Start 14-Day Trial Subscription

*No credit card required

Jessica Zimmer's picture

Evil Genius Beer Co. Tour

Evil Genius Beer Co. Tour

Evil Genius Beer Company is an inventive, welcoming brewery currently offering up smooth, uniquely named beers in its 3,500-square foot open beer garden. This expansive and dedicated new Philly institution in the Fishtown neighborhood currently serves brews and snacks outside and crowlers and growlers to go.

Step inside the threshold of the brewery and you’ll find Evil Genius’s 3,750-square foot taproom, a 24-line draft system at the bar, gaming equipment from the 1990s, and colorful murals painted by head brewer Matt Lally. Evil Genius is planning to reopen its indoor space (aka The Lab) on September 8. Visitors may want to consider booking an $8 tour that comes with a free pint. The tour includes an introduction to Evil Genius’s 3,000-square foot brewing facility with a 15-barrel steam-heated system.

Evil Genius is located at 1727 North Front Street, the sole business on a road just off busy Frankford Avenue. There’s plenty of parking, and an old-school ambiance provided by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) rail line that runs overhead. Dogs are welcome and food trucks rotate their schedules to provide extra sustenance.

Top beers to try include “There’s No Crying in Baseball,” a 6.5 percent ABV mango IPA, “Purple Monkey Dishwasher,” a 6.7 percent ABV chocolate peanut butter porter, “Stacy’s Mom,” a 7.5 percent ABV Citra IPA, “#adulting,” a 6.8 percent ABV guava IPA, “Santa! I Know Him!,” a 7.2 percent ABV festive Saison, “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” a 6 percent ABV fruit punch-infused pale ale, and “Trick or Treat,” a 7.8 percent ABV chocolate pumpkin porter. One of the summer favorites was “#icanteven,” a 5.6 percent ABV watermelon blonde ale, according to co-owner Trevor Hayward.

Hayward said Evil Genius has always been a place where friends and neighbors can relax and enjoy being together. Now guests can do that while staying safe and socially distancing.“We’re serious about brewing, but I’ve often said we don’t just sell beer. We sell nostalgia. We want to evoke memories and create new ones,” said Hayward.

evil genius beer co. beer garden before COVID-19

Enjoy an Evil Genius Outdoors
In late spring, after mandatory closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic ended, Evil Genius reopened its city block-wide beer garden with 10 to 15 tables that seat up to six people per table. The outdoor area, located to the right of the main building and fronted by an iron gate, is a comfortable place where customers are now offered table service.

“The beer garden is a little oasis in the urban environment, next to a neat old building that’s been completely refurbished. It’s surrounded by brick buildings with a lot of history,” said Aimee Bouchard, a bartender and server at Evil Genius.

Bouchard said guests are enjoying the “large, silly paintings along the walls,” which are a good conversation starter, as well as flights of the newest draft beers created in The Lab.

Brandon Gillum, a Philadelphia writer who enjoys Evil Genius beers, said this summer gave him the opportunity to become familiar with the wide variety of the brewery’s offerings.

“I recently moved here from Washington state. Evil Genius’s beers remind me of the craft beverages there. You can ‘finger paint’ with their beers, really explore things like guava shenanigans. Drinking an Evil Genius beer feels like going home,” said Gillum.

Customer Matt Brushwood said he enjoys coming to Evil Genius after work or on the weekends with his family and friends.

evil genius beer co. head brewer matt lally
“At Evil Genius, we hear about what works and what doesn’t. For example, our limited sour beers in key lime pie and blackberry have proven to be very popular. In the fall, I expect to change the Oktoberfest beer recipe very slightly to see how customers react,” said Evil Genius Head Brewer Matt Lally (pictured). 

“Outside, there are awnings to protect you from the sun. The SEPTA line is not loud, it creates more of a white noise, and the atmosphere is very friendly,” said Brushwood.

Brushwood said his favorite beers are “Trust the Process,” the 6.7 percent ABV Mosaic and Amarillo IPA that pays tribute to the Philadelphia 76ers, and “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” a 9.4 percent ABV creamy chocolate hazelnut imperial stout.

Evil Genius made headlines this summer with a “Tiger King”-inspired 4.2 percent ABV pale ale called “Felt Cute, Might Feed My Husband To A Tiger Later IDK,” as well as a new line of 5 percent ABV hard seltzers, “#bestlife,” a black cherry seltzer, “#bigmood,” in lemon and lime seltzer, and “#throwbackthursday,” a grapefruit seltzer.

Prices range from $6.50 for a 12-oz. canned hard seltzer and $7 for a 16-oz. draft beer to $12.50 for crafted cocktails and $22.50 for 64-oz. growlers.

Lally, who came to Evil Genius in March 2018 from Victory Brewing Co., said the brewery is a creative, positive environment where everyone – from the bartenders to the customers – offers feedback.

“At Evil Genius, we hear about what works and what doesn’t. For example, our limited sour beers in key lime pie and blackberry have proven to be very popular. In the fall, I expect to change the Oktoberfest beer recipe very slightly to see how customers react,” said Lally. 

Lally said Evil Genius’s beers made in The Lab tend to be more hazy, with more dry hopping than the beers it produces for grocery stores and markets throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. 

“At The Lab, everything’s fresh and we’re always experimenting. I love tinkering with all the equipment on-site,” said Lally.

evil genius beer co. taproom aerial shot

Finding a Home
Evil Genius opened in 2011, brewing in contract facilities in Indiana, New York and Connecticut before coming to Pennsylvania. In 2016, co-owners Hayward and Luke Bowen bought the North Front Street building, which used to be a garage and car lot.

Hayward said he and Bowen hired professionals to restore the building, which was “basically an abandoned shell,” before opening in 2017.

Hayward and Bowen are especially proud of the tasting room’s wooden tables and booths, which are made from roof beams dating back to the 1870s. The facility also has a recursive system of radiant floor heating tubes, which saves energy by warming the floor with water, and  “light cannons,” silver tubes with mirrored interiors that funnel light from the roof inside.

Other features include a chandelier made from the remnants of a two-ton hoist, which formerly hauled engines from SEPTA’s railway cars, a rooftop apiary with three beehives, and The Basement, a section with couches and a Sega Genesis with video games from the 1990s.

“I’m from Dublin, Ireland, and Luke is from West Grove, a suburb of Philadelphia. Yet we both grew up with the same 1990s culture and pop references. That’s why we added touches like putting the tasting room menus on old VHS cases,” said Hayward.

Hayward and Bowen are long-time friends who met while earning their MBAs at Villanova University. Bowen decided to go into business with Hayward because they got along well and both of them loved craft beer.

“When you really trust someone, you feel confident taking a risk with that person. You might not take that risk on your own or with anyone else,” said Bowen.

Rich Wagner, a Philadelphia brewery historian, said Evil Genius represents a “new line” of breweries in the city.

“Kensington and Northern Liberties (neighborhoods in Philadelphia) were centers of industrial development, including breweries. Their breweries date back to colonial times but really took off in the nineteenth century with the introduction of lager beer. At its peak in the late 1880s, Philadelphia was home to nearly 100 breweries, many attached to lager beer saloons much like today’s brewpubs. With technological advances, the smaller firms dwindled giving rise to the larger breweries,” said Wagner.

Wagner said today’s brewers are bringing back the “brewery saloon” concept, experimenting and brewing beers that have never been brewed before.

“Combined with great public acceptance, they are free to experiment with unique ingredients and techniques,” said Wagner.

evil genius beer co. the lab brewing equipment
Evil Genius’s motto is “very silly names for very serious beers.”

Wagner added Evil Genius is part of the craft brewing movement that continued in Philadelphia into the 21st century.

“They play with concepts and styles in a way that really attracts a wide audience. I have a feeling that some of what they’re doing has never been done before,” said Wagner.

Bowen said Evil Genius is proud to have established itself in Philadelphia. He said the brewery has worked hard to contribute to the community. 

“Since 2018, Evil Genius has donated over $20,000 to charities and causes, including the Fishtown SPCA, Toys for Tots, The Trevor Project, the Wounded Warrior Project and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund,” said Bowen.

Catherine Perez, a Philadelphia resident and loyal Evil Genius customer, said it’s “definitely the beers” that make Evil Genius unique.

“[During the pandemic,] visiting Evil Genius has been quick and efficient. It felt safe. If you are able to get out for can releases or to buy crowlers, do so. Their one-offs and The Lab-exclusive beers are high quality. They offer a lot more variety than people can buy in stores,” said Perez.

Ryan Keller, Evil Genius’s social media manager, said Evil Genius has a unique ability to surprise customers with the “seriousness” of their brewing.

“The names of Evil Genius’s beers catch people off guard. They’re funny and satirical, almost meme-like. Yet after people taste “Cool Story Bro,” our 6.6% ABV blood orange-infused pale ale, or “I Don’t Know Who Needs To Hear This But Cancel That Free Trial Before They Charge Your Card,” our 5% ABV Arnold Palmer-inspired blonde ale brewed with black tea and fresh lemon, they start to understand our level of commitment. Our brewery and the names of our beers make connection easy,” said Keller.

Take the virtual tour of the Evil Genius Beer Company’s North Front Street brewery here.

evil genius beer co. tap handles in The Lab

Since Evil Genius Beer Company opened in 2015, some of its most popular beers have been:

1. “There's No Crying in Baseball” - 6.5 percent ABV mango IPA
2. “Purple Monkey Dishwasher” - 6.7 percent ABV chocolate peanut butter porter
3. “Stacy's Mom” - 7.5 percent ABV Citra IPA
4. “#Adulting” - 6.8 percent ABV guava IPA
5. “Trust The Process” - 6.7 percent ABV 76ers-inspired New England IPA
6. “Trick or Treat” - 7.8 percent ABV chocolate pumpkin porter
7. “Santa! I Know Him!” - 7.2 percent ABV festive Saison
8. “Flyin’ Hawaiian” - 6 percent ABV fruit punch-infused pale ale

Photos Courtesy Evil Genius Beer Co. / Photo Credit Brad Eeles

Table of Contents