Savoring South Philly suds

Mak­ing qual­ity beer  is a fam­ily af­fair at Brew­ery ARS


an Ar­senault is pour­ing a pint of Old Stoop Rye Ale. His wife, Erica, is mak­ing change at the counter. His twin broth­er, Andy, is san­it­iz­ing met­al fit­tings from one of the fer­menters. The tast­ing room is packed with couples drain­ing pints and diving in­to plates from a food truck parked out front.

This is the week­end routine at Brew­ery ARS, the new mi­cro that opened earli­er this year at 1927-29 West Passy­unk Ave.

Small and hy­per-loc­al, it’s open for busi­ness just a hand­ful of hours on Fri­day, Sat­urday and Sunday, serving fresh, very well made beer brewed in batches that can be meas­ured in gal­lons, not bar­rels.

“We’re not look­ing to take over the world,” says Andy, show­ing off a tidy line of stain­less steel tanks. “We just want to make good beer.”

Ah, the op­tim­ist­ic man­tra of star­tups: If only I make a high-qual­ity product, cus­tom­ers will beat a path to my door. Lately, skep­tics have clucked that that’s not enough — that the ex­plos­ive growth in small brew­er­ies across Amer­ica has made it im­possible for start-ups to get a foothold. How can a small com­pany find room on the beer shelf in an in­dustry con­trolled by a cut­throat dis­tri­bu­tion net­work?

It’s even harder when those shelves are lined with the likes of Goose Is­land IPA, Dev­il’s Back­bone Vi­enna La­ger, Elysi­an Zephyr­us Pils­ner and Breck­en­ridge Vanilla Port­er —  all made by An­heuser-Busch.

Yet, on this cold, sunny af­ter­noon, I can see a fu­ture for small brew­ing here at Brew­ery ARS.

That’s largely be­cause of its scale. 

Though the broth­ers are am­bi­tious, this is not a huge op­er­a­tion with a high over­head. It’s a store­front carved out of a former mech­an­ic’s gar­age and tucked in among small shops and row­houses. The neigh­bor­hood is chan­ging from its tra­di­tion­al South Philly eth­nic base as it at­tracts young couples priced out of Cen­ter City, yet it bears little re­semb­lance to far trend­i­er East Passy­unk Av­en­ue on the oth­er side of Broad. 

With a scarce sup­ply of nearby on-street park­ing, the room is filled with mainly loc­als who walked here: young guys in iron­ic fe­doras and wo­men in ski caps, some with their kids in strollers. 

The tap list is a row of car­toon­ish sketches drawn by Sean: World’s Apart Amer­ic­an Pale Ale, An­tique’n Sim­coe Ale, Ash­land Ro­bust Port­er, Wayne’s Pale Ale. “That’s named for our fath­er,” he says. “A por­tion of the profits go to Par­kin­son’s re­search, which he has.”

The vibe is easy and low-key. “Chlo­ro­form” by the French rock band Phoenix is play­ing on the Bluetooth speak­er. 

People are eat­ing and drink­ing and talk­ing, but this does not feel like a bar.

The beer was brewed on the premises, but this does not feel like a brewpub.

It is soft-spoken and un­pre­ten­tious, and most of all it feels like a part of the neigh­bor­hood. On a day when Trump is roil­ing Amer­ica with an­oth­er series of caustic Tweets, the tast­ing room feels like an oas­is.

Nurs­ing my Old Stoop, a bit­ter, aro­mat­ic ale with the kind of bal­ance and clean fin­ish that shows off the brew­ery’s fo­cus on qual­ity, I can’t help but think that Philly could use more places like this. 

Fol­low Joe Six­pack on Twit­ter @beer­_radar