I've made some beer runs lately and thought this might be a good idea for a post. Pennsylvania is a really strange place to be a beer fan. Living in the Philly area (West Chester, PA, to be exact), there are certainly lots of great beer bars around (center city is a bit of a hike for me, but there are even some decent bars out here in the 'burbs) and a pretty amazing amount of actual local breweries (to name a few: Philadelphia Brewing Co, Yards, Victory, Weyerbacher, SlyFox, Iron Hill, among several others), but on the other hand, we have some really weird liquor laws. Liquor and wine are only sold at state stores and beer is mostly sold at separate distributors (and neither are generally sold at convenient locations like supermarkets, though there is an exception we'll get to). Up until recently, no alcohol at all was sold on Sundays. Furthermore, beer is generally only sold by the case, with one major exception: If you operate an eatery, you can sell loose bottles, six packs, etc...
As such, there are a few places that have been popping up in PA in recent years that have pretty great selections of loose bottles and make-your-own-sixpack deals, though I also often find myself in Delaware or even Maryland, trying to find that hard-to-get beer. Here's a quick list of where I frequently find myself buying beer:
- Pinoccio's Beer Garden (Media, PA) - Probably the best combination of selection and convenience for me is this pizza joint. The food is pretty standard pizza place fare, but they've got a large selection both on tap and in coolers in back. It's a fantastic place, and probably my favorite PA bottle store (though there are a couple others that I need to check out).
- Hockessin Liquors (Hockessin, DE) - Believe it or not, this is one of the first places I found that had a really great selection of 750 ml bottles and 22 oz bombers, and it's about half a mile from a family member's house, so whenever I go there, I make sure to stop by this store and marvel at the amazing beer selection and pick up as many bottles as I can.
- State Line Liquors (Elkton, MD) - My most recent discovery, this place looks like a total dump from the outside, but it has the most amazing beer selection I've ever seen in one place (in particular, their selection of foreign beer is impressive). The majority of the beer from the below picture came from this place. I've only been here once, and it's a bit far, but it's not a horrible drive and I will most definitely be returning.
- Total Wine (Claymont, DE) - This place is bigger than my usual supermarket. Unfortunately, most of that is dedicated to wine, but there's a nice, sizeable beer selection as well. It's probably not as extensive as some of the other places on this list, but it's a worthy location, and about 10 minutes from my parents' house, so it's still somewhat convenient.
- Wegmans (Downingtown, PA) - Not too long ago, Wegmans started exploiting the whole eatery loophole for sale of single bottles. Their eatery is attached to their grocery store, so this place is doubly convenient (it's also right near a movie theater I frequent, which is nice). The selection varies, and you have to be a bit quick on the draw to get good seasonal stuff, but they've got a pretty good variety here, though not quite the religious experience some of the above places are...
- Goshen Beverage (West Chester, PA) - This is the place closest to me, but it's also a beer distributer, so no loose bottles here. Still, if I want to get a case of something, this is where I go first, and they really do have a great selection.
- The Beeryard (Wayne, PA) - This is also a beer distributer, but if I'm looking for a case of something and I can't find it at Goshen Beverage, this place will probably have it. Alas, I don't end up here very often.
- Capone's Restaurant (Norristown, PA) - I've only been here once, but I get a very Pinocchio's vibe from this place. It's definitely a cool place, and I'd like to check it out again someday, but it's also a bit far. A friend in beer club often gets her beer here, so I certainly benefit from this place. I should probably give it more of a fair shake.
- The Foodery (Philadelphia, PA) - It would be negligent to not mention this place, which is indeed quite awesome, but at the same time, both locations are in center city Philly, which is a bit of a hike (and when you add in traffic, parking, etc... , it can be a bit of a hassle and costly too). Still, if I lived in the city, I'd probably go here often.
I'm pretty excited to try, well, all of these. And yes, per my friend Padraic's suggestion, I picked up two bottles of Ola Dubh, the 40 and 16 (which should be quite interesting). Not pictured are three of Mikkeller's single hop IPAs, which should be an interesting experience as well.
That about covers where I buy bottles (bars, brewpubs, and or breweries will have to be a separate post someday). Obviously I'm always on the lookout for new places, so I'll try to keep this post updated if I find anything new and interesting. Also, if you have any suggestions that would be convenient for this West Chester, PA native, feel free to leave a comment below!