Sly Fox Positioned to Maintain Quality and Innovation
May 24, 2018 — Pottstown, PA—The brewmaster responsible for transitioning Sly Fox Brewing Company into a regional independent craft brewing competitor will leave the brewery in early July, the company announced today.
Brian O’Reilly came to a fledgling Sly Fox in February 2002 when the small operation, one of the first in the Philadelphia region, consisted of a single small brewpub in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. O’Reilly immediately began transforming the Sly Fox beer portfolio into what has since become one of the most respected portfolios of new- and old-world styles available anywhere.
Sly Fox’s enduring success has been due, in large part, to O’Reilly’s award-winning beers and careful go-to market style. The brewery won a Great American Beer Festival (GABF) medal for its Helles Golden Lager in O’Reilly’s inaugural year and has accumulated more than a dozen since, including four medals in five years for its Grisette Summer Ale. O’Reilly was also instrumental in championing craft beer in cans and, in 2006, oversaw Sly Fox’s transition as the first craft brewery in the mid-Atlantic region to install a canning line.
Sly Fox Brewing Company, with the main brewery and tasting room in Pottstown, the newly renovated Phoenixville pub and the anticipated Wyomissing and Malvern locations in development, is well-known for pairing its beer releases with compelling events.
When O’Reilly first came to Sly Fox, he proposed a spring celebration that would feature racing goats, and now in its 18th year, the Sly Fox Bock Festival and Goat Races hosts more than 5,000 guests and is named best beer event in Philadelphia year after year. The brewery hosts a packed schedule of other uncommon events that all started as O’Reilly ideas, including a huge outdoor music festival and Robert Burns birthday celebration, but it’s beer making that motivates the brewer.
“I’m most proud of the actual growth of the brewing operation,” reflects O’Reilly.
“When we look back at where we came from, scrambling to make beer in the little brewpub to the 30,000-square-foot, 50-hectoliter production brewery, it’s pretty amazing. I’m thankful the Giannopoulos family always strives to provide the resources needed to continually evolve and brew quality beer.”
As the brewery grew, O’Reilly trained a small army of capable brewers, many of whom have gone on to noteworthy brewing positions elsewhere, while some of the very best remain a part of the innovative team at Sly Fox. Although the brewery does not plan to immediately replace O’Reilly, as many as five brewers came of age under his tutelage and are poised to contribute to the brewery’s ongoing innovation, sustainability and growth.
Former Operations Manager, Tim Ohst will be named director of brewery operations and will oversee production at the regional brewery that currently enjoys distribution in six states.
“Brian and I grew up together in the beer business over the last 17 years,” Giannopoulos continued. “We’re like brothers, and we’re excited for Brian, but we’re also confident that he’s leaving us in good hands.”
“There are team members in the brewhouse who have an opportunity to step up,” he added.
“It won’t be a radical change in the brewery, where there are collaborative efforts every day,” adds O’Reilly. “The [Sly Fox] team of lead brewers has been managing brewing day to day for years now, efficiently and professionally.”
Next up for O’Reilly is a new brewing venture in partnership with Philadelphia change agent and restaurateur Avram Hornik in the space formerly occupied by Yards Brewing.
About Sly Fox Brewing Company
Since its inaugural brew in 1995, Sly Fox has crafted more than 100 different top-notch craft beers. Its critically acclaimed year-round lineup and highly anticipated seasonals are available in its brewpubs in Phoenixville and Pottstown, as well as top bars and restaurants in PA, NJ, NY, MD, VA and Washington, DC. Sly Fox was the first craft brewery in the mid-Atlantic to put in a canning line, adding it to the facility in 2006, and with it, earned the first-ever Great American Beer Festival (GABF) medal awarded to a canned craft beer, in 2007. Sly Fox has earned GABF medals virtually every year since and is widely recognized as among the region’s best and most enduring craft breweries.
At the bar the other night I wanted to change things up a bit from my usual draft fare so I ordered a 21st Amendment’s Allies Win the War. I’ve heard a lot about it, thought I’d try it, so I ordered my beer, the bartender nodded and when he came back he placed a beer glass and a can in front of me. You read that right. A can. “When was the last time I got a can of beer in a bar?”, I thought.
After all many beer drinkers may believe that beer in cans is, well, NOT craft beer. It’s the watery stuff. The mowing the lawn in the summer stuff. The standing over a hot grill stuff. The stuff you stole out of your father’s beer fridge when you where young. You know, the stuff you don’t want to think about anymore. Part of the reason I drink now is in an attempt to forget what I drank out of cans way back then (yeah, I’m looking at you Meister Brau).
But things are changing. After years of people believing that good craft beer comes in bottle, more and more brewers are now going back to cans. Oskar Blues and 21st Amendment are two examples of brewers who’s beers come packaged for sale exclusively (as far as I know) in cans. And we’re talking great beer here. Oskar Blues’ scotch ale Old Chub, and their imperial stout Ten FIDY are both excellent. And 21st Amendment offers such great beers as Fireside Chat, Monk’s Blood and the aforementioned Allies Win the War.
And other breweries are joining the canning movement. Anderson Valley, Six Point, Butternuts and Caldera all offer beers in cans. Maryland brewery Brewer’s Art just started canning their Resurrection. And more commonly available breweries like Sierra Nevada, Magic Hat and Blue Moon offer beers in cans – with Magic Hat #9 and Blue Moon Wit available in 12 packs! I dream of the day when I can walk out of the liquor store with a 30 pack of Arrogant Bastard in cans.
But although this canning craze might seem new to some, it’s steadily been building for years. Oskar Blues kicked it off in November of 2002 when they introduced their Dale’s Pale Ale. But it wasn’t until their canned beers started winning medals that other brewers started to give canning serious consideration. Then in 2007, Sly Fox brewing won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest for it’s canned Pikeland Pils. Now, CraftCans.com counts 152 craft breweries in 41 states (including Twin Lakes Brewing here in Delaware) that can at least one of their beers.
So next time you’re at your beer bar and are looking at the beer list, don’t be surprised if you see a section on cans next to the bottle list. And what ever you do, don’t skip past it. Trust me, there are some very good beers on it waiting for you to try.
Time for another beer, maybe a Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale or Jai Alia IPA….in a can of course.
Coming up: Evolution Brewing tap take over at Two Stones Pub and the end of year BBQ review.