After taking a three-hour break following Farmer’s Cabinet perusal, we head out on a chilly winter’s eve, December ’12, to the sleepy village of Ardmore (ten minutes west of Philly) to initially visit well regarded TIRED HANDS BREWING COMPANY. Open for business in June, this cozy two-storey red-bricked pub is located just a few steps from the rustic downtown area.
An impressive array of mostly dry-hopped saisons, lagers and pale ales with boundless complexities are available, yet only two remain staples thus far. The remainder are high quality one-off limited edition elixirs experienced brewer Jean Broillet (originally from West Chester’s Iron Hill and Weyerbacher) concocted for the short term but hopefully will revisit in the future.
Packed to the hilt on this Sunday evening, we grab a few seats next to the eight tap-handled fountain at the right side elongated bar. Across the 15-stooled bar are four left side tables along the green window-shuttered maroon wall. A small Sunfire heater cooks up a limited food menu featuring fresh breads, homemade dill pickles, cured meats and cheeses from local farmsteads. Bronze fermentation tanks located at the rear serve Broillet’s imaginative creations.
A crowded second floor with 12 dining tables, V-shaped bar and stairwell-sided food menu perfectly suits the young families, partygoers and businessmen that gather here during the weekdays. Tonight, many preppy post-collegiates and local denizens of every stripe stop by for dinner or to fillup growlers on the go.
Both Tired Hands staples prove to be fruitful successes and were poured by enlightened assistant brewer, Colin “Magick Man” Mc Fadden, a self-proclaimed Renaissance man with steep beer knowledge. Elegant Hop Hands Pale Ale brings zesty citric-spiced crystal malting to the fore, as grassy-hopped lemon meringue, yellow grapefruit, kiwi, pineapple and marmalade illusions get backed firmly by peated minerality. Not far removed from New York’s Empire Cream Ale, its delightful soft-bodied warmth and creamy eggshell head will please light thirsts as well as heartier palates.
Dried-fruited Farm Hands Four Grain Saison regaled brisk orange rind bittering and bruised lemon-rotted sourness with barnyard-like earthen graining.
The Clash’s fiery “Spanish Bombs” plays loudly in the background as three more rounded saisons pique my interest. Motueta -Single Hop Saison kept its dry-hopped herbaceous florality, lemon-puckered grapefruit souring and earthen white peppering above wood-parched hop bitterness. Mocha-bound Yes Yes Yes Killing The Ego Dark Saison seared beechwood-smoked habanero peppering into maple syrupy Ecuadorian cocoa nibs, dark chocolate and powdered cocoa notes.
Better still, sour brettanomyces-funked Domo Black Rye Saison plastered puckered lemon seed tartness onto vinous white grape tannins as well as stove-burnt coffee and peanut-shelled walnut above molasses rye breading.
Two stylishly differentiated lagers stood out as well. Light-bodied yellow-paled California Uber Helles Hoppy Lager seeped tangy lemon, grapefruit, orange, apricot and kumquat fruiting into juniper hop bitterness. On the dark side, Deep Sleep Black Winter Lager placed wood-charred dark-roasted graining and pine-needled bittering atop nutty dark chocolate-y cocoa nibs.
Another worthy offering, Falco’s Mirrored Flight IPA contrasted floral grapefruit-peeled orange rind, lemon zest, peach and pineapple tropicalia and mild bark-dried hops against creamy crystal malts.
Hooked on making well-ranged small batch beers for an increasingly mesmerized audience, Tired Hands truly is an outstanding cafe-styled pub in the laid-back suburbs of west Philly.