A Flight on Opening Night at Second District Brewing Co.
by Shane Fisher
After a long awaited arrival of Philadelphia’s newest brewpub, Second District Brewing Co., located at 1939 South Bancroft Street opened their doors at 5pm on February 16th. Some Philadelphia beer fans may notice some familiar faces are present, as John Longacre of American Sardine Bar the Brew bottle shop and South Philadelphia Taproom and Curt Decker of the former Nodding Head have joined forces to create a neighborhood brewpub that embodies the spirit of the Newbold neighborhood it serves.
While I and many other fans were waiting for the rebirth or relocation of the former brewpub were expecting to see a new Nodding Head, Curt and John were behind the scenes developing Second District. To be clear this is not Nodding Head, and that is absolutely okay. Philadelphia Brewing Company has since taken on the duties of Brewing the Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse, a long standing staple of the former brewpub, so the beer lives on.
Enter Second District Brewing. This project has been in the works for quite some time and the effort put in shines through in every facet when you walk in the front door. While this is not the second coming of Nodding Head, the same welcoming, warm and inviting environment remain present in the new South Philadelphia brewpub. This sentiment sings true with the staff as well. The decor features a blend of rustic and gilded with an array of antique mirrors lining the back of the bar. Step beyond the bar into the back and you’ll be in the midst of the bi-level brewhouse featuring some of the old Nodding Head equipment with an array of barrels throughout, which will soon produce great beers to come. Along with the rustic decor are sliding garage doors that are sure to liven up this space during the summer time.
Now that we’ve painted the picture for the atmosphere of this brewpub, let’s talk about what’s the most important: the beer. Head brewer Ben Potts’ seasoned background features three local mainstays in Dock Street, Dogfish Head and Tired Hands, so rest assured the beer will be great. The taplist features a diverse blend of mostly sessionable, straightforward and good, honest beers that everyone is sure to enjoy. Opening night featured six beers, with capacity for two more. The starting six were diverse and delicious with two IPAs, a dark English Mild, a light, citrusy pale ale, Vietnamese Coffee Stout and English Barleywine, finding a favorite beer will be easy for everyone.
I started my night with the Entwife, a delicious rye dark English mild which boasted with rich malt, toffee and coffee beans. I’ve had a hankering for a decent mild and this was what I’ve been searching for. At 3.4%, this beer is flavorful and insanely sessionable.
Next, I went with the Bancroft Beer, “the people’s pale ale” which is true to description. This is an accessible beer for most who will enter the doors of this establishment. The malt delivers a light straw color and the nose is not overbearing with the citrus hop aroma and the dry finish complements this beer well. While this pale serves the people and is not aggressive in any means, that does not make it any less delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed this offering.
After the pale, I went IPA with their Saw & Tool. Like the Bancroft Beer, this IPA featured a light color achieved by using a dash of Maris Otter malt, which allowed the hop character to shine through. The aroma was ripe with fresh floral citrus hops and that sang true throughout. The beer is absolutely to the point and again, very sessionable.
The next beer caught my attention from the get go: Camellia Sinensis which gets its name from the tea tree. This brew is true to its Philadelphia roots as it uses a blend of teas from Premium Steap to offer a nice bitterness and dry finish to this beer. The citrus aroma and flavoring from the hops complement this style and the light oat malt allow for this brew to sing more through the additions of tea and hops over the malt base.
At this point, I couldn’t contain myself. As a stout lover, the Huy Vietnamese Coffee Stout was staring me in the face since I walked in the door. I ordered a 10 ounce pour of the brew and was blown away by the roasty, coffee forward aroma that contained hints of jelly bean. Once I took a sip of the velvety body of the beer, it revealed its complex nature of roasted malt, cacao, espresso and cappuccino jelly bean, true to the texture and flavor of a Vietnamese iced coffee. Each sip was just as good as the first and I really enjoyed this offering.
To finish my sampling for the evening, I went with the Friends & Family English Barleywine. Now, barleywine is an interesting style in itself, but this beer was something else. At 9.2% abv, this brew is not as sessionable as its counterparts on the taplist, that does not mean it is any less drinkable. The flavor profile of this reminded me of a cream soda: nice malt sweetness throughout, vanilla notes and a dry finish. As the brew warmed up, the malt revealed more toffee like notes which made this beer a good one to pick on a cold winter evening.
After enjoying a bit of each beer and taking in the whole experience, I spoke to Curt about the beer, congratulated him on the new space and gave credit for the delicious beers I enjoyed this evening. He was visibly glowing while conversing with his patrons, a sign that his hard work has paid off, and it has.
If my words have not convinced you to check out this new neighborhood gem, do yourself a favor and let the beer do all the talking. You’ll surely be back for more. See you there.