Philadelphia self-identifies as “America’s best beer-drinking city,” and that’s thanks in no small part to our many great brewers and beer bars. But often overlooked are the humble neighborhood beer stores that provide single servings of the latest and greatest in craft beer.
Depending on where you live, those spots may be called packies, off-licenses, or package stores, but in Philly, they’re bottle shops, and everyone seems to have a favorite.
Most Philly beer drinkers are familiar with bottle shop stalwarts like Hawthornes Biercafé, Local 44, and the Foodery. But for this list, we went beyond the usual suspects to highlight further-flung shops with less recognition. If we missed your favorite, leave it in the comments.
Delco’s 320 Market Café focuses on “craft beer only” for its 650-beer selection, manager Peter Morris says, so don’t expect to find Budweiser, Miller, or Coors at their locations in Swarthmore and Media. Instead, look for can releases, draft pours — 16 taps in Swarthmore, 24 in Media — and growler fills of rarities like Hill Farmstead, Russian River, Burley Oak, and Maine Beer Co., plus local favorites like 2SP, Tonewood, and Pizza Boy. Both locations boast a nationally lauded selection of natural wines, as well as a full pub menu for hungry drinkers (don’t miss the pico de gallo).
713 S. Chester Rd., Swarthmore, 610-328-7211; 211 W. State St., Media, 610-565-8320; the320marketcafe.com
With locations in Southampton, Malvern, and the Northeast, the Beer Store supplies hopheads all over the area. The Malvern location alone has more than 3,000 beers, followed by 2,000 in Philly, and 1,500 in Southampton. Each location offers draft pours and growler fills (plus crowlers in Malvern) from at least 24 taps. The focus, owner Darren Patel says, is on “super-limited” craft products, including Vermont favorites Lawson’s Finest Liquids and the Alchemist, and locals like Levante Brewing (on draft!) and Yards. As Patel puts it, when it comes to bottle shops, “if anyone says they have a better selection in Pennsylvania, I think they’re bluffing.”
215 Lancaster Ave., Malvern, 610-647-7373; 488 2nd St. Pike, Southampton, 215-355-7373; 399 Franklin Mills Circle, 215-612-7373; thebeerstorepa.com
When John Kenney took over East Falls Beverage in 2009, the store was an average beer shop with six or so craft offerings. A decade later, it has evolved into a no-frills place where folks thumb-gun (or shotgun) sought-after beers like the Alchemist’s Heady Topper just for fun. While the single bottle/can selection is limited — just two dozen beers of the store’s 300 overall — the list is closely managed, with a focus on hazy and Northeast IPAs like Singlecut’s Weird & Gilly and Half Acre’s Gone Away, and smaller local outfits like Wissahickon Brewing and Dock Street. If you can’t choose, pick up a master pack, a curated four-pack of new releases or new-to-Philly brands. The shop also carries six-packs and cases (which can be delivered).
4024 Ridge Ave., 215-844-5600, eastfallsbeer.com
With at least 400 beers and 30 taps, Capone’s has something for everyone, including rare releases from Russian River and Cantillon. But where the store really shines is its aged-beer program and reserve list, which owner Matt Capone started in the 1990s. With more than 2,900 members — from as far away as Canada — the list allows shoppers to peruse and reserve current releases or aged brews like a 1998 edition of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot barleywine. If you want on the list, contact Capone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
244 W. Germantown Pike, Norristown, 610-279-4748, capones-pa.com/beer
Considered the first bottle shop in Delaware County, Pinocchio’s Beer Garden To Go opened its doors in 2009, but the attached pizza joint has been slinging pies since 1955. These days, the shop features about 1,000 bottles or cans from 200-plus breweries both national (Lawson’s, Founders) and local (2SP, Neshaminy Creek). The shop’s 25 tap handles regularly feature draft-only releases, as well as rare pours from Tired Hands and Imprint Beer. They even fill growlers and crowlers. And thanks to its bustling restaurant, Pinocchio’s goes through suds quicker than most — keeping inventory fresh.
131 E. Baltimore Ave., Media, 610-566-7767, pinbeer.com
The Richmond Bottle Shop opened in 2014 as an addition to Aramingo Avenue’s IGA supermarket, making it — at least in manager Adam Sparkevicius’ estimation — the first city’s first grocery store to sell wine and the second to sell beer. Today, the shop has doubled in size, offering 800 beers, eight taps, and 300 wines (selected with input from the Wine School of Philadelphia) in 2,500 square feet of space. The result is a store that offers something for everybody, from 12-packs of Bud to the latest craft brews, like Captain Lawrence’s Cookie O’Puss chocolate stout and Founders’ KBS.
2497 Aramingo Ave., 215-425-5690, therichmondshops.com/bottle-shop.html
Trenton Road Take Out first opened as a tavern in 1970. But in 1986, owner and teetotaler Mike Feinman — who takes his beer recommendations from daughter Nicole — switched to a bottle shop configuration. The shop offers “well over” 1,000 beers, six taps for growler fills, and snacks. As far as rare brews, the store typically gets in shipments from Russian River, Hill Farmstead, and Burley Oak. Feinman prides himself on not upcharging customers on single bottles. And while limited releases used to be in short supply — causing him to keep "a list of who gets what,” earning him the nickname Evil Sir Mix-A-Six — today, most anyone can get a bottle of whatever he gets in.
1024 Trenton Rd., Fallsington, 215-736-1389, evilsmas.com
Billed as the Far Northeast’s first high-end bottle shop, the Craft Beer Outlet started slinging six-packs and bottles in 2009. Today, the store supplies 22 coolers and 7 taps with more than 1,000 beers from hot national breweries like Singlecut and Russian River, locals like Evil Genius and Flying Fish, plus imports and domestics. For more beer, owner Mark Sablowsky has a distributor operation, The Beer Outlet (189 Franklin Mills Blvd.), 2 miles up the road.