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

Delaware Beer News – Four DE Brewers to Join Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp

Four breweries from Delaware will participate in the Mid-Atlantic edition of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp being held on August 2nd at Penn Treaty Park, Philadelphia.  I’d like to thank Chris Crabb for sending this information my way.

PRESS RELEASE:

Beer Camp Across America Update!
Four Delaware breweries have signed on to join fellow brewers and beer lovers at Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America, an unprecedented traveling beer festival that will take place later this summer. Nearly 700 craft brewers from around the country have already signed on for the multi-weekend event; anticipating more than 1,300 total craft beers on tap, collectively representing almost every state in the union, Beer Camp Across America promises to be the largest craft beer celebration in history.Delaware’s own Stewart’s, Dominion, Twin Lakes & Argilla are all making the trek to the Mid-Atlantic edition, taking place August 2 at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia.
We’re hoping you’ll share Beer Camp Across America with your readers so that even more people will know about this monumental adventure and start making travel plans! 

Beer fans are snatching up tickets for each of the seven events at www.SierraNevada.com/BeerCamp (see schedule below). Each festival will feature up to two beers per brewery, food vendors, and live music by the MarchFourth Marching Band spectacle.

Let me know if you have any questions or if I can provide further information. Cheers!

Chris

Chris Crabb
503-314-7583
#beercamptour

Beer Camp Across America Schedule

• Sat, July 19th: Northwest Edition at Sierra Nevada Hop Field in Chico, CA, 12-5 p.m.
• Sun, July 20th: Southwest Edition at Embarcadero North in San Diego, CA, 1-6 p.m.
• Fri, July 25th: Rocky Mountain Edition at Civic Center Park in Denver, CO, 5-10 p.m.
• Sun, July 27th: Midwest Edition at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL, 12-5 p.m.
• Fri, August 1st: New England Edition at Thompson Point in Portland, ME, 5-10 p.m.
• Sat, August 2nd: Mid-Atlantic Edition at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia, PA, 12-5 p.m.
• Sun, August 3rd: Southeast Edition in Mills River, NC, 1-6 p.m.

Philly Beer Week Opening Tap – Partying Like We’re “It’s Just the Booze Dancing”

[AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Despite claims from certain so-called “friends”.  I have witnesses that the Hammer of Glory was safely returned to those responsible for it after I touched it.  I also wish to point out that I have an alibi for Saturday’s Fishtown Festival festival, which is the last place the Hammer was seen.  I am hoping that the Hammer eventually finds its way back home.]

Someone needs to pinch me.  Or maybe more appropriately, hit me with a hammer.  Philly Beer Week kicked off with it’s usual bang  when Mayor Michael Nutter used the official Hammer of Glory to tap a keg of Brotherly Suds 4.  And we got to attend as members of the media.  Yeah, I laugh whenever I say it too.

Normally this would have been an event that we would have missed, much to the dismay of my friend Patrick, over at Crafty and The Beast.  He’s long brow beat me at my inability to get off my lazy ass and make a trip to a Philly Beer Week event (he’s a regular Forum of the Gods attendee) in what he calls “separating the geeks from the meeks.”  But as much as some of the events really look awesome, we’ve just never made it up there.  Until this year, and we have the awesome guys at It’s Just the Booze Dancing to thank.

A few days before the kick off of PBW, G-Lo emailed me that he had media passes that they couldn’t use for the Brewer’s Breakfast that was going to be held on Saturday and wanted to know if we wanted them.  Once I confirmed that “we” were available that day (don’t laugh, I’m not the social planner/calendar in this relationship) he sent an email to Jennie Hatton, of Profile PR and asked that we be added to the list.

Sadly, Jennie emailed that the breakfast had been cancelled which I was willing to accept, and figured we’d miss another year.  But Jennie asked if we wanted to attend the Opening Tap instead.  Did we?  Ok, I’ll be honest, I didn’t run this one past the calendar before I accepted.  Bad me.

The next thing we knew, we were standing in the VIP/Media line at the Independence Hall Visitor’s Center being signed-in and wrist-banded.  After we checked-in we met up with Patrick, who had volunteered at the event, and walked out to the front lawn to witness the tapping ceremony by Mayor Michael Nutter.  Using the Hammer of Glory, and with the tap being held by Tom Kehoe of Yard’s Brewing, Nutter swung a mighty blow!!  OK, so Dominic Brown isn’t in any danger of losing his status of currently being Philly’s hardest slugger, but it was strong enough to tap the keg of Brotherly Suds 4 that had been collectively brewed by Iron Hill (Mark Edelson), Nodding Head (Gordon Grubb), Flying Fish (Gene Muller), Victory (Bill Covaleski) and Yards (Tom Kehoe), who collaborated to decide on the style of an English summer ale with citrusy hops.

Counter-Clockwise from top: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, and me with the Hammer of Glory
Counter-Clockwise from top: Don Russell (Joe Six Pack) and Tom Kehoe from Yard’s Brewing hold the keg of Brotherly Suds 4 as Michael Nutter prepares to tap it.  After the ceremony, the keg of Brotherly Suds 4 enjoys the live music of TJ Kong and the Atom Bomb.  Me and the Hammer of Glory.

Not long after the tapping was over, we entered the VIP tasting where about 20 breweries were pouring bottles of some awesome beers such as Evolution Brewery’s Migration Fall 2012, Manayunk’s Siembra, Neshaminy Creek’s Leon Russian Imperial Stout, Fegley’s Arctic Alchemy and Insidious,  Yard’s Grand Cru, Sly Fox’s Incubus, Sam Adam’s Stoney-Brook Red, Dock Street Trappist IPA, .  But the highlight for us was getting a chance to talk to Weyerbacher head brewer, Chris Wilson about his Philadelphia Inquire Brew-vitational award winning Riserva 2012.  Luckily we’d tried it earlier because as we were talking to him, they ran out of bottles.  But that didn’t keep Chris from offering Tracey seconds.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Clockwise from Bottom: Wererbacher’s 1st place win for “New Beer” for the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Brew-vintational.  Chris Wilson, head brewery of Weyerbacher enjoys his win.  Chris shares his award winning Riserva 2012 with Tracey.

Soon however, it was time to venture out into the regular tasting which just put the “off” in “off the charts”.  The main hallway of the Visitor’s Center was filled with the entire length with beer booths.  Beers were flowing freely amongst the historic back drops and displays.  The event was crowded, but didn’t seem crowded as the wait for beers was never that long, and there seemed to be plenty of time to have a quick chat with a brewer or representative.  We got a chance to stop by Doylestown Brewery, Saint Benjamin (opening in the fall), Lancaster Brewing, Rock Bottom, Susquenhanna, River Horse, Naked Brewing and a few more.

Left: The main hall before the start of the event.  Right: After a few more people entered the event.
Left: The main hall before the start of the event. Right: After a few more people entered the event.

At the end of the hallway the expanse of the event became apparent as Patrick asked, “Have you been upstairs yet?”  Upstairs?  Where is this magic staircase?  Oh yeah, right there in front of me.  I blame the beer.  At the top of the stairs we found a balcony full of booths (including Boxcar, Weyerbacher, Prism, Manneken-Penn, and Evil Genius) an outside patio full of booths (including Nodding Head, Dockstreet, Round Guys, Yards, and Samuel Adams),  and a room full of even more booths (including Victory, Iron Hill [pouring their Petite Fortunella and Sweet Leaf IPA], Shawneedcraft, Flying Fish, Stoudts, Fegley’s, and Twin Lakes).  This really put the “off” in….oh, wait.  I’ve already used that.  It was at this time that I bumped into Seen Through The Glass writer and Session Beer Project creator, Lew Bryson.  Lew is a force in the craft beer/whiskey world but he also shares the distinction (along yours truly) of cutting his internet beer teeth in the old Usenet Rec.Food.Drink.Beer group.  We reminisced for a bit about the time we spent on there, and then went our separate ways.  Lew to go back down into the crowded hallway, and me to explore the beauty of the upper level.

At this point you’re probably thinking this event JUST.COULD.NOT.GET.BETTER!!  Wrong!!  Suddenly a man walked up to me and introduced himself, “Hi Ed, I’m G-Lo! And this is LimpD!”  Wow!  One half of Booze Dancing in the hizzzzz-house!!!   OK, OK,  I know what you’re thinking, “Oh god, here he goes kissing BD’s collective asses because they hooked them with media passes for Opening Tap!”  Well you could NOT be more wrong.  I’m going to kiss their asses because they were one of the first blogs to follow me when I started, and they’ve always been overly kind and gracious to me.  Which… includes….hooking us up with media passes for Opening Tap….(looks down)…yeah, I guess you were right.  Anyway…if you’re into beer and whiskey and NOT following them, shame on you!

After a bit of conversation, we grouped up and set back to the task at hand, and without further ado we entered the upstairs room.  Now here is where that awkward moment that can happen at beer festivals started to occur.  To paraphrase the 10th Doctor (which people will tell you I do WAY to much), people think that beer festivals are a directly line of cause and effect from the first beer to the last.  When actually, they’re more like a big ball of wibbely-wobbley, timey-whimy stuff.  And this is when the event got a little timey-whimy.  Yeah, I had a fully charged camera, and I even had a digital recorder on me, so there should be no reason why I can’t give you a detailed account of what was in there and what beers we tried.  But I can’t.  By that time I was just having a blast hanging out with Tracey, Patrick, G-Lo and LimpD, trying beers, discussing beers and trading stories.

Well, I can tell  you this one thing.  It was here that I finally got to meet up with Twin Lakes brewery Rob Pfeiffer.  Rob and I have conversed a few times on my Facebook page, but this is the first time I’ve ever had the chance of shake his hand.  And I just have to say, that man is the HAPPIEST guy I’ve ever met, LOL.  And why not?  After all, his “work” life revolves around making beer.  Why wouldn’t he be happy?

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Me, Rob Pfeiffer and his amazing team from Twin Lakes Brewing.
brewers
Counter-clockwise from top: Tracey signs the Opening Tap Independence Mall document at Twin Lakes Brewing. Head Brewer Rob Pfeiffer signs, along with G-Lo, and LimpD

Before we knew it, it was time for the event to end and for everyone to say goodbye.  But not before we stopped by at the Lancaster Brewing booth to talk to head brewer Bill Moore and the excellent work he’s brewery is doing for the Wolf Sanctuary of PA, and shared some conversation on the elevator down to the parking lot with Yard’s head brewer Tom Kehoe.  Opening Tap as was awesome time, and we thank all the brewers and volunteers who made it so.

Special thanks to G-Lo for the hook-up, and Jennie Hutton for her graciousness in adding us to the list.

Top: Tracey give a cheers to PBW.  Bottom: A forum of bloggers (L-R) The Dog, G-Lo, LImpD and Crafty
Top: Tracey gives a cheers to PBW. Bottom: A forum of bloggers do the same (L-R) The Dog, G-Lo, LImpD and Crafty

Kennett Brewfest 2012

Last Saturday was the 15th annual Kennett Brewfest.  The event, which started in conjunction with the Kennett Mushroom Festival and was held in what was little more that an alleyway type street between two buildings, has turned into one of the premiere beer events in the area.  Ninety plus brewers and representatives turned out to pour for a crowd of 3000+ people at the current location at Genesis Health Ventures.

The brewfest started at 12 noon for those of us who were lucky enough to get Connoisseur Tickets.  The Connoisseur tasting has only been part of the festival for 10 years, but in that time it’s practically turned into an event all its own.  More than thirty of the brewers that were there that day started early as they poured specialty, unique and small batch offerings, many of which were not going to be available at the main tasting.  Brewer Hill Farmstead, whose beers normally don’t make it any further than their gift shop as far as distribution, showed up to pour two of their beers, Vera Mae (a saison made with spelt and wild flower honey) and Ephraim (a nice imperial pale ale) for this event only as they were not participating in the main tasting.

(Clockwise from bottom) A look down Connoisseur’s row; the line around the back of the complex waiting to get into the regular tasting; looking down the back row of the tasting.

I walked in with a game plan as usual, although I was wondering how I was going to balance all the Tweeting, Untappd, picture taking and note taking I wanted to do.  Very quickly I decided to discard all the social media and focus on the beers and the people around me.  Several members The Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers were there, and Dogs of Beer Co-Founder Chuck was along, marking the first time the two of us had been together for a beer festival in quite a while.  So Tracey and I were looking forward to hanging out with friends and enjoying what we assumed would be an awesome display of beers.

And the tasting didn’t disappoint.  After first stopping at Hill Farmstead we walked around the tents trying beers like Dark Horse’s Fore Smoked Stout, Ommegang’s Scythe and Sickle Harvest Ale, Round Guys’ Old Grumplestilskin, Evil Genius’ Trick or Treat Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, Jester King’s Petit Prince, Troegs’ Scratch #76-2012 special HOPS, and Maine Beer’s Peeper Pale ale just to name a few.  In our travels we also stopped in to check out some favorites of ours such as, Allagash’s Curieux, Stillwater’s As Follows, and Flying Fish’s Exit 4.

The Boulder Beer tent pouring during the Connoisseur’s Tasting.
(L) Twin Lakes in the house. (R) The server for Twin Lakes lets me have a peak of the Festival from her perspective.

If the Kentucky Derby is the fastest 2 minutes in sports, then the Connoisseur tasting at the Kennett Brewfest is the fastest 90 minutes in beer tasting.  Before we knew it, they were asking us to pull back for the 30 minute break between it and the opening of the regular tasting.

The regular tasting is just head spinning and I’m not even going to try and recap what we had (I still have a list of beers to check-in at Untappd), but I did succeed in making it over to Left Hand Brewing and Voodoo Brewing.  We did take some time during the regular event to stop by and say hi to the guys over at Argilla Brewing (their first Kennett Brewfest) and then go over and chat for awhile with the folks from Twin Lakes (Brewfest pros).  It was great to see the state represented so strongly (Dogfish Head and Old Dominion were also in attendance) and to see people frequenting their tents.

When you go to beer festivals do you see “the pretzel people” as well, or is just a regional thing near us?
The Fegleys Brew Works station.
Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers (clockwise from bottom) It didn’t take Brian and Rob long to find the bacon on a stick; The Dogs of Beer talking beer; Pat and Dana stop for a picture.
(L) Where ever you go, it always seems that Guinness is served with a smile. (R) Me talking to the guy from Evil Genius.
(Clockwise from bottom) Steve and Pete from Argilla Brewing setting up; Chuck and I talking to the folks at the Twin Lakes tent; Argilla Brewing head brewer Steve Powell takes a picture with a guy who by that time was probably feeling pretty darn good.
The servers at the Old Dominion Brewing tent.
(Clockwise from bottom) Voodoo Brewing’s station; a nice selection from the guys at Voodoo; a toast to another great Kennett Brewfest!

The Kennett Brewfest seems to grow every year, but when I asked Mary Hutchins of “Historic Kennett Square” what she thought of this trend she indicated that for the immediate future, they were happy with where they are as an event.  “At this point we have reached our maximum with the number of brewers and attendees.  So, we will work at keeping the model the same for the next few years.  On Saturday we had 92 brewers, the most we have ever had and we think the number worked well”, she said.

Another change for the festival this year was the date.  The event is usually held the first weekend in October, but to the surprise of some it fell on the last weekend in September this year.  “I always try to avoid the GABF just because I know some brewery staff that attend Kennett would be in Colorado instead and I want them here”, said event founder Jeff Norman when I asked him about the change. “This year they are the weekend of Oct 13 (they are usually the end of Sept). Oct 6 is the Kennett High School Homecoming football Game so that was not an appropriate mix as they are right across the street.  I believe our preference for next year will be Oct 5, 2013. We will coordinate with the school.”

A lot of people come together every year to make possible the Kennett Brewfest which benefits “Historic Kennett Square” a 501-C3 non-profit organization committed to making Kennett Square a social, cultural and economic center; and Jeff was quick to thank them all, “The Borough of Kennett Square; the Kennett Square Public Works Dept; the Kennett Square Police Dept.; Genesis Health Ventures who provides the site for the fest; the Board Members of Historic Kennett Square; the Brewfest Executive Committee , a group of people who put in a huge amount of volunteered time;  Waywood Beverage for staging and delivering about 80% of the beer for the day;  our sponsors; our day of event volunteers; the musical acts and food vendors; of course the breweries that keep coming back year after year; and finally folks like you and our other patrons that support our organization through this festival.”

I’d like to echo Jeff’s appreciation for all those who come together make this event happen, and thank Mary and him for taking some of their valuable time to talk to me.

See you next year!!