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The Hop Stops: McGillin’s Olde Ale House, Nodding Head Brewery and Monk’s Cafe


When drinking in Center City, Rittenhouse Square doesn’t have to be all about high-heels and hi-balls. There’s quite a few down-to-earth pubs and ale houses that feature some of the best beers in town. This week, the Hop Stops makes a visit to McGillin’s Olde Ale House, Nodding Head Brewery and Monk’s Cafe. McGillin's Old Ale House

McGillin's Olde Ale House

1310 Drury Street

(215) 735-5562

People have been drinking beer here for about as long as the Liberty Bell has been broken. Self-proclaimed to be Philadelphia's version of the fictional "Cheers" bar, the ale house located on an alley off Walnut and 13th, is all about good food, good beer and good times.

The bartenders are friendly and you can’t help but feel a part of a big family while hanging out here. The inside is just one large room with tons of long wooden tables and an old fireplace sits at the back. There’s also an upstairs for bigger parties. There's a large selection of microbrews to debate over, and most of them are local which is always a good thing. They offer Yards, Stoudt's, Flying Fish, Victory, Sly Fox and Dogfish Head. There's also two house specialties McGillin’s Real Ale and McGillin’s Genuine Lager which are brewed in Adamstown by Stoudt’s. You'll also find stouts like Lancaster's Milk Stout, or Beamish Genuine, made in Ireland. Lagers and Pilsners include Yuengling, Hoegarden and Stella and for the week palettes, there's also Bud Light and Miller. Not sure what to try? Go for a sampler, because at $8.50 you can't go wrong.

To mark 150 years of service, McGillin's is also launching its own special brew, 1860 IPA, made by Stoudt's, which you can only get on tap at McGillins. You may be lucky enough to catch it bottled, but only 200 cases were brewed. Every day is special here. Or, at least you'll find specials every day, like pitchers of PBR, Yuengling or Bud Light for five or six bucks, half price pizza on Monday, 25 cent wings on Tuesday, Karaoke and $1 tacos on Wednesday and $3 margaritas and nachos on Thursday.

Tasty food offerings range from the typical bar fare like a Philly cheese steak, or grilled reuben, and burgers, then also salads and bigger dinners like mussels, chicken parm, steak and crabcake combo. And for those with just the beer munchies, there's a variety of fries, wings, pot stickers, and pizza. Nodding Head

Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant

1516 Sansom St.

(215) 569-9525

Enter through the front door and head straight up the stairs to this second-story brewery above the Sansom Street Oyster House. Owned by the same people who run Monk's, Nodding Head specializes in its own beers. You won’t find the watered-down generic Miller or Coors here.

The pub is spacious, with a semi-small bar towards the left side of the stairs, but plenty of large booths to sit in and even a few high-top tables to stand around. A big window of bobble head toys greet you when you walk in and there’s also a view of the big copper tanks that the beer is brewed in. It’s a relaxing place to enjoy a delicious beer that you’re not going to find elsewhere.

On tap are their homemade brews: 3C, a double IPA with three different hops; 60 Shilling, a lighter Scottish Ale; 700 Level, a light-bodied blonde ale; BPA a hoppy pale ale and Grog, and English-Style brown ale. Edible offerings include shrimp stuffed with jalapenos, crab cakes, baked brie and a spread of cheese sausages and fruit, burgers with a range of toppings; and other hearty sandwiches like a cajun strip steak, muffaletta or pulled pork. There is more than a dozen entrees to eye up as well, like rack of lamb, polenta puttanesca, a few mussel dishes, and even jambalya. Come Sunday mornings and you'll find a brunch menu, or come by later that night for quizzo. Monk's Cafe

Monk's Cafe

626 S 16th St

(215) 545-7005

If you’re coming to Monk’s just to enjoy one of its many delicious Belgian beers, you may need to be prepared to stand or squeeze in at the bar. The place is often packed with diners and beer aficionados alike.

The Belgian beer list is extensive and those who serve it are rather knowledgeable about it, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are a few tables scattered throughout the front of the cafe, and even more in the back so coming earlier for a delicious meal and drinks may be a good idea.

Beers offered at the two bars’ drafts vary. In the back bar, you’ll find Tripel Karmeliet (which is Belgian for caramel), Taras Boulba, St. Bernardus, Delirium Tremens, Monk's Flemish Sour Ale, Lindemans Framboise, Brasserie de la Senne Equinox, Cantillon Fou Foune, Chouffe Houblon, Unibroue Ephemere, Bear Republic Racer 5, Allagash White, Left Hand / Terrapin Depth Cha, and Russian River Damnation. Out front you’ll find Duvel Green, Tripel Karmeliet, Allagash White, Russian River PNC Publication, Lagunitas Lucky 13, Port High Tide and Arcadia Big Dick BB. 

If you’re coming to eat, how about starting off with some braised veal cheeks or flemish grilled scallops? There's also salads to chose from like one with grilled duck breast or grass-fed organic steak over greens. Then of course, Monk's has mussels, many of which are doused in beer, like the Burges made with Hoegarden, or the Flemish ones with none other than Monk's Flemish Sour Ale. Other heartier offerings include burgers, tuna steaks with an array of toppings to choose from like caramelized leeks and blue cheese, and also sausage sandwiches or a seitan cheese steak. Main dishes include chicken pot pie, beef and beer strew and many more.


If you're a fan of both food AND beer, Monk's combines the two well on any given day, but also on special occasions. They're planning a Dogfish Head beer dinner in February and just had a Holiday Beer Festival the other week.