In a small brewpub on Girard Avenue, the worlds of Russian literature and craft beer collide.
A chalkboard drawing of Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky hangs over the bar, and a copy of his 1866 novel “Crime and Punishment” sits on a community bookshelf. Patrons are encouraged to grab a book and return it, or keep it and replace it with another book.
Crime & Punishment Brewing Company, a cozy spot on Girard Avenue near 27th Street, is filled with references to Russian literature from its name and decor to its draft list.
Bartenders pour beer with names inspired by Russian novels, like Doctor Zhivago, a tart-flavored India pale ale, and Behemoth, an oatmeal stout.
Crime & Punishment’s location nods to Brewerytown’s history.
Michael Wambolt, 31, the bar’s co-owner and brewer, said it was only appropriate to open Crime & Punishment in the neighborhood that once housed several Philadelphia breweries. In the late 1800s, Brewerytown was a hot spot for the city’s brewing companies until most relocated to the Midwest after prohibition, according to the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.
To enter the employees-only brewery area, workers walk to the back of the pub and through an iron gate to where there are four silver-colored fermentation tanks. The brewpub is the size of a small cafe, but it manages to squeeze in a brewery, kitchen, tables and a bar.
Bartenders pick the music that plays during their shifts, so the brewpub’s soundtrack can range from hip-hop to indie. The bar doesn’t have any TVs, and customers chat over their beverages.
Crime & Punishment has diverse clientele, said Katherine Leuis, who has worked as bartender and server at the brewpub since summer 2018. Millennials and young families typically come in during the week, while out-of-towners visit over the weekend, Wambolt added.
“We get huge beer enthusiasts, then we also get locals,” Leuis said. “We get people that have never really even been big fans of the craft industry and then they try our beers and they love it.”
Ted Gardner, a 20-year Brewerytown resident, has regularly visited Crime & Punishment since it opened in July 2015.
“They brew the best beer in the city of Philadelphia,” Gardner said. “The atmosphere is great, and it’s only a couple minutes walk from my house.”
Gardner likes to sip on IPAs when he visits the brewpub, like Hawthorne Effect, a hoppy beer with hints of passion fruit and apricot. His favorite IPA, though, is Space Race, a brew made with oats and floral hops that is a favorite among customers.
The bar has to brew Space Race almost every other week because it runs out so fast due to popularity, Wambolt said. About six to eight other ales, stouts and lagers are available on tap each week.
The brewers and Russian literature supply the beers’ unique names. Michael Paul, co-owner and brewer, named Treasures of Mirkwood, a saison with burgundy truffles, after “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” Wambolt said.
“It’s fun coming up with names, different recipes and not brewing the same thing over and over again,” Wambolt added. “Having that control is really cool.”
In addition to the brewery, Kurt Miller, the executive chef, prepares dishes inspired by cuisines from the countries of Russia and Georgia, including mushroom stroganoff and a tomato-braised brisket.
The owners plan to move their brewing operation to another building a few blocks north of their current location sometime this spring. All the equipment will be moved out of the pub, Wambolt said, but he’d like to put in a bigger kitchen and add more seating.
To give back to the community, Crime & Punishment hosts monthly fundraisers for local nonprofits like Bike and Build, which raises money and awareness for affordable housing through cycling.
“It was important to me to make it more than just a brewery, but for it to be a gathering place for the neighborhood,” Wambolt added.
For Brewerytown First Friday, which happens on the first Friday of every month, Crime & Punishment displays an artist’s work for an entire month.
Eli Edison, a Brewerytown-based artist, isn’t a Crime & Punishment regular, but tries to stop by because “it’s one of the major hubs” in the neighborhood.
“It’s one of the first breweries inside Brewerytown in several decades,” Edison said. “I feel like at the very least you should patronize the place inside the neighborhood that’s bringing back the old culture.”