Evil Genius opens The Lab in Fishtown; Second District thrives in Newbold

Photo courtesy of Anthony Caroto

Photo courtesy of Anthony Caroto

Two to Try: New Neighborhood Brewhouses

by Emily Kovach

The seeds of Evil Genius Beer Co. were planted in a rather unlikely place: an accounting class. Founders Trevor Hayward and Luke Bowen met as newly initiated graduate students at Villanova University in 2008, both pursuing careers in finance. However, just a few weeks into their first semester, the economic recession hit full force. Both guys were concerned about their job prospects and began to think of other directions to steer their careers. Both were avid homebrewers and loved craft beer, so heading in the direction of a brewery seemed like a natural fit.

 The two consider the official launch date of Evil Genius Beer Co. as Sept. 9, 2011, the first time one of their beers was served at a bar. In the years that followed, they built brand awareness, widened their distribution and gained fans with their creative beer styles and quirky, pop-culture-referencing beer names, such as This One Time at Band Camp Double IPA. 

“Almost every single one of our names can relate people back to a time or place from their past, and for a lot of our beer drinkers it’s the late ’90s, early 2000s, when they were in high school or college,” Hayward says. “We try to keep things light by poking some fun at things that have happened over our lifetimes.”

The most recent exciting step for Evil Genius is opening The Lab, a brewpub on Front Street in Fishtown, a place for their fans and the craft curious to try special releases and beers from their newly minted sour and barrel program. “We didn’t have the opportunity or ability to do those [kinds of beers] until now,” Bowen says. “Now that we have our own space, we can do whatever we want! And that is so liberating.”

The Lab features 10 Evil Genius draft lines, six of which can only be found at the pub. It also carries a large selection of local gins for cocktails, as well as a select number of wines. On the food menu, there are inventive house specialties such as the Italian hoagie dip and dessert waffles. This spring, look out for a few new releases at The Lab: Shut Up, Meg!, a farmhouse IPA; I Love Lamp, a pineapple hefeweizen; and a mango wit called Ma! The Meatloaf! 

Second District aims to be second to none
Tucked among the auto body shops and narrow row houses of South Philly’s Newbold neighborhood, a new kind of industry is thriving: craft brewing. Real estate developer and restaurateur John Longacre and seasoned brewer Curt Decker (formerly of Nodding Head) have opened Second District Brewing Co. in a cool old building on the corner of Bancroft and McKean streets. Their goal, according to Decker, is an ambitious one.

“There are a ton of great beer bars in town, but until recently there’s been a dearth of actual breweries,” he says. “We wanted Second District to be one of the great rooms to drink a beer in the country—or the world, for that matter.”

From the seven-barrel brewery, Head Brewer Ben Potts, who’s also worked for local all-stars Tired Hands and Dock Street, showcases the depth of his experience with a variety of styles on the pub’s nine tap lines. Among the rotating drafts, there’s the sessionable Bancroft Beer, brewed with Pilsner and Maris Otter malts and hopped with Mosaic hops; the contemplative It Starts With You dry Irish-style stout; and Meta Shepherd, a smoked porter conditioned atop pineapple purée.

 Second District’s brew schedule is less beholden to the seasons and geared more toward an intuitive approach, Potts says. “Our process is very organic and the beers really come up with themselves from week to week, depending on the current draft list and our whims.” 

In addition to the roster of beers, local wines and cocktails made with hops and beer-infused mixers—as well as Pennsylvania-produced spirits—are on offer. A tight food menu from Chef Doreen DeMarco, who is also in charge of the kitchen at American Sardine Bar, provides plenty of beer-friendly snacks, pickles and charcuterie, as well as copious vegetarian options.

Both the brewery and the kitchen aim to keep things local whenever possible. Fruit and veggies are sourced from Green Meadow Farm and Lancaster Farm Fresh. Teas and spices—both heavily featured in the beer program—come from Premium Steap and Penn Herb Co. The owners of Second District also have plans in the works to establish their own farm. They want to provide some product for their operation, including fresh hops to support their own brewing, with the goal of eventually serving other brewers and homebrewers with local offerings.