I unfurled my mat on the cold concrete floor and tried to reconcile the hour-long yoga class ahead of me with my surroundings, nary a Ganesha or smoldering incense stick in sight. Instead, as I stretched, I observed a man rolling a keg out of a walk-in cooler, past tall shelves laden with sacks of brewer's yeast and shiny tanks rumbling with whatever mysterious mechanical processes conspire to produce beer.
Though I'd felt awkward strolling into a bar wearing leggings and clutching a yoga mat, this is the standard Sunday afternoon ritual at East Falls' Wissahickon Brewing, part of a craft brewery boom that has swept across Philadelphia, bringing with it an influx of yoga-beer combination offerings. Here, the $15 class price buys a moderately challenging vinyasa yoga session right on the brewery floor, followed by a pint of your choice to immediately counteract any yogic health benefits. (More virtuous yogis can opt for Inspired Brews kombucha, which is also available on draft.)
Luke Gill, a longtime home brewer but not a particularly avid yogi, opened the place a year ago with his father and two brothers.
They'd been entering their home brew in competitions, and were doing well enough to compete at the national level. Three years ago, at one of those competitions, "over a couple beers, maybe a couple too many, we decided, 'Our beer is definitely good enough. Let's take a stab at the dream.' "
So they found a squat, 7,000-square-foot building that once housed an ambulance dispatch center, scrubbed off the grease stains, and cleared out the old engines and switchboards. The space now accommodates both a cozy tasting room reminiscent of the common area in some college students' house-shares, and a cavernous brewery that houses both the guts of the brewing operation and a lounge with ping-pong tables, corn hole and ladder ball sets, and — when Philly sports or Penn State games are on — a 14-foot screen for the HD projector.
Gill's father, Tim, retired from his job managing Love Park to focus on the brewery full-time last year. His contacts have proved helpful in ensuring a food truck is on site every day the brewery's open. Gill quit his job as an IT specialist in January to step up production, with an eye toward adding a canning line later this year.
Given their out-of-the-way location, they're seeking to pull in crowds with events like Quizzo, dog adoption days, comedy nights — and, despite Gill's initial skepticism, twice-weekly yoga.
"I thought: 'Who would want to do yoga in a stinky, hot brewery?' " Gill said. "We have fans going all the time. Potentially, we're kegging. It's kind of industrial. But it took off from the get-go." They do make some adjustments for these sessions, including clearing and cleaning the floors, dimming the lights, and putting out on the bar a bowl of "permission stones" for those who consent to hands-on adjustments.
The post-yoga scene in the tasting room was heavy on strollers, dogs, and Lycra, a situation no doubt exacerbated by the proximity to the Kelly Drive bike path. The best sellers here, the Devil's Pool Double IPA and Tripel Citrus, measure a boozy 9 percent ABV, making them unwise rehydration options. Instead, I tried not to sweat into a flight that included a pleasantly hoppy, slightly bitter Crick West Coast IPA; the Bellini-like Gypsy Peach, a Belgian blond made with peach puree; and a smoky, chocolaty porter called Ravenhill.
Did I find enlightenment? Maybe not. But it's not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Wissahickon Brewing Co.
3705 West School House Lane, 215-483-8833, wissahickonbrew.com
When to go: Yoga is Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 6 p.m. Check the website for a full schedule of events and food trucks. It's open Wednesday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday, 5-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-11 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-6 p.m.
Bring: Your yoga mat, an empty growler to fill, and a friend — the post-workout bar scene isn't as sociable as you might imagine.
What to order: A flight of four beers for $8 is the best way to sample all the brews, including experiments like a shoofly-pie beer that's currently on tap. If you're not a beer person, there's locally made wine from Stone & Key Cellars and Inspired Brews kombucha on draft.
Bathroom situation: It's a spacious, clean, single-stall room with a baby-changing table, a testament to the brewery's kid-friendly claims.