Bar Hopping: Bainbridge Street Barrel House, Philadelphia, PA

I recently made my second visit to Bainbridge Street Barrel House (BSBH) at 6th & Bainbridge in Philadelphia's Queen Village neighborhood. This spacious corner bar opened about a year ago and has since become a popular spot for folks in the immediate neighborhood, if not a destination for the city at-large. So far, reviews of the Barrel House have been lukewarm, mostly because the gastro-pub scene has become so competitive. Given the somewhat inflated prices and my ho-hum experience with BSBH's cheeseburger, I would also recommend other nearby spots ahead of this one for food and maybe even beer (although with 25 taps and a family connection to Bella Vista Beer Distributors, the Barrel House can put together a great beer list when they want to). However, if you're looking for a low key neighborhood joint to enjoy a few fine whiskeys at fair prices, this is your spot.

I won't bore you with a long list of the bourbons, ryes, and Scotches they have on offer since they do the very kind favor of posting their list here, including prices! I will however point out a few gems that would stand out on a whiskey list anywhere, but are especially surprising to see here in Pennsylvania where the PLCB makes life oh so difficult. First, they have not one but two different George T. Stagg releases (2010 & 2011). They also have Bowman Brother's bourbon, aged in Virginia, and a $6 dram of W.L. Weller. These are just not things you expect to find in a neighborhood gastro-pub in Philly, and while bourbon is the obvious focus, there's also a nice balance of rye, Scotch, and Irish with rare (Ledaig 10 Year Sherry Cask) and bargain (Paddy's for $5) options alike.

Philly has a ton of awesome bars and can go toe-to-toe with any city for bar food and beer selection. Most of these bars however don't show the hand of a true whiskey aficionado at work when you look at their back-bar - Bainbridge Street Barrel House does, and it manages to do the beer and food thing well enough too. All without putting on airs or being anything more than a neighborhood pub where you can bring your friends, have a snack, drink a beer, watch a football game...and get a slug or two of Pappy Van Winkle or A.H. Hirsch if you're feeling so inclined.