon Whiskey and Stateside Urbancraft Vodka.

The Tin Lizard kitchen hits Southern-inspired right on the head. The food has all the southern charm right in PA. The starters do just their job: loaded Fried "layered with beer cheese, pulled pork, diced tomato, scallions and pickled jalapeño," a smoked meatball wrapped in bacon, smoked wings and, of course, fried pickles. Plenty of "handheld" options fill the menu like a carved brisket sandwich, a brisket cheesesteak and a fried chicken sandwich (big fan of hot honey, which is served on this one.)

Then come the platter options. "House-smoked meat and poultry platters" that come with a homemade corn muffin, pickles and onions and a choice of a side — mac and cheese, baked beans, hand cut fries, vegetables or coleslaw.

Sticking with the Brisket and Brews roots, above is the brisket platter with a side of coleslaw. "Low and slow smoked" overnight, the brisket has the nice dark crust with the juicy, tender inside that is great on its own or with Tin Lizard's barbecue sauce selection.

I've had good coleslaw, I've had pretty bad coleslaw, but I've also had my Gramma's homemade coleslaw — the best there is. Looking at this coleslaw, I was excited because the ingredients held true, but I didn't want to jump the gun. Then I tasted it. It's not my Gramma's, but is surely up there as a great side that made the platter even better.

Back to the brisket and sauces because they say a lot about the kitchen. Saying they bring southern-style cooking is one thing. But showing it, that's important, and I was impressed by the sauces. Many of the places I've been feature their own mix of sauces. Khyber Passhas its three — tomato, mustard and vinegar based. had its four salsas.

At Tin Lizard, they mix up their sauces to go with the different barbecue options. I was lucky enough to get four different, yet great sauces. The first three were a good mix of familiar bases and flavors I think of when I hear barbecue: Kansas City, East Carolina and West Texas. But the fourth I had never seen or heard of: the Alabama white sauce, with a mayo base. I'll never forget the first time the tender, juicy brisket fell apart to mix with a good dose of the Alabama sauce. Bravo, Tin Lizard kitchen. Finishing the meal off with the homemade corn muffin rounded out a great meal and polished a clean platter.

With great flavors in both the food and the beer, Tin Lizard Brewing deserves a tip of the hat. Their work, especially with local brewers, in the barrels and southern flavors in the kitchen creates great options to satisfy anyone thirsty or hungry, or both, which is certainly recommended.

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