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Nov. 28, 2008 | On Black Friday, enjoy mall-bar hopping


TODAY IS Black Friday, the day that, according to long-standing holiday tradition, beer drinkers seek refuge from bargain-hunting Toys 'R' Us shoppers and spend the afternoon enjoying stout.

Well, at least that's my tradition, and I'm sticking with it.

Of course, you've got to make it look good. Usually I head to the mall, cram a Cinnabon into my mouth, check out the mannequins at Victoria's Secret, then shred my gift list and hunt for the nearest bar.

Unfortunately, at most malls you're stuck with Ruby Tuesday and Houlihan's, which remind me of those multicolored rubber-ball pits for kids, only with Mississippi Mudslides. Surprisingly, both chains actually serve some decent craft beer. Take a look at the taps and you might find Abita Turbodog or Samuel Adams Winter Lager.

But it's the holidays, and if you're not going to get any shopping done, you oughta treat yourself to something special. Here are three joints that should be on your radar:

1. Manny Brown's (Neshaminy Mall, Bensalem, near the AMC movie theater).

If there is a shopping mall bar with a better beer list, please send me an e-mail and save me a parking spot.

Among MB's 24 taps: Oskar Blues Gordon imperial IPA and three brands from Michigan's uber-trendy Founder's Brewing, including that beer freak favorite, Breakfast Stout. The bottle list is heavy on strong ales and too long to repeat here. Let's just say it's the first time I've ever spotted a Samuel Adams Triple Bock within eyesight of a Bath & Body Works.

The Christmas beer selection is a little thin, but you can't gripe when you can pick from Rogue Santa's Private Reserve, Weyerbacher Winter Ale and Magic Hat Roxy Rolles.

My advice: Dump your kids at the merry-go-round just outside the front door and - in the spirit of Black Friday - head in for a discounted two-buck draft of John's Locker Stock Black Lager.

2. Capone's (224 W. Germantown Ave., Norristown).

This suburban Italian restaurant isn't located in a shopping center, but it's just eight minutes up the road from Plymouth Meeting Mall.

The bar opens at 10 a.m., perfect for all you knuckleheads who got up at 4 this morning to line up outside Boscov's. You'll be first in line when they tap a rare keg of De Proef Signature Les Deux Brasseurs Ale, a collaboration between Jason Perkins of Allagash Brewing in Maine and Belgian brewing scientist Dirk Naudts.

Stick around and you can fill up on some outstanding drafts, including: Russian River Damnation strong Belgian-style pale ale; Great Lakes Nosferatu hoppy strong ale; Hoppin' Frog Mean Manalishi Double IPA and something special from Jolly Pumpkin, Michigan's quirky wild ale brewery.

My advice: Buy your girlfriend an ounce of that knockoff CK One on Market Street and save your money for a big, creamy glass of draft St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.

3. Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery (King of Prussia Mall, near Sears).

The largest shopping mall in the East boasts three Sunglass Huts, two Gamestops and its own brewery. If you stop in today, you'll find the last of brewer Brian McConnell's spicy Pumpkin Ale and a malty hefeweizen - not exactly the thing to put you into the holiday spirit.

My advice: Come back in December when DKNY inevitably goes 50 percent off, and you'll find warming, bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout and barleywine on the bar's hand pumps.

Need more options for Black Friday?

Macy's Center City: Meet me at the Eagle for the holiday light show, then head over to McGillin's Old Ale House (1310 Drury St.) for free lunchtime soup and a pint of Penn St. Nikolaus Bock. Or walk a couple blocks south to Tria Cafe (12th and Spruce) where they've declared a Black Friday Bottled Beer Blowout. The restaurant says it's clearing out the beer cellar today and offering an assortment of bottles (Allagash, Stone and Japan's Hitachino) at department store-like discounts.

Main Street at Exton: The faux downtown district doesn't have a corner bar, but the Drafting Room (635 N. Pottstown Pike, Exton) is just up Route 100. Belgian tripel is the style of the month; try the Augustijn Ale from Ghent.

Granite Run Mall: It's just a short ride out Baltimore Pike to Iron Hill Brewery (30 E. State St., Media). Wait till Dec. 13, from 2 to 5 p.m., when they'll be serving samples of brewer Bob Barrar's Lambic. A 375ml bottle of Kreik or Framboise makes a great stocking stuffer.

Cherry Hill Mall: P.J. Whelihan's Pub (1854 E. Marlton Pike, Cherry Hill, N.J.) is closest, or head a few more miles west to the Mexican Food Factory (601 W. Route 70, Marlton), where Boulder Never Summer Ale is pouring.

 

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