Devil’s Den first blipped onto my radar in June, during Philadelphia Beer Week. The South Philadelphia outpost is far enough from the main stretch of Center City to fall off the radars of tourists and other visitors to the city who don’t typically make it farther south than South Street; crowded with locals, most of them fixed gear bikers and heavily adorned with tattoos, it’s a watering hole that requires some legwork to get to.
Devil’s Den may look, to the untrained eye, like a perfectly average sports bars – sizeable TVs playing the Phillies game above the bar, a menu of unfussy bar snack staples – but its selection of beers is not merely a selling point but would rightly be called extraordinary. With 17 different craft beers on tap and a bottle list that typically numbers around 150 different brews, it isn’t feasible to sample even a small range of the bar’s offerings in one trip.
That anxiety of indecision was palpable during my Philadelphia Beer Week trip. In addition to their already expansive menu, the bar was playing host to a tap takeover and meet-the-brewer event with western Pennsylvania-based microbrewery, Voodoo Brewery. On offer were pints, snifters, and flights of the brewery’s fantastic small-batch creations, which are elusive at best: distributed only within a small region in the Mid-Atlantic, a mere handful of their ales are even bottled. Many of the beers on offer were additionally made only for Philadelphia Beer Week, the kegs already in danger of kicking. Procuring a tasting flight was clearly imperative.
Voodoo Brewery is a small operation known for its creativity (in terms of attitude, they bear some resemblance to Brooklyn’s Sixpoint , or Delaware’s Dogfish Head) as well as their mastery of certain styles – their Pilzilla is a top-rated Keller Bier on Beer Advocate, and their Cowbell Milk Stout is consistently hailed as one of the best of the genre. That was all on display at this event: from their Bitchin’ Camaro, an ale perfumed with hibiscus and rose hips, to their Big Black Voodoo Daddy, a swarthy, statuesque, roasty stout, their beers evinced a brewery at the top of its game. The best of all was their Cowbell Milk Stout, so luscious and velveteen as to resemble a liquid tootsie roll.
Devil’s Den’s relationship with the brewing community is laudable, but it’s worth a trek even when brewers aren’t handing out their finest creations personally. Tackling their ever-expanding beer roster is no small quest, but for hopheads it proves a worthy challenge indeed.