The distance from 138 Bridge St. in Phoenixville to No. 368 is barely 2,000 feet. Maybe 800 steps, if you’re walking with purpose.
Which is what you would need to do if you were going to visit all the breweries along this short stretch of downtown Phoenixville main drag in one shot. From Iron Hill’s brewpub at one end of Bridge Street to Stable 12 Brewing at the other, you hit four breweries… plus one brewery tap house, three winery tasting rooms, a distillery and a few bars.
If there’s a more compact set of breweries anywhere in America, I’d like to know about it.
Portland, Oregon? Nah – its 60-plus breweries are spread out over a good 50 square miles. Burlington, Vermont? Its Church Street Marketplace comes close, with three – and one more nearby.
The wealth of booze is made even more appealing by the small-town charm of this old, former steel-making borough. With its weekend festivals, outdoor events, farmer’s market, antique shops, trendy restaurants, an iconic movie theater, plus a very walkable main drag, P-ville’s downtown boasts all the amenities of Hometown, U.S.A.
Breweries are a very real and important part of that vibe.
“What we’re seeing, since the end of last summer, people are beginning to come to Phoenixville from beyond the local radius,” said Mark Sofio, head brewer at the year-old Crowded Castle (242 Bridge St.). “For the craft beer drinker, it means you can go to five different places that are close together, and you can see how the beer id different from one place to another. You can see the interpretation of a specific style, you can taste the difference.”
If you visit on weekends, especially, you’re bound to encounter the same faces of craft beer lovers at each of the five spots, enjoying samplers and pints as they brewery hop their way through town.
It doesn’t matter where you start. For pure efficiency, I suggest launching from Stable 12 (368 Bridge), whose outdoor beer garden tables welcome large groups.
Next is Crowded Castle (242 Bridge), with a large indoor space and 11 every-changing taps.
You might get sidetracked by one of the several winery tasting rooms along the same block, but stay focused! Next is the Rec Room (230 Bridge), a brewery tap house directly across the street from the famous Colonial Theater (notable as a key scene in the horror movie, “The Blob”). No beer is brewed here, though it’s all plenty fresh and shipped directly from nearby Conshohocken Brewing.
Grab a pick-me-up cup of joe at Steel City Coffeehouse (203 Bridge), then turn left on Main Street and walk 100 feet toward Root Down Brewing (1 N. Main St.). This is a noisy, cavernous, fun spot with a young crowd and some outstanding brews that lean heavily toward IPA-ville.
Next up: the familiar comfort of Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (130 Bridge). It’s your best bet for a full meal paired with an award-winning pint. (Look for Bridge Street Bock, a GABF medalist in 2016).
You might think all of this is too much beer for one small (population 16,000) town, but that’s hardly the case.
“That’s been the fun of Phoenixville,” Sofio said. “From my perspective, all the breweries get along real well.”
As do other businesses. Sofio said his next-door neighbor, the artsy Diving Cat Studio Gallery, recently adjusted its hours so they match those of his brewery. “The owner told me, ‘From now on, I’m open when you’re open. Do you realize how many people walk from your place into my place?’ ”
Sofio gives “all the credit” to the borough itself, for having a long planning vision that included investment in infrastructure, and a liberal attitude about attracting new business. For example, he said, it didn’t demand that his business provide a minimum number of parking spots for customers.
Which is a lesson that other towns looking for tourism traffic should imitate. Breweries can be magnets, but it’s better if you give visitors a chance to walk it off (and spending a few more bucks) before heading home.
For those planning a trip, here’s one other tip: Bring your bicycle. The Schuylkill River Trail runs directly through downtown Phoenixville.
And, if you’ve got the energy (and a DD), there are a five other breweries with a 15-minute drive of Bridge Street, including: