Most of the Ornery Ales team lives in a town called Phoenixville, situated 28 miles northwest of Philadelphia on the Schuylkill River. It is a former steel town that has experienced an incredible revitalization as restaurants, bars, local wineries, ‘craft distilleries’ and ‘craft breweries’ flourish while residential and commercial developers scramble to catch the wave. Phoenixville embodies everything today’s professionals want in their community from First Friday events that flood the streets with local performing artists. To a Farmers Market on Saturday nestled on the banks of French Creek. To Canal Day Kayak races on the Schuylkill River. To unique festivals like the Firebird Festival where a 30-foot wooden Phoenix is constructed and burned once a year to celebrate the city. To top notch restaurants and bars, all while being a short drive to their jobs in metro Philadelphia.
Phoenixville is the town where we shoot most of our Ornery Ales Productions brewing / tasting party videos. It’s a town we know and love and have watched explode as more people find this hidden gem. It is a town that is in the midst of a craft brewery explosion So much so that it has everyone wondering if this is too good to be true. Over a pint or two of craft beers we have debated with friends, locals, and craft beer enthusiasts whether or not a town of our size can sustain this many breweries. So, we decided to take a step back and look at the facts, dive into the numbers, and see how Phoenixville stacks up to other cities both regionally and across the US.
Three years ago, in Phoenixville….
Prior to 2015, Phoenixville had on average four breweries that supported a population of ~58K people within a 5-mile radius of downtown. That means we had a ratio of breweries to residents of 3.4 : 50K which becomes important when we start bench-marking Phoenixville against other cities. This ratio, 3.4, is a very solid ratio in our region and would rank Phoenixville in the top quarter of South Eastern PA cities for density of breweries. The four breweries that have been supporting our city are The Sly Fox Brewing Company, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, and Appalachian Brewing Company Brewpub (Ok, ABC is in Collegeville but it is exactly 5 miles from downtown Phoenixville so it counts for this analysis) plus counting one of two others that came and went during this time period: Destiny Brewing which had a short stint in Phoenixville around 2005 and Armstrong Ales who also had a short stint around 2013 but will be reopening shortly in Pottstown.
The new Phoenixville….
Early 2013, Phoenixville was ranked #1 as the hottest up and coming neighborhood in the Philadelphia Metro Area by Curbed Philadelphia (Philly Area Top 3 Emerging Neighborhoods of 2013). Soon after, several prominent builders announced they would be building massive apartment complexes and commercial store-fronts in downtown Phoenixville and small businesses scrambled to establish a local presence and catch the wave, especially breweries!
In 2015 two breweries announced they would be opening within 5 miles of Phoenixville. First it was Stable 12 Brewing Company which was opened downtown by three beer-loving/homebrewing best friends, focusing on a wide range of beer styles. Then it was Stickman Brews which opened in Royersford, just 4 ½ miles from Phoenixville, focusing on putting an American twist on Belgian inspired beers.
Shortly thereafter, in 2016, Tuned Up Brewing joined the scene setting up their brewery in nearby Spring City, just 4 miles away. Tuned Up was started by three friends who met while serving for the Trappe Fire Department. They shared a passion for homebrewing and pushing the limits on all styles by focusing on small batches and experimental infused ales.
In 2017, four more breweries either opened or announced they will be opening in Phoenixville. The first two to open were Crowded Castle Brewing Company and Root Down Brewing Company. Crowded Castle opened in downtown Phoenixville across from the historic Colonial Theatre and has been contract brewing and distributing their COPR IPA for several years before their 10 owners selected Phoenixville as their home. Root Down is a new venture by principal owners and husband and wife team Mike and Martha Hamara and has opened in a warehouse that sat vacant for years but was formerly a manufacturing plant for Hire’s Root Beer and Orange Crush. Mike is well known in the Philly beer scene as the founder of Artisan Homebrew supplies of Downingtown in 2009 and is being joined by Steve Bischoff, most recently of Sly Fox in Pottstown. The other two breweries that announced they will be joining the scene are Conshohocken Brewing Company and Rebel Hill Brewing Company. Conshohocken Brewing has been ultra-successful with their main brewery in Conshohocken and their brewpub in Bridgeport and will be setting up their newst brewpub in the old Heidi Sue building, just east of Crowded Castle on Bridge Street. Rebel Hill, owned by husband-and-wife team Corrinne and Greg Kluge, will be located on the outskirts of Phoenixville in a brand-new shopping center and will offer a wide range of beers including the ever so popular North East Style IPA.
When these last two breweries are up and running, it will bring the grand total of breweries to 10 within a 5 mile radius of downtown Phoenixville!
With 10 breweries, how does Phoenixville fare versus other South Eastern PA cities?
Wow, that’s a lot of Breweries! That makes Phoenixville the most saturated brewery market in South Eastern PA at a ratio of 8.6 (breweries) : 50K (residents)! That’s almost double West Chester, who comes in at a strong 2nd (just 15 miles away!), and almost 3x Hershey, Doylestown, Pottstown, Lancaster, and York! And how about Philadelphia? Well using a 5 mile radius from Center City Philadelphia the ratio is just 0.9 (breweries) : 50K (residents). Amazing and it makes you wonder why more breweries aren’t popping up in Philadelphia; but that’s beside the point. Or maybe it’s not, maybe ‘the under-serving’ of Philadelphia is causing the boom in the suburbs.
How does Phoenixville fare across the US?
Now we know what you are thinking, and we can’t tell you how many people we have had beers with that have asked that same question, ‘Can a town like Phoenixville really sustain this many breweries?’ To answer this, we need to look at other cities across the US that have had this same type of explosion; albeit several years before Phoenixville. Take a look at the chart below. Phoenixville, with a ratio of 8.6, now cracks the NATIONAL TOP 10 which is wild in and of itself! But look at Bend, OR and Asheville, NC with ratios over 20 which is more than double Phoenixville!
Do we have too many breweries?
Take a step back and look at the South Eastern PA chart again. Remember what jumped out? Not just Phoenixville at the top, but Philadelphia at the bottom. Now look at the US Craft Brew Cities chart. Do you see Philadelphia? Scroll all the way to the bottom; Philadelphia didn’t even finish in the Top 50. In fact, Philadelphia finished 121st out of the 160 cities we analyzed. This tells us that Phoenixville, West Chester (#30), and the rest of the Philadelphia suburbs are directly benefiting from Philadelphia being 'under-served' by craft breweries!
So, can Phoenixville sustain this many breweries? On metrics alone, HELL YEAH! But more importantly Phoenixville doesn’t have to support these breweries on their own; the 6 Million plus residents of the Philadelphia Metro Area will help! Expect Phoenixville to become the next major Beer Destination on the East Coast!
Ornery Ales Productions creates entertaining and educational videos that explore the world of home brewing and craft beer. Our video productions focus on both our home brewing experiences as well as promoting local businesses. Ronna Dewey of The Town Dish published a fantastic article about Ornery Ales which provides more background on who we are: The Town Dish on Ornery Ales Productions
Disclaimer: The following tools were leveraged for the analysis: Brewery Map & Free Map Tools. Cities chosen for this analysis had a minimum 50k residents and five breweries within a five mile radius of the city center.