At the end of the warmly lit, wood-accented entry hall, tucked away on the second floor lives City Tap House in University City, Philadelphia. A short elevator ride up and pretty soon I find myself a part of their little slice of craft beer heaven.
The rustic wood paneling and features provide a homey log cabin feel as sunlight flows in through the windows that look out onto the patio. On the walls chalkboards are hung, with upcoming events written on them in varying scripts, some with little doodles drawn to match.
Most immediately noticed though is the bar that stretches out in front of me as I enter the restaurant. The rows and rows of tap handles beckon me to take a seat at the bar, and with 60 beers on tap they boast a wide variety of styles year round. At this time of year you can find something as simple as a light wheat beer or as spicy and robust as a winter brew.
Despite the temptation, I walked to the right of the bar to admire the patio. Umbrellas, tables, wooden barrels, and fire pits are situated inviting me out even in these freezing cold winter temperatures. I had to go outside just for a little while to stand by a fire pit and take in the nice view of University City that City Tap House’s patio overlooks.
Soon I was back inside again and lucky enough to be showed around by Jessica McGarvey and Tom Stevens at City Tap House. We started off in the cooler, which holds all of their current kegs that they put on tap, then I explored the bar, restaurant, and patio some more.
While we were exploring the cooler Tom also explained how their selection process works. Tom, along with Dan Leal the bar manager select the beers that go on this list and consider demand, what’s new, seasonality, and balance. They have a list broken up into different styles of beer with pale ales and wheat’s being some of the most popular at the University City location. He also explained that while a balance in style is always important, building the relationships with breweries and distributors also helps. Some breweries they frequently have on tap, while many others change. The ones that remain more steadily on tap it is good to have a relationship with because they’ll always know to have the amount of kegs City Tap House needs ready and set aside.
Getting to know their breweries also can lead to them seeking out City Tap House for an event.
“There are a couple different angles to our events. The first type of event is one based off a particular beer or brand. For example, the Founders event came to life because we were approached by the Founders Rep to help with the re-release of Black Rye. By participating in the event, we had a level of exclusivity; the beer was not available to anyone else until today.” Jessica explained.
The Founders event was then developed into a Founders Tap Takeover where in addition to the Black Rye release, they tapped 14 of Founders’ beers for the event.
When there is not one of these events on the calendar though, City Tap House has plenty more ideas they keep in mind throughout the year. They try to schedule events for about every six weeks, a couple of those being their Pumpkin Smash in October and their Beer-B-Q in April.
“How do we increase Sales on a random Saturday afternoon in April? We throw a pig-roast party with live music on the patio and offer great beer.” said Jessica.
For these events they sometimes partner with a brewery that will brew a specialty beer for the event, or also selecting a kind of beer and putting every version of it on tap for the event.
The bar is not where City Tap House stops, once you walk past it, restaurant seating is also available with food featuring everything from appetizers and pizzas to plates and daily suppers to go along with the beer you’re sipping that night. You can see the kitchen from your table; everything is very open as the smell of all of these dishes swirls through the air around you.
Don’t be afraid to branch out from your typical go-to beer at City Tap House, they have so many styles to sample it’s worth trying something new. If you’re stuck on what to enjoy, try asking the staff for a recommendation.
“Wheats are the most approachable- they can be enjoyed by the novice beer drinker and the seasoned craft beer aficionado. Allagash White was our #1 seller this year.” Jessica explained.
I do agree, Allagash White is definitely one of my favorite wheats as well as one of the first craft brews I tried. It’s a great introduction to the beer world. Jessica however, believes more people should try stouts.
“With chocolate and/or coffee notes they are especially good for brunch!” said Jessica.
So whether you’re looking to try something new, enjoy an old favorite, or attend an event there’s always something going on at City Tap House. They update their Facebook page with their upcoming events, worth checking out. Get through the rest of these winter months with a cold one, some friends, and all that City Tap has to offer. Check out their snow day specials here!