Every day, SEPTA’s Paoli-Thorndale line carries thousands of locals between Philadelphia and the western suburbs.
But it also happens to be a pretty good bar crawl.
Formerly the R5, the Paoli-Thorndale line is also sometimes referred to as the Beer Train — particularly by craft beer fans — thanks to its close proximity to several of the region’s favorite breweries. From Ardmore’s Tired Hands and Berwyn’s La Cabra to Wayne’s Teresa’s Next Door and Downingtown’s Station Taproom, there is no shortage of great beer easily accessible via the oft-traveled route.
Most stops can be reached with little more than a SEPTA One-Day Independence Pass, which provides 10 train rides for $13, and a short walk. Recently, we tried out the route to help guide you through one of the best bar and brewery crawls the region has to offer.
Remember, pace yourself — this miles-long crawl is a marathon, not a sprint.
What to bring: If you’re hitting all the stops on the list, don’t forget the essentials. Items like a phone charger, external battery, train schedule, and comfortable shoes are indispensable.
How to drink: There’s a lot of beer along the Paoli-Thorndale line, so we recommend flights and small pours wherever possible to maximize the number of brews you can try. Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
What to eat: You shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach, and luckily, most places on the beer-train crawl offer food. You may want to start with a more substantial meal, and move on to small plates and snacks as your journey progresses.
When to go: Train service is limited on weekends, when further stops like Downingtown and Exton are excluded. With that in mind, consider taking a weekday afternoon trip. Ideally, you’ll be able to go on Friday to hit all the bars and breweries on the list.
How to get there: While you’ll be riding the Paoli-Thorndale line for most stops, some require the use of a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft from the station — particularly as you get farther west. Sometimes it’s faster, sometimes it’s safer, but either way, don’t just stick to the train on principle.
When to stop: Knowing your limits is important. You are also tied to the train schedule, so be sure to plan your stops strategically to ensure an efficient journey (and that you won’t be stranded in Downingtown).
Bringing it home: Most stops along the trail offer carryout beer, but we recommend holding off buying until the end — after all, lugging a bag of beers to the ‘burbs and back isn’t a great prospect. And whatever you buy, make sure it’s not refrigerated to start so you don’t have to worry about keeping it chilled on the train.
While its antique bar and outer walls may look stiff, Bridgewater Pub’s draft list is anything but, thanks to brews from local favorites like 2SP and Levante, plus German classics from Weihenstephaner, the oldest operating brewery in the world.
Pro tip: You may want to begin the eating portion of your beer train experience with a more substantial starter, so consider options like lamb meatballs, wings (in five flavors!), or a quinoa bowl.
Tired Hands Fermentaria
Here, you can grab various-sized pours of their highly coveted hazy and milkshake IPAs, saisons, and other beers, of which there are typically a dozen on tap. Small pours start at $2.50, so try a couple, like their MilkStave IPA (an oak-fermented sour milkshake IPA), or staples like Hophands.
Pro-tip: Tired Hands is a popular Ardmore lunch spot, and features a burger-and-beer deal for $15.50.
Tin Lizard Brewing Co.
A short walk down Lancaster Ave. from Bryn Mawr station, past the Knit Wit and La Colombe, you’ll find a decidedly un-snobbish Tin Lizard Brewing Co. The draft list, 12 beers in all, is wide-ranging, and includes classic styles like ESBs and dopplebocks, as well as more trendy brew like NEIPAs and goses (try the Lil G for a particularly clean take on that style).
Pro tip: Tin Lizard also offers the option of 4-ounce pours for everything that’s on tap. While Tin Lizard offers BBQ, like smoked brisket (and a cheesesteak made with brisket), baby back ribs, pulled pork, and smoked chicken, try not to go overboard with it — after all, you’ve got a lot of stops to go.
Teresa’s Next Door
You’ll pass a handful of restaurants on the short walk from the train to Teresa’s, but do pass them by — you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better, more extensive draft list anywhere along the Paoli-Thorndale line. The small, dimly lit (and TV-less) bar side has two dozen beers on tap, ranging from far-flung Belgian treats like Brouwerij Boon’s Oude Geuze Boon lambic and Brasserie de Blaugies’ La Vermontoise saison, to domestic delicacies like Russian River’s Pliny the Elder imperial IPA and the Rare Barrel’s Apropos of Nothing, an American wild ale.
Pro tip: If you need a break from the booze, check out Teresa’s list of alcohol-free mocktails. The Hombre’s Little Ombré, for example, is made with raspberry purée and ginger beer.
La Cabra Brewing
La Cabra’s industrial-chic taproom is great spot to grab a few of the highly coveted brewery’s beers, which range in style from Baltic porters and maibocks to hazy IPAs and Belgian wits. The brewery offers more than a dozen drafts, including some on cask, plus bottles of cider, so choosing can be tough. Flights run about $10, and can consist of four pours of whatever draft styles you are interested in.
Pro tip: If you can, try to arrive in Berwyn on a weekday between 3 and 5 p.m. for La Cabra’s $3 cask brew happy hour. Timing may be tough, but the beer is worth the effort — and so are the $3 tacos. Also, don’t miss the chance to take a load off in the brewery’s second-floor space, which features couches, a fireplace, dartboards, and other amenities.
Locust Lane Craft Brewery
Since Locust Lane’s brewery is so far from the train, an Uber or Lyft to their spot is pretty much required. If you go, be sure to take advantage of their themed flights, which showcase their beers based on style and seasonality. If you’re in it for the long haul, order “The Spectrum,” which, at $38, offers a small pour of each beer they have on their 14 taps. Otherwise, check out the Summer Love (a selection of warm-weather beers like pilsners and sours) or IPA Me (which includes several of their hoppier options).
Pro tip: Since it’s so far out, don’t be afraid to use a rideshare app to get to the next destination — World of Beer — which is about the same distance from Locust Lane as the brewery is from the Malvern train station.
World of Beer
Yes, World of Beer is a chain with dozens of locations. And yes, the Exton location has more than 50 beers on tap, plus eight coolers filled with canned offerings, making beer freshness a logistical challenge. But, really, it is amazing to see so much good beer in one place. The best part is that you can get small, 5-ounce pours of whatever they have available on draft, so trying a bunch of beers from breweries like Captain Lawrence, Destihl Brewery, and Pizza Boy won’t break the bank.
Pro tip: The inside tends to get pretty packed and loud, so grab your brews and head outside to enjoy lawn games like giant Jenga and cornhole in the Exton sunshine.
Stolen Sun Craft Brewing & Roasting
You may want to Uber here from World of Beer, as Exton isn’t very pedestrian-friendly. It’s worth it, though, as Stolen Sun is making a name for itself with a host of hop-forward beers like New Exton IPA, as well as more off-the-wall brews like Unicorn Tarts (made with Pop-Tarts), and Sweet Tang Gose (made with Tang). Snack-wise, you can keep it light-ish with bites like chips and house-made guacamole or soft pretzel sticks served with beer cheese, or go all out with their rotating ramens, which change weekly.
Pro tip: Get a cup of Joe to go — like their Hello Darkness, a bourbon barrel-aged Burundi coffee that goes down easier than it ought to. That way, you can sip it as a wakeup to your next destination.
If you’re getting off at Downingtown station, save Station Taproom for last and take the walk to Victory’s nearby location, where it all started for Bill Covaleski and his cohorts. That way, you can try some of the brewery’s more experimental beers, like the Longwood Oro Blanco, an American wheat pale ale made with grapefruit grown at Longwood Gardens, which was on tap during a recent visit. Otherwise, get a flight of five beers of your choosing, grab a snack like the fried cauliflower bites (served with Cloud Walker hazy IPA-infused aioli), and relax. You’re almost done!
Pro tip: If you’re feeling dessert-y, you’ll pass the Creamery at the Farmhouse, a great local ice cream shop from the award-winning Farmhouse Coffee and Espresso Bar, on the walk to your final destination.
This cozy, upscale neighborhood bar is the perfect spot to end your journey — and not just because it’s right across the street from the Downingtown station. Its 12-tap draft list also happens to be one of the most interesting along the Paoli-Thorndale line, and featured brews from Une Annee, Tired Hands, and Sterling Pig during a recent visit. Plus, you can refuel on fancy bar snacks like their excellent fried green tomato stack, which is made up of layers of crab cakes, green tomatoes, and bacon aioli.