I'm here in Philly and here's my update (so far)!
I managed to visit a few places this afternoon, had a beer in each and moved on despite many reasons to stick around in several...I wanted to check out the scene with a limited amount of time at my disposal.
Nodding Head: My first stop as it was closest to my hotel. It is a slightly grungy place upstairs from a more respectable looking gastro pub. They brew on premise and had five different things on tap; 700 level (blonde ale), Lead pipe (lager), 60 shilling (light Scotch ale), BPA (British IPA), Berliner Weisse, Grog (English Brown Ale). I had a pint of the BPA and a sample of the cask Grog...both were decent but unremarkable. The food (I had the turkey wrap) was also mediocre.
Monks: Also a well worn, smoke infused place with an excellent bottled selection of mostly Belgians (with some American specialties). On tap where; Chimay Tripel, La Chouffe, Brooklyner Weisse and their own Flemish Sour (brewed under licence by Van Steenberge). I tried the sour...pretty good, not too overpowering (like Rodenbach Grand Cru) but very tasty and deep.
Ludwigs: German beer keller atmosphere, also smoke infused (more on that below). More than a dozen taps of mostly nitro German kegs. I sampled the FranzisKaner Dunkel which was good (but not as good as Dennisons!). A funny anecdote: the bartender, Mary Ellen, upon hearing I was from Toronto immediately remembered Ralph from Volo stopping in for a visit earlier in the year en route from Washington to Boston...she recalled he and his group were very friendly, very well informed and clearly good beer fans...so funny when a bartender remembers people from such a brief encounter...clearly they made a good impression!
Foodery: I must admit, I expected a "Whole Foods" type place but instead I found a small, relatively unassuming corner variety store...with an AMAZING beer stock. They had some pretty awesome stuff. I bought a dozen bottles, with the help of a guy who worked there (Dave). I got;
Troegs Troegenator Dopplebock
New Holland PHI
Mad River Barleycorn
Flying Dog horndog
Oskar Blues Dale Pale Ale
Stoudts Double IPA
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2006
Bells Third Coast Old Ale
$39.15 U.S. (some may say that's pricey for 12 beers but, if we had a store like that in Toronto I'd happily pay for the variety)
Obviously I'd like to have gotten more but...there's only so many I'm likely to drink prior to coming home AND I can only bring 24 back so...I wanted to sample a few new beers before deciding what to bring through customs.
Tomorrow I'll go for dinner at The Grey Lodge and maybe check in at Eulogy.
Finally, one note on the smoky bar thing...I found out from Mary Ellen at Ludwigs that it was only on Saturday that new non smoking laws took effect in Philly. Prior to that every bar was fully smoking. That explains to me why so many places seemed so dirty and old looking.