She gave new life to the old General Lafayette Inn
Female beer maven Erin Wallaces Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery hopes to ramp up distribution of its own craft beers.
ERIN WALLACE, 36, of Lafayette Hill, owns Devil's Den in South Philadelphia and Old Eagle Tavern in Manayunk. In fall 2013, she opened Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery in the old General Lafayette Inn in Lafayette Hill. Wallace, a native of Baltimore, is one of the few female brewery owners in Philly.
Q: How'd you get into the tavern biz?
A: I graduated from Moore College of Art & Design and while I was there I waitressed at Cherry Street Tavern. They offered me some bartending shifts, which led to other roles. I left Cherry Street 11 years ago and opened Old Eagle. We acquired [Devil's Den] six years ago.
Q: Last year, you got in the brewery biz. Why?
A: I had two successful beer bars and we'd been looking around and I liked the General Lafayette Inn, which had a brewery but had been closed for three years. It went back on the market in 2013 and it seemed like a good fit. We own beer bars, why not a brewery, too?
Q: How much did you invest to acquire the property?
A: We used some money from Old Eagle and Devil's Den, personal savings and loans. The brewery needed work. We put in about $1.5 million for everything.
Q: There aren't many female brewery owners or brewers.
A: Most are still male. You're starting to see a few more women. I don't brew yet, but I'm going to brew my first batch later this year. I've worked on recipes and suggested to our brewer what I think customers want.
Q: What's special about your brews?
A: Scott Morrison's our brewer. He's won multiple awards and he's known for Belgian and saison farmhouse ales. But his other beers are great, too.
Q: How's the biz model work at Barren Hill?
A: We self-distribute and right now we're selling to our own bars. We also sell to The Beeryard and supply friends having special events.
Q: Your customers?
A: Old Eagle patrons either have lived in Manayunk their entire lives, a lot of renters, and then there are people moving in for a first job or couples. Devil's Den has a different clientele, a lot of people still in school or [just] out of school and a lot of young families. At Barren Hill, it's a suburban, older crowd.
Q: How big a biz is this? Revenues and employees?
A: We have about 80 employees, about 30 full-time and most of them are management. We'll probably gross about $3.5 million this year.
Q: What's next?
A: I want to focus on Barren Hill this next year, some new menu ideas and different events. We also want to do more self-distribution of our own beers to craft bars in the city. We have a seven-barrel system so we don't have the huge tanks they do at Yards [Brewing Co.] and that will limit how much we distribute.