Triumph Brewing Company 117 Chestnut Street Philadelphia PA 19106
A rainy, Sunday afternoon in Philly; unusually cool for this time of year. A bit of damp, misty fog wafting through the sidewalks, hushing the otherwise well-represented din of taxis, traffic and tour buses. Strolling through Olde City, the other day, it felt almost downright British to be out and about in such a beautiful dreary day. “Cheerio and pip-pip, etcetera—etcetera–etcetera”
Mind you, I was not out on this afternoon constitutional for my health, nor to see the sites. No, no. I was thirsty. C’mon, it was Sunday afternoon. What ELSE should you be doing, but out looking for a bar in which to unwind before the dreaded work week rolls around again, eh? Right? Right!
I walked a few blocks, pondering the many choices I had to choose from where (being in a very British mood) a chap might nip in to a public house for a pint, or two. I paused at the doorstep of The Triumph Brewing Company. “Triumph, well, sounds kind of British…” I think to myself. “Yeah…I think they make motorcycles, or something.” Pffft—good enough for me!
I peeked inside. The bar was nearly empty, but the lights were on, so…quicker than you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” I plopped my Yank arse at the bar and began eyeing up the selection of draft beers currently available. A very nice selection from which to choose that day: Helles Lager, Amber Ale, Kellerbier, Coffee & Cream Stout, Munich Dunkel, IPX, Saison, Hefeweizen. Decisions, decisions…well, for the sake of consistency, best stick with the whole “Brit vibe” I was so enjoying. (Stop rolling yer eyes…I couldn’t afford a real vacation this year, and just jet off to Europe, so let a guy pretend, ok?) The Amber Ale…a bitter, I think they might call it across the pond, eh what? Yep.
“A pint of bitter…I mean, uh…an Amber Ale, please,” I asked the attractive bar keeper.
“What’s with the fake accent?” she laughed.
“Ehh…I couldn’t afford a vacation,” came my quick-witted reply.
She smiled for a millisecond and set a glass of amber ale before me. As usual, my killer social skills afforded me plenty of time to quietly enjoy my surroundings alone. Huh. A five dollar pint…not too bad, I think to myself and take a hearty sip. Smooth, mildly hoppy—a light, malty flavor—not too thick. Yes…almost like a pint of bitter…as if I were sitting in a bar called “The King’s Spotted Trousers,” in Needshank Meadows at Bullops-on-Chutney-Mews West, or some such ridiculous-sounding British place. FIVE BUCKS, baby. Nice; and no passport required!
Once settled, I glanced around. There was a small lounge in front, at which sat a few folks chatting and relaxing with a view of Chestnut Street. A few umbrella-ed tables adorned the sidewalk outside. The bar was a thick slab of honey-brown, lacquered wood. Proper. Comfortable. Behind the bar was a wooden cross-beam checkerboard of cubbyholes, each holding an impressive collection of liquors. (Including, I noted, Philly’s own Bluecoat gin.)
There was a second floor above and…some funky scrap metal sculptures of monkeys, I realized with a start, which dangled down from the steel I-beams over my head. (I think they were supposed to be monkeys, I dunno.) Kind of weird, but cool too. In fact, the whole place had a very, modern yet, inviting, comfortable feel to it. A sort of Euro-Scandinavian-new American flavor. After a couple of pints of the Amber Ale, I was getting hungry. So, of course, I ordered the Coffee and Cream stout. Blast me if the brew didn’t taste like a cuppa was dumped in yer beer, but, I mean that in a good way. Really. It was malty, creamy and had a genuinely eye-opening flavor. Still, I thought, not as thick on my tongue as I thought a traditional stout ought to be; but very tasty indeed. But now I was really hungry.
The bar maid, smirking at me, brought me a menu. “She likes me because she thinks I’m British,” I tell myself and eye up the list of grub: a very diverse, yet appropriately Euro-American fare, and very reasonably priced. Unsure between the grilled asparagus, red beet salad, edamame fritters, duck sausage, fish and chips and morbier Panini…I did what any red-blooded American would do while on “vacation,” I ordered the burger, of course. (Yeah, I know…the fish and chips…good GOD man, what were you thinking?) Alas, the fish and chips were $14…the burger was $10. Remember WHY I can’t go on vacation? Right. (Not to mention…I’m a little fuzzy on what “edamame” and “morbier” are, exactly.) For ten bucks, in Center City, THAT was a very tasty burger. Served with chips (“fries,” you silly Yanks), this “organic grass fed beef” was very satisfying indeed. The afternoon was winding down; my wallet was a little lighter and my belly full. Not bad for a day’s work, I thought.
“Best use the loo (the “bathroom,” you silly Yank) before I go.” I inform the barmaid (who’s now fully smitten with me and totally convinced I’m a visiting English Lord). It took me a second to realize…it was a unisex bathroom…but each stall had its own thick wooden door, washbasin and soap/towel dispenser. Not the most cost effective way to design a restaurant bathroom, I guess—or maybe it is—kind of European too. (You’re a peeing…hah ha…ugh…)
I did my business, washed up and popped back out to the bar. As I was leaving, a musician was setting up on a rear stage area that I had not noticed before. It’s open mic night.
“Well, it would be RUDE to walk out just as she was setting up,” I thought. Best pop back and settle in with another pint of bitter…err…I mean Amber Ale. Besides, the barmaid needs me …I have to answer all sorts of questions she has about such mysteries as why we drive on the wrong side of the road and why we call fries “chips” and chips “crisps.” After a few more pints…I’m sure the answers will come to me. They always do.
The guitarist strums away…her soft voice warms the room…the rain is still falling outside….the evening crowd fills the bar…and my summer vacation is winding down nicely.
If you want to continue the shenanigans, you ought to be here.