Royersford-based Stickman Brews brings beer garden to Northern Liberties

ByBrandon Longo via WPVI logo
Thursday, April 15, 2021
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Tucked in the heart of Northern Liberties is a new beer garden that's catered to the times. Royersford-based Stickman Brews expanded its footprint, opening a second Philly location to feature its assortment of beers.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Tucked in the heart of Philadelphia's Northern Liberties section is a new beer garden that's catered to the times. The Royersford, Pennsylvania-based Stickman Brews expanded its footprint last month, opening a second city location to feature its assortment of Belgian, British, German and American beer styles.

Opening in the middle of a pandemic, Ethan Buckman, one of the company's three business partners, says the Philadelphia beer garden on N. 2nd Street was developed with COVID-19 safety in mind. Inside, customers will find some of Stickman's canned beers ready to enjoy in their outdoor beer garden oasis.

Due to COVID regulations, customers who stop in the beer garden are encouraged to bring in food from nearby businesses or Stickman can provide prepackaged snacks.

Like many business owners, the pandemic proved to be a major challenge for Buckman, who operates three other Stickman locations: Royerford, the main production facility, a gastropub of sorts in Chester Springs, and another can shop with outdoor seating in South Philadelphia on Mifflin Street.

"We've done our best to adapt, and it's not like it hasn't been tough, but we're feeling pretty lucky about where we're at," said Buckman while reflecting on the year. "Some employees that we really loved working with had to go on to new opportunities. My little sister, who's a chef actually, found herself out of work in the middle of the pandemic and now helps us with the pizzas."

Buckman got his start in the business making beer in college.

"I actually started home brewing as a way to make money while I was in school. Then I ended up getting a full-time job at a brewery in Pittsburgh," he says.

In 2015, he opened Stickman Brews with his cousin Jim Buckman and Jim's wife, Kate Sorrento.

"What we do is try and melt like modern styles, like the New England IPAs and the Pastry stouts, with much more traditional brewing techniques. We're giving a lot of attention to detail and process to these beers that aren't kind of typical in the way that they're produced," says Buckman.

In addition to creative flavor, the packaging is also important - as long as it's not overdone.

"I think of beer as something that should be fun and playful and most importantly like democratic and accessible to everybody," says Buckman about the branding. The company's prominent stick figure logo was spawned while drinking with friends.

"When I would hang out drinking with my friends, my joke would always be, 'If I opened up a brewery, I would just draw stick figures on all the labels.'"

And so he did.

At any given time, you can find roughly 30 different cans of Stickman beer at their four locations and other local distributors in the tri-state area. Two of their most popular beers, according to Buckman, are "Homemade is Best," a smooth IPA and a Double IPA called " Store Bought is Fine."

The business is also doing "all kinds of weird stuff" in a new experimental series. You may soon stumble on some new, unique flavors, like a soft pretzel beer and a black sour ale with chocolate and cherries.

"It starts as like a traditional English brown ale. Then a portion of the beer was made with smoke malts, so it's not like an overwhelming flavor but you get kind of cool smokey savory characters and undertone. Then we use soft pretzels. So, the pretzels themselves give a cool bready, doughy flavor to the beer that's subtle," says Buckman.

And when Stickman isn't in Buckman's fridge, he keeps it local to Philadelphia.

"Love City Lager (Love City Brewing) and Kenzinger (Philadelphia Brewing Co), those seem to be my number one go-to beers when I'm not drinking Stickman," he says.

Each of Stickman's four locations feature very different unique experiences.

On Mifflin Street in South Philadelphia, customers can enjoy beers outdoors, but are also encouraged to take Stickman to other nearby businesses that offer BYOB.

"I would call it like a full-scale gastropub," Buckman says of his Chester Springs location. "Great outdoor seating area. We have some indoor seating as well. We have a long-standing relationship with Chef Vince Verdi, so he's there every day doing totally scratch-made, like really high-level versions of classic bar food."

And if pizza is your thing, head over to Royersford where you can snag some Detroit-style pizza to go along with your beer.

Stickman's Northern Liberties location will be open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

"It's just a nice quiet place to hang out. With all of the busyness of all the other great Northern Liberties spots, we thought we'd do something different and just kind of create a nice mellow space out there where people can relax," said Buckman.

But wherever you choose to go, know Buckman and his team will be ready for you.

"We're focused on making really high-quality beer, really fresh and great. But we're also focused on packaging it and serving it in a way that doesn't feel pretentious, or intimidating if you don't know the right beer to buy or you don't know the cool style to be drinking at the moment. We're trying to be the people's beer. We're trying to bring the fun back to craft beer as well."