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In the midst of a brisk December ’05 brewpub tour west of Philadelphia, visited nine locations in three days, going from Bethlehem (most northerly) to Glen Mills (most southerly) and finally, New Hope (most easterly) on initial journey.

While Glen Mills’ highway-bound Mc Kenzie Brewhouse specialized in Belgian, Czech, and English-styled beers and nearby West Chester’s Iron Hill Brewery (one of five-plus franchise pubs in Penn-Delaware vicinity) crafted a diverse beer-ale assortment, SLY FOX BREWHOUSE, situated 20 miles northeast in rural Phoenixville, received highest recommendation.

Opened 1996 amongst farmlands inside a pristine mini-mall, SLY FOX BREWHOUSE  is the crown jewel (with a second location at neighboring Royersford), featuring the attentive crafting of brewer Brian O’Reilly. Entering from a front patio December ‘05, this sterling high-ceilinged alehouse had brew tanks behind centralized bar, left side and upstairs seating, and TV’s on opposing walls. The first Friday every month, strong Belgian-styled ales get dispersed to lucky benefactors. On December 9th, an astounding ten(!) different India Pale Ales were to be offered (so too bad I was a week early).

Nevertheless, while watching Army-Navy game on a chilly Saturday, my wife and youngest children sat at the friendly bar as bartender Suzzie poured me eleven truly distinct brews.

Diligent lightweights will enjoy prickly lemon rind-soured Pikeland Pils, tempered Seltzer-fizzed peach-skinned orange-fruited Gold Rush Lager, sharp hop-embittered coarse-grained grapefruit-spattered Helles Golden Lager, piney hop-spiced red-fruited Phoenix Pale Ale, and mild banana-breaded lemon-spiced Bavarian-styled Royal Weisse.

More experimental thirsts shall relish bubblegum-candied apricot-ripened burnt orange-finishing Dunkelweiss, ultra dry-hopped orange rind-affirmed yellow-fruited Chinook IPA, and meticulous cedar-smoked Band-Aid-tongued malt-sweetened Rauch Bier.

Hearty palates should check out wood-smoked mocha-sugared black cherry-bruised Prometheus Smoked Porter (with its flirtatious brandy-port finish), dry-bodied gently-hopped nut-sharp black coffee-finishing O’Reilly’s Irish Stout, and sweet chocolate-mocha-themed ascendancy Oatmeal Stout. Reviews of bottled Sly Fox Christmas 2005 Ale and Saison Vox listed in Beer Index.