Erin Express vs. Craft Beer Express: A Comparison

I was a long-time veteran of Erin Express, the Irish bar-themed pub crawl that annually takes place the two Saturdays prior to St. Patrick’s Day, and I was proud of it.  It was a lot like the Ron Burgundy quote from Anchorman: “We’ve been coming to the same party for twelve years.  And in no way is that depressing.”  Of course, at some point, you realize there may be better things in life than long lines to bars, loud music and questionable commercial beer (isn’t there?).  Over the last couple of years, I have made it to the Craft Beer Express, the quality craft beer alternative to Erin Express.  Which bus bar crawl is better?  Well, let’s look at the tale of the tape.

  • Scale of Concept

Erin Express – Two Saturdays, fifteen bars (including Smokey Joe’s, Cavanaugh’s, Kelliann’s, etc.) from Center City to University City, six hours of constant bus transportation between the bars.

Craft Beer Express – One Saturday, eleven bars (including Johnny Brenda’s, Kraftwork, Bishop’s Collar, Kite & Key, Sidecar, P.O.P.E., etc.) in Fishtown, Spring Garden, Fairmount, Center City, Old City and Passyunk, seven hours of somewhat sporadic bus transportation.

Until I looked at this year’s CBX bar list, I assumed that Erin Express would have significantly more bars than CBX.  There’s not that big a difference.  Also, CBX takes you all over the city, and you almost certainly need the transportation to get from bar to bar.  On Erin Express, you can walk between many of the bars.  It’s pretty close.

Advantage: Push

  • Tradition

Erin Express – The Erin Express has been running for over thirty years, and beer drinkers, even non-participants, certainly know all about it.  It’s billed as “Philly’s No. 1 St. Patrick’s Day Celebration.”

Craft Beer Express – It’s been around for, I believe, three years.  Many avid craft beer drinkers have heard about it though they don’t know much about the event.   

The Erin Express has been such a fixture in town that no one even needs to look up the schedule.  People just know it takes place the two Saturdays before St. Patrick’s Day.  CBX has a long way to go to become as much of a regular event.

Advantage: Erin Express

  • Cost

Erin Express – Free to ride (assuming the company in the bus isn’t too taxing on you), and pay as you go at the bars.  Generally cheap(er) beers at the bars.

Craft Beer Express – $10 for the ticket to ride the bus, and pay as you go at the bars.  Bars have different featured beers, though there are no definite advertised bargains.

One of the issues brought up about participating in CBX is the cost of the bus.  If you’re planning on only being at one or two of the bars, then it probably makes more sense to just walk or take public transportation.  Otherwise, it would certainly cost more than $10 in cab fare to make it to more than a couple of stops.  Also, there’s little doubt you will spend more for beers on CBX than Erin Express.

Advantage: Erin Express

  • Attendees

Erin Express – Primarily young folks in their early 20s to early 30s, many walking over from Drexel and Penn.  A lot of green Irish shirts and flair.  Guaranteed higher number of drunks by mid-afternoon.

Craft Beer Express – A little bit older crowd, typically late 20s to 40s.  Many hipsters, particularly at the Fishtown bars and P.O.P.E.  Not so many green shirts. 

On one hand, you have the prospect of meeting 21 year-old college girls (enjoying a song playing over the loudspeaker you have never heard), while on the other bar crawl, you would be around more hipsters.  Then again, there are the loud, obnoxious party people (sure to be out in droves in good weather) on Erin Express versus the calmer, more mature set.  Tough call, but CBX eeks out the advantage (I think).   

Advantage: CBX

  • Quality of Beer

Erin Express – Draught beers at Cavanughs: Amstel Light, Bud Light, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Woodchuck Cider, Blue Moon, Brooklyn (Seasonal), Bud Light, Budweiser, Coors Light, Dos Equis Amber Ale, Flying Fish (Seasonal), Guinness Pitcher, Hoegaarden, Ithaca Apricot Wheat, Leffe Brown Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat, Magic Hat #9, Miller Lite, Newcastle Brown Ale, Otter Creek Copper Ale, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Stoudt’s (Seasonal), Yards (Seasonal), Yuengling Lager.

Craft Beer Express – Draughts at P.O.P.E.: Anderson Valley Bourbon Barney Flats, Flying Dog Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Zymatore, Hitachino Nest Zymatore, Lost Abbey Angel’s Share Bourbon Barrel, Nebraska Barrel-Aged Hop God, New Holland Dragons Milk, Russian River Consecration, Terrapin Oak Aged Big Hoppy Monster, Victory Oak Horizontal, Weyerbacher Insanity.

No contest.

Advantage: CBX

So, it appears to be a pretty tight battle between these two particular bar crawls (and we’re not going to even mention the other Irish bar crawls taking place this Saturday).  It all depends what you prefer.  If you like partying like you’re 21, hanging out with loud people, wearing great green shirts and flair and drinking cheap Miller Lite pitchers, then the Erin Express is for you.  If, however, you’re a little bit more mature, don’t mind paying a few more bucks for a quality event, and appreciate quality of beer over quantity, then give the Craft Beer Express a shot.


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