Co-owner Trevor Hayward & Marketing Manager Ryan Keller riff on the brewery’s creative process and this season’s much anticipated releases – paying tribute to jolly old St. Nick with a festive saison Santa! I Know Him and a hazy orange Creamsicle IPA Playoffs!?! for the grand finale of football season.
Standing out in the crowded beer market can be challenging, but that’s exactly what Evil Genius Beer Co. does best. The folks that brew “very serious beers with very silly names” are known for their ingenuity, creativity and sense of humor. Whether it’s a collaboration with a nationwide pretzel company or a sparkly pink beer for a movie premier, Evil Genius consistently delivers high quality beers that are culturally relevant and always a little bit cheeky.
HT: Has the success of your beers ever surprised you?
Trevor Hayward (TH): Every year it surprises me how quickly we sell out of our chocolate pumpkin porter, Trick or Treat, and our Christmas saison, Santa! I Know Him. I suppose at this point it shouldn’t be surprising, but year after year, our customers come back for more and more!
HT: Your beers have a loyal following. There must be a lot of excitement when they are released.
TH: We’ve got some staples that people look forward to every single year (Santa! I Know Him, #LoveIsLove) but everyone likes something new too, so we’re always looking to innovate.
HT: How do you “celebrate” the release of these beers at your taproom?
TH: We like to “launch” new beers at our taproom each month with some form of a party. Note: we’ll always find an excuse to party! Sometimes these are small affairs, and sometimes they involve photo booths, caricaturists and musicians!
We’ve got a really loyal and large social media following and we see how excited people get when we announce new beers, new collaborations etc. Seeing so many ISOs (in search of) in the comments section is always great to see, as it shows that many people, near and far, want to get their hands on our beers!
HT: What do drinkers (even retailers) say about the liquid, the clever names… and how meaningful are these beers to people who look forward to them?
TH: Our motto is “very silly names for very serious beers.” We want to make people chuckle at the beer name because at the end of the day, life is serious enough, beer should be fun! And we have a really loyal customer base (both retailers and drinkers) who look forward to all of our releases and can’t wait to try the newest, weird thing.
HT: Who is the Evil Genius customer?
TH: We’ve always been a brand that people pick up for the first time because of the names. It’s hard for someone to walk past a Stacy’s Mom and not hear the song. That gets a lot of people to try it for the first time. After 12 years though, we have a very dedicated and faithful customer base who drink our year-round beers regularly and are always willing to try the newest, wacky thing we’ve come up with. Our customer base continues to expand year after year, as there are always new people discovering us.
HT: OK, let’s get serious. What’s your creative process like? And which comes first, the style or the name?
TH: Making new beers is one of our favorite things to do. It starts with imagining a new beer style, and that inspiration comes from many places… customers, co-workers and sometimes an idea just hits one of us out of the blue. Usually, the beer style comes first and then the name, but we always have a list of beer names “waiting in the wings” until we match it up to the perfect beer. We do like to push the boundaries of what is “normal” for beer styles, and we do things that very few, if any, have done before.
HT: How do you decide which styles to brew?
Ryan Keller (RK): We’re always looking to innovate new styles. Traditional styles are a great place to start, but then we turn them on their heads and do something new. And of course, we like to drink beer, so we do lots of “market research,” tasting beer made by other brewers.
HT: What’s the weirdest ingredient you’ve ever used?
TH: We’ve used a ton of wacky ingredients in our beers, specifically at our taproom. Some of the most notable include the ever-polarizing Peeps candies, the local favorite Tastykake Jelly Krimpets and we’ve created a really far out ale using Irish potatoes. We may have even used rocks in a beer once, because why not?
HT: In the last year, you’ve collaborated with some notable businesses including White Castle and Auntie Anne’s. How did you make those connections?
RK: We’re local enough and lucky enough to have a friend of a friend who put us in touch with Auntie Anne’s, but that’s not the usual case. With White Castle, we heard through the grape… erm hop vine… that they wanted to partner with someone to brew a beer. So we reached out, pitched our idea to them and they ran with it. Most of the time that’s how it goes. We always look for brands that mesh well with what we’ve become known for, very silly names for very serious beers!
HT: What does that collaborative process look like?
RK: It’s about finding the connection between the two companies/brands so that it makes sense for us to create a beer together. Then we usually sit down as a group and come up with some ideas of what we’d like to do together. From there, we pick the one that is the most fun, and most likely to be enjoyed by both of our customers.
HT: What beers and brewery events can fans look forward to around the holidays?
TH: Santa! I Know Him will be back along with our now annual Playoffs!?! beer (let’s hope it works for the Eagles like it did last year!!). We’ve always got a ton of events happening around the holidays at our taproom, from our annual Christmas tree lighting to our 0.5k, which is a quick once around our block and then back for more beer! That’s one of our favorite events, as all the money raised from it is used to buy Christmas gifts for a family in need.
HT: What about next year?
TH: We’ve got some fun, new things coming in 2024. We can’t announce them all just yet, but music will definitely be a theme next year – along with some new beers referencing movies, TV shows, songs and everything in-between!