In Which I Express My Sadness Over the Fallout at Twin Lakes Brewing

Over the years I’ve been unapologetic concerning my fondness for Twin Lakes Brewing’s Greenville Pale Ale. Not only is the cascade laden ale so fiercely drinkable that I included in my post for The Six Pack Project, but I also tell people that it’s my go to BBQ/Grilling beer. Sometimes I think they believe I’m over stating this, but all you have to do is scroll down this blog’s Facebook page and you’ll see that unmistakable, green can in a lot of photos sitting next to grills and grilled meat.

So when I caught wind last week that the brewery was closing down to move to a new location I was obviously curious and quite surprised, as I know the location has been a source of pride for co-owner Sam Hobbs since the brewery opened in the spring of 2006.

The Twin Lakes brewery currently resides on a piece of land that has been owned by the Hobbs family for seven generations, and the brew house itself was set up in a barn that dates back to the 1820s. The name refers to two ponds, or “lakes”, that sat on the property on which the Hobbs family allowed locals to skate since the early 1900s. And while the property, with its single vehicle driveway, small tasting room and not-so spacious brew house might not have been the most convenient for a working brewery, it was the most scenic and beautiful brewery in Delaware. After all, what other brewery can you take a few minutes after picking up a growler to pet a horse.

But before I get too deeply into this post, let me be up front and say that this is not a “news article”. I don’t have any knowledge or information on the situation at the Twin Lakes Brewery that hasn’t already been printed or that can be gleaned easily from social media.

The purpose of this post is to allow me to express some of the sadness I feel when the business end of the beer world interfers and/or disrupts an otherwise fine producer of great beer. Why do I say that? Because quite rapidly the story changed into more than just the brewery changing locations.

For the benefit of my readers who are outside the Delaware area, I’ll sum up the situation to the best of my ability.

Back on June 17th the brewery posted on its Facebook page that the tasting room was closed until further notice. The post gave no explanation, and advised the page’s followers to await information on when the tasting room would reopen.

On July 6th, Jack Curtin posted on his Liquid Diet Blog that according to his sources there had been a “crisis at” the brewery wherein investors were trying to force Hobbs out of the business.

My initial thought was that this was ridiculous but on July 7th, Delaware Online posted this article that stated the brewery was moving to a new location because its lease had expired back in 2013, while the brewery’s Webpage listed growth as a reason for the move. The article wouldn’t have struck me funny if not for Curtin’s post from the previous day and the fact that it contained quotes from brewery CEO Adam Doherty and brewery co-founder Jack Wick and nothing from Sam Hobbs who had been (it seemed to me anyway) the face of the brewery. But maybe I’m reading too much into that. For those of you who go on to read the article please note that on its initial posting it made no mention of Rob Pheiffer or the “other brewer”. This portion was edited in later.

That night I was clicking around some beer related social media and came across several posts which really throw me for a loop – long time head brewer Rob Pheiffer apparently would not be following the brewery to its new location as he had apparently parted ways with the company several weeks earlier along with assistant brewer Julia Christie-Robin whose social media now lists her as a brewer at Forgotten Boardwalk in Cherry Hill.

When I pull all the above together, I’m forced to conclude that there has indeed been some kind of shake up at Twin Lakes and the explanation that this is simply a move revolving around “growth” reeks of not being the full story as I don’t know of too many brewers that would walk away from their jobs just because the brewery wanted to move and expand. But having said that, these facts coupled with a few other pieces of information, I could probably paint a couple of scenarios where expansion may have been the catalyst for all the fallout at Twin Lakes. But since I either don’t have, or am not 100% sure on those other pieces of information I’ll refrain from laying out what I believe happened because as I said initially, that’s not the purpose of this post.

No the purpose of post is to give me a forum to convey my disappointment that it appears that this fine brewery has been ripped apart by business disagreements and infighting. Oh sure, the voices who now seem to be calling the shots assure us that the brewery will reopen once a new location is secured, but will it truly be “Twin Lakes” outside of the property that gave the brewery its name (not to mention its water) and without some of the people who gave the place its personality (when the Delaware Online article was updated it included a quote from Wick that Sam Hobbs was still an owner of the brewery).

Rob Pheiffer, besides being an awesome brewer, was very active in the Delaware brewing community. His enthusiasm and sly grin lead me to start referring to him as “the happiest man in the business” and while I have no doubt that I’ll still bump into him a events from time-to-time, to walk up to a Twin Lakes tent at a festival and not see him smiling behind that large wooden tap pedestal just isn’t going to feel right.

The property itself will be missed amongst the community as it was the location of such awesome events such as the Wilmington Burger Battle (which has found new digs for its upcoming August 29th event) and The “Red Shoe and Brew” which benefited The Ronald McDonald House of Delaware.

As for the new location, I’m sure the now powers-that-be will be looking for a place that will allow them to increase capacity as well as placing the brewery more in line with the current small brewery model that is currently popping up in Delaware. And I’m sure the new brewer, whoever he or she may be, will work hard to continue to produce the recipes that Rob worked so hard to develop. But to me, the place will never have the soul of the old Twin Lakes. It’s impossible.

If they took your favorite bar, tore it down, rebuilt it in another location, changed the decor and got rid of your favorite bartenders, you probably could still enjoy the beer and the food, but would it still be your favorite bar? I guess that’s what we’ll see in the future.

The beer? I guess we’ll have to see about that as well. But you can bet that I’ll be very keen to taste the initial batches of Greenville Pale Ale that come from the new location.

I’d like to wish Rob and Julia good luck in their future endeavors and as well as those at the brewery with their move going forward. While at the end of the day I can rationalize that its just an unfortunate repercussion of the nature of the business it doesn’t change my overall reaction to the situation. It’s sad.

TL-Collage-2

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Author: Ed (The Dogs of Beer)

Beer Blog focused on Delaware & surrounding area. Drinker of beer. Writer of stuff. Over user of commas. Dangler of prepositions.

9 thoughts on “In Which I Express My Sadness Over the Fallout at Twin Lakes Brewing”

  1. While I do not know Rob and Julia like you do, I have thoroughly enjoyed our annual encounters as I have volunteered for the Kennett Brewfests over the years and talked and kibitzed with them frequently. The closing of Buckley’s was the same for me. Some things just don’t need improving…

    1. Bob – to be honest I can’t say I know them all that well. I only met Julia once, and my association with Rob has simply been the 10-20 times we’ve run into each other at beer events (most of them he was working at). But Rob and I would always have fun at The Opening Tap at Philly, and I was surprised that he wasn’t there this year. Perhaps that was a sign of things to come. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. As a summer intern at a local news organization (wink wink) and big fan of the Greenville Pale Ale, here are the bits you didn’t see in the newspaper article …..I can confirm that the “new” owners are minority stockholders who formed a voting majority and FIRED Sam Hobbs as CEO in a hostile takeover that none of the other stock holders supported. New owners are numb nuts, as they had also fired their landlord (geniuses aren’t they?), as brewery land was leased from Sam for token sum of something like $1.00 for ten years or something like that. Here is the further level of genius of these future Warren Buffets…by being forced out of current land they also are giving up their FREE (!) source of natural well water that made the beer so special. Now forcing themselves to brew with municipal water that they will now have to pay for. A bar tender at Tap House told me they were going to take the equipment and brew in some industrial park in NJ or PA. This will not be the beautiful landscape we saw when we did a brewery tour last winter with my boyfriend (my best friend even wanted to do her wedding at Twin Lakes next year). So yeah, seems these new guys don’t have much of a plan or money to run the brewery and are in fighting among themselves and seem to be completely clueless. Rob, the Head Brewer, was so funny and awesome during our brewery tour, he even let us sample beer straight from the tanks for us! Can’t blame him for cutting ties with these new guys. So yeah, the news is very very sad. So stock up now while you can, because at some point in the not too distant future there will be a last can of Greenville Pale Ale.

    –Greenville Pale Ale Summer Intern

    1. Thanks for the comments. I didn’t want to speculate in my article but I felt that whoever was bring the ruckus want the brewery to be “bigger” than it is, which they felt couldn’t happen at the present location. If half of what you say is true (let alone all of it) it is indeed a sad day not only for Twin Lakes, but the Delaware beer scene in general.

  3. I hope Sam starts up another brewery on his farm, because a rose by any other name….ya know!! But without Rob & his awesome hippie style and all Julia’s hard work- I’m still not sure it would have the same magic. My husband and I only visited once, passed the entrance and turned around to find the very personal driveway and even more personal tap room! We immediately felt like family and were swept down to the fermenters to try a few more and talk the night away. Twin Lakes will be missed!!! ❤

    1. I have to agree, once you loose some of the pieces, the puzzle just doesn’t work anymore. But it would be great to see another brewery on that property. I’m glad you and your husband had a great time there. Thanks for commenting!

  4. I hate to hear stories like this. Almost expected to hear AB-INBEV being involved and the brewery to just be shut down and all brewing being done at the parent brewery. Hope all works out in the end. Maybe the original owner and brewers can open up a new brewery in the original location again.

    We have a hostile takeover bid happening in BC right now and fingers are crossed that it does not succeed.

  5. Dear tDoB,
    Please allow me a brief moment to introduce myself. My name is Burke Morrison. I run the Sales and Marketing Department for Twin Lakes Brewing Company.

    As you may have heard, Twin Lakes has resurfaced at our new location in Newport, Delaware and is now producing our Pale Ale, draught only for the time being, with several additional styles in the works. Cans are anticipated this fall. We expect to have our new tasting room up and running around the same time.

    In your article above, you mentioned you were a fan of our Pale Ale and anticipated trying the brew coming out of the new facility. While it has taken me just over a year to do so, i would finally like to take this opportunity to invite you to try yhe twin Lakes Pale Ale out of the new facility. I would be delighted to give you a tour of this new facility, though I confess, we are not yet ready to invite the general public, someone in your position would be welcome to see things “in progress.” If a visit to the new facility doesn’t appeal to you, I would also like to invite you to a “Pop-up Happy Hour” at Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville tomorrow evening from 4pm-7pm. They will be featuring the Twin Lakes Pale Ale then.
    Thank you for your support in the past and I hope we can bring you back in the fold with our classic brew from our new location.
    You can contact me by email at:
    Bmorrison@standardde.com
    Or cell:
    (302) 275-1475
    Cheers!!
    Burke Morrison
    Sales and Marketing Director
    Twin Lakes brewing Company
    405 e. Marsh ln
    Newport, Delaware

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