Since 2008, Trevor Hayward and Luke Bowen have been brewing very serious beers with very silly names. Evil Genius Beer Co., the brainchild of college buds Bowen and Hayward, has grown from a small operation to one of Philadelphia’s most beloved breweries. If you’ve stopped by their Fishtown brewpub, you’ve felt the infectious laid-back vibe. Whether you enjoyed a beer or two in their beer garden or crushed some Sega games in the retro video game corner, it’s a place where the enjoyment of great beer is enhanced by pure genius.
Evil Genius might seem like just a fun, casual brewery – with beers referencing all your favorite comedies – but look a little closer and you’ll see it’s also a wildly successful business dedicated to brewing excellence and innovation. No wonder the brewery has seen volume and distribution growth in the high double digits year after year.
Heady Times sat down with Bowen in late June to find out how his creativity is helping his brewery adjust to a new normal.
Heady Times (HT): First off, can you tell us about your initial reaction to the quarantine?
Luke Bowen (LB): Well, the first week felt like being trounced by a huge wave! Up was down, night was day. It was such a crazy time.
HT: What changed in that first week in terms of production and planning?
LB: Our first priority was making sure we could keep our team safe and healthy. And then we had to immediately figure out how to convert 100% of our production to package beer.
It was wild! Everyone was all hands on deck and really crushed it. We needed to make sure that our retailers had product to sell, and that our customers didn’t have to stop drinking Evil Genius.
HT: You’ve also been doing quite a lot of work for the community and frontline workers during the past few months. Can you tell us a bit about your “giving back” initiative?
LB: We’ve hosted a ton of fundraisers over the last few years with our Evil Does Good program. While the shutdown put us at a bit of a halt at first, we’re looking forward to giving back to the community again. Here are two things we’ve done recently:
One weekend in March we gave away free beer to frontline healthcare workers, all essential employees and anyone who had been furloughed. It was very successful. We had a ton of people come to the brewery.
In June, in honor of Pride Month, we released a beer at the Lab called #LoveisLove. Proceeds went to two non-profit organizations which support the LGBTQ+ community.
HT: What is your game plan to reopen operations and your taproom? What challenges have you guys had to overcome?
LB: Well, we are open for outdoor seating in our beer garden seven days a week. We have a 3,500 square-foot space, so we can have guests over to hang out while ensuring that everyone is socializing at a safe distance.
As far as opening the indoor part of our taproom, we’re going to wait until we get some guidance from the city. But we’re optimistic that we can have people back inside the brewery soon!
HT: Looking back at your initial plans for this year, what has changed? Are there products that are being pushed off to next year? More of a focus on package?
LB: Yes, we are pushing some products off until next year. But not everything! We’re still releasing your favorite EG summer, fall and winter seasonals, with a couple of big new collaborations on the horizon (shhhhhhhh).
HT: On to the fun stuff, what new beers can Evil Genius fans expect to see later in 2020?
LB: This summer we released Flyin’ Hawaiian, our fruit punch pale ale and Cool Story Bro, our blood orange pale ale. And we have everyone’s favorite, Trick or Treat, coming out in the fall!
HT: Now with a few months in the rearview, how has your seltzer launch been? What are your future plans for seltzer/non-beer releases?
LB: It has been great! The feedback from the market is really positive, and people like having a craft and local option! We do have some plans for beer and non-beer releases in 2021 – stay tuned!
HT: While many craft breweries’ growth has been hovering around flat the past several years, Evil Genius has posted explosive numbers – how’d that happen?
LB: We have awesome retailers and customers who support what Evil Genius is all about. We want beer to be fun, and that message seems to resonate with people. After all, the best thing about beer is the community it builds, and our innovative beers are our way to connect with people we’ve never met.
Evil Genius Starter Pack
If you’re new to Evil Genius, start out with their core lineup, which has transformed them from a tiny contract brewery to one of the most popular breweries in Pennsylvania and beyond.
In this beer, chocolate and peanut butter combine with roasted malts and mellow hops to create a delicious treat.
Stacy’s Mom is dry-hopped exclusively with Citra hops. Soft on the palate with extremely low bitterness, this is a great example of a new-school American IPA.
#Adulting is a guava-infused IPA. Big, bold hop notes of tropical fruit, watermelon and lemon are perfectly balanced by a slightly sweet malt backbone and juicy, refreshing guava.