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.