By Brian Anderson Photography by JPG Photography (jpgphotography.com)
It’s a chilly Wednesday night in January, and all five TVs are tuned in to show the 76ers face off against the Chicago Bulls. Both teams have struggled this season and neither sits atop of the standings. Despite being the only Philadelphia sports team in action tonight, there isn’t a single seat left at the bar at Pitchers Pub.
A dozen or so people sit at the stainless steel bar, and more post up on stools against the back wall. There’s talk of the beers on tap, chatter about prop bets and the Vegas line on the Sixers, and laughter over a meme of the Eagles’ recent pummeling of the Minnesota Vikings. Everyone is still high on Eagles euphoria — imagine this bar on a Sunday afternoon. Old-school, kelly green Eagles memorabilia and classic Phillies gear hangs on the wall opposite the bar.
When Joel Embiid forces up a bad shot, half of the bar groans in disgust. When he sinks one later, the fans breathe a sigh of relief. Welcome, Philly sports fans, to the Best Place to Watch the Game in Manayunk.
“We’re always open,” says Pitchers Pub bartender and manager, Kyle Reed, to a guest seated at the bar. “We’ll show anything on TV that’s sports-related. We’re just big sports fans here.”
Kyle, who grew up in South Jersey, is a die-hard fan of all Philadelphia sports teams (he has season tickets to the 76ers and Eagles, and attended Super Bowl LII). He said while every Philly team has had its ups and downs in recent years, the fans remained loyal to the core. He’s seen that passion first-hand as a manager/bartender at Pitchers Pub for the past 12 years.
“It’s a different city when the Phillies are good, when the Eagles are good, when the Sixers and Flyers are good,” he said. “Philadelphia is a great sports city. We like a winner.”
In a town with six professional sports teams, there’s always an opportunity to catch a game at Pitchers Pub. Football Sundays and the Birds draw the biggest crowds, Kyle said, but every season brings a different breed of fans; 1 p.m. Phillies games bring in the early risers, for example, and college football brings in fans of schools from coast to coast.
Even if the local teams have the night off, Pitchers Pub shows the best matchups any given day.
“We show a lot of English Premier League games, too,” he said. “We’ll open for a group that wants to watch their Premier League team.”
But Pitchers Pub really comes alive when a special team — this year’s Eagles and the 2008 Phillies, for example — is on TV, Kyle said. Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds fill this narrow space.
“It’s an awesome atmosphere when the Philly sports teams are good,” Kyle said. “People come out every night and watch every game.”
Throughout the first half of the 76ers game, Kyle and another bartender sling drinks and serve up wings and burgers. Pitchers Pub, of course, has a classic menu perfect for a game — wings, sandwiches, fries and other munchies. But Pitchers Pub goes beyond the game-time classics, as the kitchen has been known to pump out specials such as shrimp and grits, lobster mac ‘n cheese, calamari, and cheese curds.
Pitchers Pub has evolved under Kyle’s leadership, too. It’s upgraded from 20 taps to 30, which means the beer selection is always rotating. Craft beer drinkers expect an extensive and dynamic tap list, and Kyle said he’s more than willing to satisfy that thirst. So while a lager or pilsner may be ideal for an afternoon of Phillies baseball in July, a porter may suit you well on a cold night of Flyers hockey.
“Over time, I started building up the tap list,” Kyle said, because a beer drinker’s palate has matured in the last 15 years or so. “It’s 2018, not 1998,” he added, and breweries of all sizes are experimenting with new styles and flavor profiles. That’s why Kyle is willing to give new breweries a shot.
“I love craft beer and I love sports. What could be better?” he said. “I’m always here, watching Philly sports.”
The Sixers close out the win over the Bulls, and some fans close their tabs and head for the doors. Kyle remains behind the bar, chatting up the regulars and serving craft brews. But tomorrow is another day, and at Pitchers Pub, that means another game to watch.