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Evil Genius joining the city's beer frenzy in Fishtown

Philly's exploding brewpub scene shows no sign of stopping, especially in the city.

In the next month or so, we should see the debut of Saint Benjamin on Fifth Street in Kensington. I recently reported on a still-unnamed brewpub coming to the lower end of Frankford Avenue in Fishtown. Regional behemoth Iron Hill is looking to open its Huntingdon Valley brewpub this summer, as is La Cabra, across from the train station in Berwyn, Chester County.

And here's another. Evil Genius - opening a brewery and tasting room perhaps late this year or in early 2017 on Front Street near Columbia Avenue in Fishtown. It's just up the street from Front Street Cafe and Wm. Mulherin's Sons.

Evil Genius is not a new name on the beer scene. Entrepreneurs Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward met in 2008 while starting out studying for their MBAs at Villanova. "We were concerned about our job prospects," Heyward said this week. Rather than take their chances with an iffy job market, "it was a good time to think of doing something for ourselves."

Beer came up, because of the ease of entry. "But overhead was really high," Heyward said.

They looked at contract brewing - basically sending off recipes to an established brewer and handling the branding and marketing of the product.

Evil Genius hit shelves in 2011, getting a name not only for its drinkable beers but the goofy names, many inspired by silly comedies or hit records: "Ma. The Meatloaf." "This One Time at Band Camp." "Stacy's Mom."

"When people asked us, 'Where are you located?' the answer was complicated," he said. The offices are in suburban Philadelphia but the brewing ultimately was done by Thomas Hooker, a brewer in Connecticut.

Their next step was to open their own brewery. They started searching for space in the western burbs, but brewmaster Jon Defibaugh (formerly of Earth Bread + Brewery and Tired Hands Brewing) steered them to the warehouse district of the river wards.

"It was inexpensive but there are lot of people around," Heyward said. "We had the population density of people in the 30s. This is our exact consumer."

The building at 1727 N. Front St., which just cinched its zoning approval, is now a shell. "You know how people say, 'We have four walls and a roof'? We just have four walls."

The building is a 6,000-square-foot rectangle divided down the middle. One side will accommodate a 15-bbl brewing system, while the other side will house a tasting room and a pub.

At Hooker, "we can't do sours or barrel aging, so we're excited to be able to actually do that," Heyward said.

Construction should take four months, he said.

More on the Kensington/Fishtown food/drink scene is here.