Earth Bread + Brewery: Philadelphia
Some towns are simply beer-drinking towns. There may not be much else to the place, but there’s almost no way to avoid finding a good beer in most every corner pub or divey-looking bar. I kinda feel that way about Philadelphia. Sure, the cheesesteaks and roast pork are phenomenal, but I just feel… dirty in most of the city. But I keep going back, to join friends in afternoons and evenings of eating and imbibing at our favorite establishments.
Earth Bread + Brewery, located in Mount Airy, surely stands above all others with my drinking friends and I from New York. Full disclosure? This brewpub is the handiwork of Tom Baker and Peggy Zwerver, previous owners of Heavyweight Brewing in New Jersey, who quit that gig to set up shop here. Full disclosure: we’re friends with Tom and Peggy, and some of my friends even had a big hand in building this brewpub. Nonetheless, the place stands and falls on its own merits.
Tom built his flatbread oven from scratch, and it’s visible from pretty much everywhere in the pub. It’s wood-fired, like any good flatbread oven ought to be, and cooks a flatbread in three minutes, tops.
I did say “brewpub”, of course, and the Earth equipment takes up space in the basement in the back. Brewing is conducted as often as needed to keep up with demand, and demand is pretty high!
Of course, I had to start off with a beer while waiting for all our friends to show up for an early dinner. This is the Golden Promise, Earth’s spot-on take of an English bitter (Golden Promise is an English barley malt). Very easy-drinking, and at 3.8% alcohol, the very definition of a session beer.
From there I was ready for their Berliner Weiss, Sophia; it’s the fourth in their series of four beers named after the Golden Girls. Don’t ask. But this tasted spot-on, and again, low in alcohol (3.6%). Earth is very much the opposite of Heavyweight Brewing, in that many of its beers are not only flavorful, but manageable in a part of town that requires a car.
Slander needed some food to tide him over, so the Split Pea with Ham soup crock arrived and was dispatched with great prejudice. Huge chunks of ham, smoky, delicious ham featured in every spoonful, and kinda made me wish I decided to pre-eat. But I dutifully waited.
Finally, all seven of us were ready to order some flatbreads and gorge ourselves in the late afternoon. We basically stuck to the normal M.O.: order a bunch of food up front, then get more as needed until we can’t continue.
So up first, the three-hummus appetizer: one “normal”, one roasted pepper, and one sundried tomato. Tasty hummus, with non-pita bread. My winner was the roasted pepper version, but all three were quite tasty. There are quite a few vegetarian and even vegan items on the menu any given day, which lends itself well to the gentrifying neighborhood where Earth is situated.
That there were females present is the only excuse I can make for a Wheatberry Crunch salad, with quinoa, spinach, and various diced vegetables, to have appeared on the table. Sure, it was interesting as salads go, but no friends were won.
Ah, but then it was time for flatbreads. These are large flatbreads; a smaller version is available if you’re a smaller party. Likethe rest of the menu, the flatbreads are produced with ingredients sourced as locally as possible; the mozzarella is even made in-house!
The Seed flatbread pictured above sounds like it might be unpleasant or boring, but I’ve been eating this since day one at Earth. It’s incredibly good. Roasted garlic, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds adorn the dish, topped with mozzarella and red pepper flakes, and every bite is delicious. We ordered two of these, knowing full well we’d finish with room to spare.
Those couple of minutes in the oven produce the usual lovely char on the thin flatbread.
Yeah, I had to keep ordering beers (still in the 13-ounce size, not the 20-ounce till later, when I couldn’t focus the camera in the dim lights). So a Muhlenberger Bock, a Fall seasonal and, at 7.1%, one of the stronger beers ever to be found at Earth, was ordered, photographed hazily, and consumed, malty in all the right ways (Tom and Peggy know the style quite well), and rather heavy but perfect for the evening.
Women, again, with the salad flatbread. I always feel salad greens on a pizza is silly, but hey, everyone liked it and it wasn’t forced on me. Winners all around.
The Gatherer flatbread, with tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, artichokes, and intensely garlicky. A tasty, savory pizza that shone in its simplicity.
Charred nicely, as expected. I mean, the bubbling in the previous photo is just wonderful, no?
Finally, the Mexican flatbread, spread with pico de gallo, more peppers, tomatoes, chipotle oil, and smoky blackened chicken, drizzled with something like salsa verde/avocado-based liquid. So tasty, maybe not specifically Mexican but who cares? Behind the Seed, this was my favorite flatbread of the evening, and if we weren’t stuffed by now, would have been re-ordered.
All told, our total before discount (one of our number is an investor in the business) came to about $35 per person with tax and tip. We ate and drank with impunity, except for the drivers, and thoroughly enjoyed our couple of hours of BSing and laughing on a night away from New York City.
Service was excellent, as water was refilled, drinks were brought, and food arrived in excellent condition. I’ve yet to have a sub-par day at Earth Bread + Brewery, and yeah, some of that has to do with who I know, but even just sitting at the bar, the bartenders are friendly and helpful. I’m unabashedly plugging this brewpub for its food and its beer not because they need my help — they really don’t — but because it’s a worthy destination (except Mondays, when they’re closed), reasonably close to two train lines, an easy drive with ample parking, and a must-go if you love finding good, local beer. Seek them out your next trip to Philadelphia.