Welcome to On Tap, a weekly column that explores the brews and beer trends that are currently being served at restaurants and bars across the country.
This week, we’re chatting with Raymond Vlug, the manager at Philadelphia’s Frankford Hall. Located in the city’s Fishtown neighborhood, Frankford Hall takes the best parts of the classic German biergarten and adds modern touches like fire pits, games and delicious eats to help you soak up the suds. We chatted with Vlug to find out how he chooses beers for the beverage program and which current on-tap brews are best paired with dishes from the food menu.
When choosing beers for your on-tap program, do you always go to the same brands, or are you constantly looking for new breweries to feature?
We generally do not stick with the same brands for our on-tap program, even though we are relatively limited to mostly German beers. I am always on the lookout for new German or German-inspired breweries. We recently collaborated with a fantastic local brewery called Mainstay Independent, who made us an IPA called Dankford Hall IPA. I know it’s not German by any means, but these days you have to have an IPA on tap. We have another collaboration in the pipeline with the Von Trapp brewery out of Vermont, known for their exceptional German-style beers. They are making us a Berliner Weiss—a light and tart wheat beer—that we are expecting to release in early December. We are also expanding our draft lines in the next month or two to allow for some more rare, off the wall, and unique local and imported beers you will have a hard time finding anywhere else.
How often do you rotate your tap selections and why?
We generally don’t rotate most of our tap selections too often, as German beers are very drinkable any time of the year. We will do a more aggressive rotation once our tap expansion is finished. For now, we generally rotate a few lines seasonally such as Oktoberfests in the fall, Doppelbocks in the winter, maibocks in the spring and summer, and lagers and wheats in the summer. The German brewing cycle very much depends on the season, as it has for hundreds of years, and we try to stick to that same cycle as best we can across the pond.
What is your favorite beer that’s being served on tap right now?
This is probably the hardest question of them all. As I am writing this, it is raining heavily and it’s a little chilly for this time of year, so I’m currently drinking a Kostritzer Schwarzbier. The Schwarzbier is a specialty black lager from east Germany. The heavily roasted malts give the beer a gorgeous black color with a wonderful dry roasted aroma and flavor. Because it is a lager, it drinks very light—as most other lagers do—and it doesn’t fall too heavy on the palate. It’s a perfect, full-flavored lager for any lager enthusiast; and even black coffee lovers will certainly appreciate this beer style.
As Frankford Hall likes to keep things as German as possible, their food menu is stacked with snacks like Bavarian pretzels and sausages. Here, Vlug makes some suggestions on which current on-tap beers to pair with the biergarten’s food.
Hofbräu Dunkel Lager with Schweinshaxe
The roasted malt aroma and flavor of this lager pair exceptionally well with any meat product, especially with our Duroc Pork Shank, which is brined and slow roasted until crispy.
Hofbräu Original Lager with Spicy Bauernwurst
Our spicy sausage is best washed down with this crisp and refreshing blond lager from Munich.
Paulaner Hefeweizen with Weisswurst
This is the very old and classic Bavarian breakfast of white pork and veal sausage paired with a half liter of a light, Bavarian unfiltered wheat beer.
Bitburger Pils with Veggie Burger
The crisp and clean German Pils is a great way to wash down the many layers of flavor in our Impossible Burger, which is served with cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions, special sauce, tomato jam and aioli.
Gaffel Kölsch with Salads
This light, specialty ale from Cologne is very versatile for food pairings. It goes especially well with light fish dishes and salads, such as our Roasted Beet Salad or Mix Greens & Radish Salad.
Weihenstephaner Dunkelweizen with Soft Serve Vanilla Ice Cream
This unfiltered dark wheat beer has wonderful banana and caramel undertones that pair outrageously well with vanilla ice cream. Dare I say Beerfloat?
Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen with Riesenpretzel
This is probably one of the oldest beer and food pairings in the world and one of our top sellers—the classic amber Oktoberfest Lager paired with our giant German pretzel. What’s not to like?