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Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant

Not Rated.
Nodding Head Brewery and RestaurantNodding Head Brewery and Restaurant
very good

153 Ratings
Ratings: 153
Reviews: 117
rAvg: 3.85
pDev: 11.43%
Active Beers: 51
Beer Ratings: 472
Beer Avg: 3.77
Taps: 0
Bottles: 0
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Brewery, Eatery ]

1516 Sansom St.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19102
United States
phone: (215) 569-9525

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap 

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(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 153 | Reviews: 117 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of beernut7
2.31/5  rDev -40%

I have been looking forward to trying the brews here for a while and had heard mixed reviews all around. Stopped in late on a slower Friday night. First thing noticed is the hazy cloud of smoke I've become use to not seeing up in Boston. Not a surprise, except I had to wait for the bar tenders to finish their smokes before we were served. Beer menu has a disclaimer printed at the bottom that stated if the brew was not to the satisfaction of the patron, it wasn't the fault of the pub or how the beer was brewed--meaing there had been enough complaints to warrant such a warning.

Tried the Grog first and was put off by a not-so-subtle dirty diaper aroma. Flavor did not really reflect the aroma much so I pushed on to the Spring Ale. The same aroma greeted me with an even stronger cheesy, band-aid flush--this time carried over into the flavor. Every time I took a sip the aroma pushed my nose right up out of the glass again. For the first time in many years I left a beer unfinished. An obvious sanitation issue.

I didn't stay to sample to food and probably won't return here. It is one thing to have good beer with a temporary problem, but finding the patron at fault for poorly brewed beer believed by the pub to be of fine quality is unacceptable.

beernut7, May 01, 2006
Photo of dogfooddog
3.8/5  rDev -1.3%

visited here early PM on 14MAR06

the beers were very nice but too cold for the (british) styles they were based on, IMHO. the 60/- made me feel like I was in scotland, the stout was very pleasant and roasted, and the grog was not exceptional to me but had a lot of character in the taste. The burger was nothing extraordinary but good enough, and the steak fries were more like 1/8's of entire potatos.

I went at 5pm and thus the place was empty; I do try to avoid happy hour crowds. service was friendly (friendlier than monk's, with the same owners) and if in the mood for those products I would go back happily.

dogfooddog, Mar 15, 2006
Photo of BillyB
3.94/5  rDev +2.3%

Descent brewpub with a nice friendly staff and a strange collection of bobble heads in a huge glass case. Didn't try the food but the beers were decent.
60 Shilling was a light easy drinking session beer.
Doc was nice and hoppy.
Chocolate Stout was good but not great.
George's Fault was 1 of the two more interesting beers. A belgian styled beer with citrusy and honey notes. Tasty.
Grog is a good english brown ale.
Rudy's kung-fu grip was a good strong belgian style ale. Interesting name.
Overall a good place to go and try some fresh beer and meet some nice people.

BillyB, Feb 06, 2006
Photo of DarkerTheBetter
3.93/5  rDev +2.1%

When I first heard the name, Nodding Head, I thought first, “Nodding sounds like some place in England, like Robin Hood‘s Nottingham.” and second, “A ‘head’ is sorta like a peninsula. Like Dogfish Head.” Ergo, this place must be named after some coastal region of England, so it must be an English pub! So, when I walked up to the building front and saw the big bobble-head neon sign, I was terribly disappointed.

To get to the bar, you need to head in the door and immediately up the stairs where you’ll run into a display case jam-packed full of these stupid bobble-heads. What’s the purpose of a bobble-head again? Any way, the rest of the bar is surprisingly open and very nice looking with lots of open space and hardwood everywhere. There are booths spread along the walls with small tables around the stairwell. The bar itself is very attractive and rustic in itself with matching overhead shelving of sorts that displays the beers of the day on chalk boards. Sorta looks like some fantastic pill-box for alcoholics. Down one hall that seems to lead to the kitchen (and the restrooms) there are brewing tanks on display behind glass. On the other side of the wall, there were fake windows with colored glass that were illuminated from behind that had a neat effect. That’s just a little extra effort to make the place look nice that was duly noted. There is also an adjacent seating room that would be a little better for a sit down meal. Those of us who were out on the town were in no mood for food. We needed drink, so we grabbed one of the little tables by the stairwell. I must say, although there were a fair number of people there, the music wasn’t too loud and it just seemed to be quite. I liked that a lot. Over all, the atmosphere is warm and inviting.

The beers here tend to be a bit on the sweet side. They tend to be well thought out and a bit different, but I’m deterred by their sweetness but not enough to stop coming back. Of these beers, six or so were offered for the day. The young lady who brought our beers was quick and efficient. I enjoy this place a lot for their different take on beer and a fantastic atmosphere. I’ll have to have dinner here some day.

DarkerTheBetter, Feb 03, 2006
Photo of Billolick
3.93/5  rDev +2.1%

Up stairs location, situated between Monks and Ludwigs, this is a comfortable, casual beer hangout. Darts, televisions on showing the game, easygoing athmosphere. The beers we tried were decent, but nothing special. Seemed to be in the middle of the road, sessioner scheme of things. Never a bad thing, but I dont think they are looking to blow their customers away with anything too hard to handle. No time to try the food, but it looked to veer towards the pub grub/burgers and fries neck of the woods. Well worth a visit for the laid back, sessioner friendly athmosphere and medium quality beer.

Billolick, Jan 19, 2006
Photo of chOAKbarrell
3.58/5  rDev -7%

I was in Philadelphia for a few days on business, and of course had to check out the #1 rated brewpub in the area - winner of several awards.

Nodding Head is an attractive restaurant located upstairs on the narrow, one-way Sansom street in Center city, Phila. Nicely dimmed lights and wood everywhere you look. All brewing equipment is mostly located down a long hall and easily viewed.

Obviously, as they are ranked so highly, the quality is tops. Both beers I ordered were well above average, with one of them in particular ("goblin grog") being rather outstanding.

Our waitress was attentive & friendly with no city attitude. Couldn't ask for more in that department.

The selection was lacking, unfortunately. I suppose they dont have the capacity to offer more than 5 beers at a time, which I was rather suprised at. I figured they would have had at least 7-8. Our waitress said 5 is the max - they just end up rotating them, usually.
Also, the variety was lacking as well, strangely. There were two hoppy beers - an IPA and a weaker APA, a golden ale (geared towards "light" beer drinkers), a scottish ale, and an english brown ale. No stout, no porter, no wheat/hefeweizen, no seasonal (pumpkin).

The food was a nice treat. This restaurant is very vegetarian/vegan friendly, which is refreshing, and suprising. There was actually more than just one vegetarian option on the menu. The white-baked-beans-with-pita appetizer was tasty, but beware - it will fill you up quickly. There are also vegan burgers offered, and I saw at least one other vegetarian appetizer.

The value is good, for being downtown in a big city. Pints are $4 each, appetizers between $5-8, entrees around $10-15.

Nodding Head is worthy of its #1 Phila. brewpub status on Beeradvocate. Stop in and at the very least try the Grog ale.

chOAKbarrell, Oct 26, 2005
Photo of gueuzegeek
4.5/5  rDev +16.9%

How on earth did this get past me...I cannot believe I have not written a beerfly for Nodding Head yet!!! I guess I am just there so much, I thought I had!!

Anyway, I love this place and really have nothing but good things to say. The staff is great, the beer is great and the food is great--what more can one ask for?

If it has been a while since you have been there, you may find some beers you have not ever had, and even if you have been there, they do rotate off and on, so you might catch a terrific seasonal, like Monkey Knife Fight or the Oatmeal Stout. Right now, the Harvest is on, and boy is that a great beer. Lots of fresh cut hops with enough malt to support them, without taking over for the hops.

The atmosphere is pretty much open feeling, but it can get crowded on weekend nights. I try to arrive early enough to not have to worry about that part though. The nodding head collection case is a great eye catcher as well.

Sunday brunch is also a good time to go. They run a brunch menu with a spinach crepe that I just cannot get enough of!!

Well, just feel free to beermail me if you have any questions about the place.

gueuzegeek, Oct 19, 2005
Photo of Chuck
4.08/5  rDev +6%

I was recently in Philadelphi for a 3-day conference and stopped in for lunch on two occasions. The food is a step up from basic pub fare and quite satisfying. Beer-wise I was in search of their signature Berlinerweiss, which did not disappoint. The staff was also efficient and quite helpful, providing samples of the brew with and without woodruff syrup (both quite tasty!). I'm not sure how easy it is to park nearby (I was within walking distance), but I would definitely return next time I'm in Philly.

Chuck, Sep 23, 2005
Photo of sulldaddy
3.98/5  rDev +3.4%

This was the first stop on my bachelor party extravaganza in Philly. The pub is located up a flight of long stairs (mental note of Royal Stumble hazard!) There are some booths and table chair sets to the right a case of the bobble/nodding head dolls. My favorite was a headless George W Bush!! The bar is to the left. It is typical rectangle with about 10 stools. ALmsot everything is made of wood. The fermenters are viewable behind some glass. There is another room of tables and chairs for dining. We sat there. The were 5-6 beers on tap and no cask. Only on certain nites do they run a cask, just put a firkin on the bar and drink till its gone.
The beers were pretty tasty. Nothing overwhelming or mindblowing, but all were well crafted and easy to drink. Our server was very friendly and knowledgeable. We actually ran into him at MOnks later, more evidence of knowledgeable staff IMO.
Food is typical pub grub. I orderd a pulled pork sandwich, as is my normal at a new brewpub. Everyone at the table was pleased with their meal, but I was a little disappointed. The sandwich was a little dry and since it was on sourdough, this dried it even more. NOt a lot of sauce. Flavor was good but a little too dry for my tastes. Like I said everyone else was pretty happy, the Jumbalaya especially was a fan favorite.
Overall I enjoyed the pub and I am planning to come back into town for the Royal Stumble next time they hold it. Should be a fun time!

sulldaddy, Aug 29, 2005
Photo of DarkStar2222
4.38/5  rDev +13.8%

Hard to believe I was in a city where Nodding Head would be the “change-up” venue, between two fabulous Belgian bars … Philadelphians live charmed lives. I’d heard Nodding Head called the “Best Brewpub in Philly” more than once, although this may be true inside city limits, the real home runs are in the suburbs. Their standard line-up was good but not great (again, in fairness I did bookend this place with two Belgian bars). The specialty brew was a Berliner Weiss which was outstanding and served with just a tiny splash of belfrut syrup. A great play I think in a city that’s up to its ears in Flanders Reds and Gueuze.
Atmosphere at Nodding Head was very relaxing in our weekday afternoon visit. Lots of big liquid filled equipment on the second floor of an old building, kind of cool from a structural standpoint. The bar tender had make-up free natural beauty and a great attitude. I forget her name, but you’ll know her when you see her. Finally, as it turns out they happen to have the best cheese steak in Philadelphia, except they call it French Dip. Big crusty sub roll, piles of rare shaved steak, oozing with what I’ll guess was sharp provolone and a bodacious black pepper spice flavor. Then you get to dip it in the au jus. Make sure you don’t miss this sandwich.

DarkStar2222, Aug 19, 2005
Photo of ChappyCubsFan
4.2/5  rDev +9.1%

This was our first stop after checking into the hotel just around the corner upon our arrival in Philly for the first time. You enter the place via a stairway off Sansome Street.

We arrived there about 11:15 a.m. even before they opened the kitchen, but the bartender was really friendly and found a table where we could begin our tasting of their beers. We sampled about 7 beers in all, including a double IPA that was really hopped-up, much like a west coast San Diego style IPA. We loved it and felt right at home. The "Grog" was quite unusual. Everything we tried was tasty.

When it came time to order food, I asked the bartender about the roast beef (french) dip. He said some prefer it over the Philly Cheese Steak. That was enough to get my attention. He was right. It was an exceptional sandwich, just enough food so that we were energized to begin our walking tour of the historic sites to the east of the city.

We visited Noddinghead again that night. We ordered a pitcher, thinking it would be less expensive, and realized that we had paid about $4.00 a pint. Then I recalled how lunch too was a bit pricey. It's a great place. The service is friendly and they know their beers, but pay attention to your tab. It can get costly.

ChappyCubsFan, Jul 31, 2005
Photo of Sammy
3.9/5  rDev +1.3%

The best stop on a 4 day 7- pub tour of the city. This was one of my favorites. A couple of exellent beers, and an attempt at a fun environment. Its up a flight of stairs, a relatively spacious compared to Moonk's, and I was there during trivia night. It was F-this and f-that by the MC, I'd rather have run the jukebox. The bartender made a good effort to take care of me, brew wise,. Its big city, there was only 1 of the 7 bars I am listing where it was not super-cliquey. I understand the food is good, but did not try it. Beer was very fresh and served in appropriate glassware.

Sammy, May 12, 2005
Photo of hudsonvalleyslim
4.75/5  rDev +23.4%

Stopped in the Nodding Head Brewery for some lunch and refreshment on my way up to Boston. First time in Philly. Very friendly place. Scotty the Irish bartender pulled me a pint of Grog, a mild brown which was quite drinkable. A good session brew as advertised. Next up was the DBA which was very tasty. A West Coast IPA, nice and hoppy. Had the delicious 'famous' crabcake, which was BUSTIN' with fresh crab, and was on my way.

Located upstairs on Sansom Street, small bar, good size restaurant. Bobble heads everywhere... 'scuse me, nodding heads. Recommended!

hudsonvalleyslim, May 03, 2005
Photo of bennybrew
3.95/5  rDev +2.6%

i should preface this review by saying i didn't spend a dime in this place and got 3 beers and food (i did, of course, tip). get your boss to send you to a craft beer confrence. good things happen.

this place is off some street upstairs (i used to call my homebrewery: upstairs brewing co). cool (sorta little) bar and a bunch of spaces. i hesitate to call them seperate rooms especially as they are not really distinct rooms. there is a nice feel to the place. there are shiny tanks here and there too. never really figuired out what those were for.

they had several of thier own beers on and then one i had was good. read you some beer reviews.

they laid down a buffet for us and the food was good bar food and an interesting mix of stuff. i didn't see a proper menu.

bennybrew, Apr 25, 2005
Photo of francisweizen
4/5  rDev +3.9%

I had heard that this place and their beer kinda sucked. So when I actually made it out here for Londonporterfest 1.5, I was pleasantly pleased that it was actually a pretty damn nice joint. On Sansom street, very close to Monk's and Ludwigs, not too far from Tria either. This second floor establishment has a nice atmosphere. More restaurant than pub, with many sections full up of booths and tables, and a small bar serving some fine ales and lagers. The quality of the brews was very good. I had the BPA, which was actually better than the guest brews they had on tap (Elysian IPA, and Pizza Port Red). I also had a cask-pulled pint of Oatmeal Stout. Both were very tasty and fresh. The beer-list was much better than normal due to the conference that was going on in Philly. They had something like 8 or 9 beers on tap (bpa, 2 stouts, wee heavier, 3c, grog, spring ale, elysian ipa, and maybe a few more). Service was fast and friendly. Prices fair. The beers were not mind-blowing, but this place wasn't too packed on a Friday night either. I'd definately stop by for a meal and some seasonals the next time I am out crawling in the area. Cheers.

francisweizen, Apr 17, 2005
Photo of whartontallboy
3.6/5  rDev -6.5%

Nice atmosphere in Center City, big enough that you don't have to wait forever to get a table, and if you do, you can enjoy some appetizers and brews. The quality of the beers I've tried is sort of middling for craft brews, but better than most brewpubs I've hit up. The worst thing you can say about their beers is that they're sort of boring. Our waiter was extremely friendly and competent as a waiter, but he didn't know much about beer. I asked him how their chocolate stout compared to other chocolate stouts and he basically told me he didn't know. Then I asked what IPA their IPA compared to, and he didn't seem to know that either. Nice guy, just not really an expert on beer. They have 5-6 beers of varied styles on tap, although no lagers when I visited. The food was really tasty, especially the garlic-y sauce that came with the fries; it's a must-taste. Overall, a nice experience, not too expensive, and worth trying in center city.

whartontallboy, Feb 19, 2005
Photo of goindownsouth
3.8/5  rDev -1.3%

Nestled in a place I never would have looked in order to find it, Nodding Head rests in the heart of center city Philadelphia. After taking the surprising long walk up the stairs to my destination, I found the environment to be basic, yet casual pub-like. Bobbleheads abound in glass casings. The brew list when I was there was impressive. While I only tried the Berliner Weisse and the Pale Ale, I was impressed with what they were doing there. Definately a place I would like to revisit and sample some of the good (looking) food...


goindownsouth, Jan 12, 2005
Photo of woodychandler
4/5  rDev +3.9%

I always enjoy visiting Nodding Head when in Philly. I like the way that the bar opens up on yr left as you ascend the staircase to the second floor and the immediate, eye-catching presence of the glass case full of bobblehead dolls upon achieving the landing. The bar is of a gorgeous carved red wood, perhaps mahogany, perhaps cherry. They have instituted a new practice of having a live jazz trio/quartet on Sunday afternoons, which is really cool. If you go during the week, sit at the bar and ask for Spanky, especially if you are into rock & roll. Also, make sure that you take in the rest of the bobblehead collection and sit in one of the booths upholstered in red velvet. Finally, enjoy their beers, some of which I will review/mention separately.

woodychandler, Jul 12, 2004
Photo of blitheringidiot
2.6/5  rDev -32.5%

For so-ooo long, I was curious to review Nodding Head...eh.

There were only five beers on tap: Grog English Style Ale, 60 Shilling Scottish Amber Ale, Berlinger Weisse Summer Wheat, American Pale, and Monkey Knife Fight Tropical Ginger Beer.

Had the Monkey Knife and the BPA. $8.80 bill.

The bartender was friendly. Overly friendly, but not to a fault. This joint was Sam Adams Brewpub a while back. I hope that their beers improve upon my next visit. This is a small second floor place with one bathroom and a small restaurant seating area off to the side.

A bit of a gripe when each pint was $4.40 each. Overpriced for average beer? Maybe the rent is too high.

Last swigs:I will be back, but under "BA Protest." -wink- Big ups to all local breweries and brewpubs. I know I'm a little down on the joint, but their 3-C Hoppy IPA at the Iron Hill tasting rocked! Where was that???

*** Went back to Nodding Head on a Wednesday afternoon to give them a shot. They were getting ready for a beer dinner that night so they were a little distracted. The y had three beers on tap. A Scottish, a 700 Pale and Grog. Just overall lame and bland. I will not go back to Nodding Head unless I hear differently. ***

Beer is good. Happy brewpub beering.

blitheringidiot, Jul 08, 2004
Photo of stingo
4.1/5  rDev +6.5%

Nodding Head proved to be a welcome surprise - the atmosphere is very laid back, somewhat dark, but not uninviting. The menu was somewhat typical bar fare (and inexpensive for Philadelphia), though the stand out to me was the charcuterie platter which features sausage, cheese, green apples, and spiced greens - a welcome alternative to the fried appetizers other places serve (and delicious too). Service was quick, friendly and accommodating, without being clingy or having an attitude. The brews however were very good - nearly all the ones sampled left my palate wanting more from the rich hoppiness of the pale ale (whose name escapes me at the moment) to the malty goodness of the Kung Fu Grip - there is something for every palate which can only be a good thing. Note: in the two times I have been there, the first time they had around 7 or 8 brews on tap but the last time had about half that number - but the quality of the smaller number was noticably higher.

stingo, Jul 01, 2004
Photo of aracauna
3.49/5  rDev -9.4%

This is a cool little bar. Pretty tiny, with a dining area behind the bar and a long narrow one at the back. You have to walk up some narrow stairs to get to the place. I was actually surprised to see bulky brewing equipment in the second story of a building. The bar area was packed for a Wednesday night and the clientele seemed to be 20-30 something professionals. The beer is ok, some better than others. Definitely worth a stop and it seems like a great place to hang out with friends. I'd go back for sure.

aracauna, Jun 10, 2004
Photo of maybrick
4.22/5  rDev +9.6%

After the Omegang Witte release at Monks I was treated to Nodding head for the very first time. It's changed since it was the Sam Adams Brew Pub - and for the better. The atmosphere is urban funky and features "Bobble head" dolls from many era's and many genres.

The brews were great. I sampled 3. I had the American Kolsch which was hopped up and a great nose. I also tried the Monkey knife fight - I should have had it first as the flavors are subtle - the bigger hopped brew took some of the taste away. I also had the Kung Fu grip Sctch ale at 9.5 abv. Quite good. The meal consisted of the strip steak sandwich. Very good had a gnerous amount of maytag bleu cheese and fried onions piled quite high. The plate came with a side salad of mixed greens with I beleive a mild vinegarette dressing. I for one will definitely be back soon!

maybrick, May 05, 2004
Photo of dmarch
3.84/5  rDev -0.3%

I think I liked the atmosphere more than most people at this place, but it still has a lot of room for improvement. The long staircase to this 2nd floor bar give the feeling that this is a secret hidden place in Philly. Once you get upstairs the place feels quite old. It looks like it's been worn down through the years, but they pull it off in a way that it still feels quite comfortable. Solid selection of beers and I have not tried the food, but there is an oyster restaurant downstairs that would be a nice stop before heading up hear.

dmarch, Apr 04, 2004
Photo of WesWes
3.73/5  rDev -3.1%

This place is located on the second floor in a cool downtown building. As you enter, you see a bar to one side and dinner booths down the other. It looks like they're trying to be trendy and it kinda works. It's seems like the younger thirties type crowd.

The quality was good. They had some good brews. I especially like their imperial IPA. The problem here was the selection. There were only 5 different choices. Most of the other brewpubs had at least 7 or more. They weren't exactly the regular varieties either. There was an imperial IPA, IPA, chocolate stout, golden ale, and a brown ale.

This was worth the trip downtown, but I won't be back.

WesWes, Mar 31, 2004
Photo of slander
4/5  rDev +3.9%

I was feeling great discombobulatableishness. What, what? Up them stairs? What goes there? What what what?!?! Hey, what's this, what's this?
The staircase to the 2nd floor dumps you out in front of a large display case of all sorts of bobbing head dolls, from a New York Yankee to the Fat Heads guy. The rest of the room is couches along one wall with pictures of people angels, some nicely inked, over them, a doctor's office scale, there's a few dart boards, that golf video game, the bar, some bar tables, and some tables to the rear on one side. On the other is a hallway with brewing vessels behind a glass wall. They've also got a side dining room with about 20 tables with what look like church pew benches. It's surprisingly comfortable here.
We came here after lunch a few hours before the Friday the Firkinteenth event. They had a handful of beers on. The 3C IPA was outstanding (Cascade, Chinook, Centenial hops), it was crazily sweet, very fresh, just great. The Downtown Brown was also nicely hoppy, the 60 Shilling is a pleasant Scottish amber and the Table beer is an unfiltered slightly spicy Belgian. Didn't get to try the Grog, an English style Brown Ale but hopefully next time.
Liked the place enough to head back here a dozen hours later, in the wee hours after the Firkins had long kicked.

slander, Feb 17, 2004
Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant in Philadelphia, PA
87 out of 100 based on 153 ratings.