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Evil Genius Beer Co. has set a date for its Fishtown debut: The pub, tasting room and 15-barrel brewery at 1727 N. Front St. will officially open to the public on Wednesday, March 8.
In the year and a half since Evil Genius co-founders Trevor Hayward and Luke Bowen bought the former auto shop under the El, the brewery scene in Philadelphia has exploded.
“I thought we’d be one of a handful inside the city; instead we’re something like one of 20,” Hayward said. “It’s a good thing, I think.”
The number is closer to a dozen — quick tally: Second District, ARS, Form, 2nd Story, Crime & Punishment, Do Good, Point Breeze, Dock Street, Yards, PBC, St. Benjamin, Manayunk, Techne — but that’s still double the amount Philly had two years ago. And more are on the way.
Evil Genius has a leg up on some of the other newcomers, however, because it’s already a well-known brand.
Hayward and Bowen have been selling their funky-flavored, retro-named beers since 2011. The chocolate peanut butter porter called “Purple Monkey Dishwasher” already has legions of fans, and winter saison “Santa!! I know him!” is one of the area’s best-selling Christmas beers.
On Front Street, those staples — which are contract brewed at a different facility — will be joined by a rotating cast of eight specialties made on site.
Already brewed and waiting for opening date are offerings like a tart, smooth raspberry Baltic porter and a hefty English barleywine made with 60 pounds of Lancaster County maple syrup. They’ll pour from 10 wood-handled taps, which are hooked directly into the brewery cold storage tanks (no middle-man kegs) and are repeated twice behind the long curved bar, for extra service speed.
The bar, stocked with nearly two dozen high-backed wooden stools, takes up one side of the giant, open-air space that makes up the tasting room.
Seating for up to 185 includes booth-style benches and tables on the wall opposite the bar, plus several high-tops with stools in the center of the room and a set of communal tables at the back, in an area that could host private parties or potentially even live performances. The interior was done by Philly’s Loubier Design, and all the wood used for the tables was reclaimed from the roof of the building.
Signs of the building’s former purpose still linger, like the pulley (“capacity 2 tons”) that was once used to hoist cars and is being turned into a chandelier, but the room is welcoming despite being cavernous. Three skylights that let in lots of natural light help warm things up, and so does an entryway furnished with comfortable couches and equipped with a retro Sega Genesis gaming system.
There’s no full kitchen, but food will be served. The menu, designed with help from the owners of Lucky’s Last Chance and Bourbon Blue, will include charcuterie and cheese plates, panini, wraps, big hearty salads and various styles of popcorn made in a big popper behind the bar. Hayward is especially excited about dessert: Waffle nachos, where triangles of Belgian waffles get doused in whipped cream, syrups and toppings as if they were tortilla chips.
Exact prices are still being determined, but Hayward is aiming for affordability.
“It’s amazing how much this area has changed in just a couple of years,” he said, noting that they no longer see junkies loping past the brewery, a sight common when they bought the place. “I want to make sure people can still get a great sandwich at a decent price.” (Think $8 to $12 or less.)
In addition to beer served in various sizes for drinking in house, it’ll be available to go, in both regular growlers and “crowlers,” giant cans that are filled and sealed on site. There will also be a red wine and a white wine — general manager Garrett Williams, previously at Tria, is handling that — plus a cocktail program that focuses on local gins.
Hours, to start, will probably be 4 to 10 or 11 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, with an early opening at noon on Saturday and a slightly earlier closing time on Sunday.
What about the beer garden, which hosted several successful pop-up events last summer?
That’s still a work in progress. (Besides, the weather won’t really call for it for a few months anyway, despite the outlier days we’ve been having.) The area is getting a resurfacing to replace the uneven gravel — “It was a used car lot, after all” — and Hayward is working on some kind of decor that pays homage to the El overhead.
He was hoping to turn a former SEPTA train car into seating, but hasn’t found anything yet. If you know how to obtain one, get in touch.