Originally posted summer 2009. Photos by Frank Dreitlein.
Departing from our normal presentation, technically this is not a row house but rather a homage to row houses in the best way we can think of. In the years we’ve been researching row houses, we’ve come across many business owners who name their businesses after our favorite abode, Row House Restaurant, Row House Framing, Row House Decoration etc. However, this is the first specific product we’ve found and it’s from right in our backyard.
The Philadelphia Brewing Company is a micro-brewery located in East Kensington, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The brewmeisters, Dean Brown, John Rehm and Josh Ervine have been brewing since 2001. Previous known as Yards Brewing Co., they separated from their previous partners and started The Philadelphia Brewing Co. in 2008. Since then, they’ve been producing four beers throughout the year, including RowHouse Red, and several seasonal beers.
RowHouse Red is a ruby farmhouse ale, made according to a traditional recipe from Belgium. It’s made using rye, Lachouffe Yeast from Belgium and has a rich, spicy, malty flavor. We’ve found that it highly complements cheesesteak, which may or may not be coincidental, BBQ burgers or a nice robust vegetarian chili.
When it came time to name the beer, seeing as Philadelphia is rather short on farmhouses, the brewers named it RowHouse Red to honor Philadelphia’s long-standing tradition of red brick, row house architecture. Several of the other beers are also named after places and people from Philadelphia. The regulars include Kenzinger (the neighborhood of Kensington), Newbold IPA (a neighborhood in South Philly) and Walt Wit (Walt Whitman). Seasonal releases include Shackamaximum (a local street), “Joe”” (it’s made with coffee), Philly’z Navidad (holiday brew), Phila-buster, Fleur de Lehigh and, new for the summer, BiBerry.
Dean, a brewer, who was serving up samples for the afternoon’s guests, greeted us warmly and explained about the brewery’s history and answered our questions about RowHouse Red beer. They offer free tours and tastings on most Saturday afternoons. After we tried a few varieties, for research purposes, David, our tour guide, took us through the brewing process, from start to finish. We started in the room where they process the barley, creating wort, which is a special kind of sugar water. The wort travels to the brew kettles where it’s heated for a few hours, after which, bitter hops are added to balance the sweetness of the wort. At this time, other ingredients including berries, ginger, herbs, rhubarb, lemon grass and rose hips, depending on the recipe, are added to the beer. Then the mixture is cooled to about 72 degrees and put into the fermentation tank where the appropriate variety of yeast is added. The yeast happily munches away on the sugar creating alcohol and CO2. The type of beer determines how long the fermentation process is and if the beer will be filtered or not. Once the fermentation process is complete, the beer is bottled.
Philadelphia has a long history of brewing beer. By the 1890s, there were more than 100 breweries in the city. The building that houses The Philadelphia Brewing Co. was originally a brewery called the Weisbrod & Hess Oriental Brewing Company. Weisbrod & Hess operated from 1885 to 1939. The building still retains the original mosaic and brick work depicting the founding brewery’s name. By 1987 there were no more breweries operating in Philadelphia. Today, a handful of micro breweries have re-established the brewing tradition in the city. The Philadelphia Brewing Co. distributes RowHouse Red, as well as their other beers, locally which they say is the best way to ensure maximum quality control. A small quantity is shipped outside of the general Philadelphia area.
The Philadelphia Brewing Co. is very engaged with their community and supports several local charities. They host the East Kensington Neighborhood Association’s monthly meeting.