A Lab Fit for an Evil Genius: Craft Brewery Will Call Kensington Its New Home This Summer
When I first began attending college, I was essentially a squatter. I wasn’t the kind of squatter who posted up in abandoned buildings, but rather the type that would pass out for a quick nap in my car between classes in the parking garage, or the type who would buy a friend some beer to sleep on their couch. But after a full semester of that rugged lifestyle, I put down my roots in Philadelphia. I haven’t looked away since.
Evil Genius Brewery — soon to be located in an old warehouse under the El — has, up until now, also existed without a true place to call home.
“For four years we haven’t even been able to invite people into our home where we make our beers. We’re excited about having that and sharing it with a community that’s ready to accept it,” Jon Defibaugh said. He was brought on by co-founders Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward to design their brand new brewery.
Evil Genius Brewing has been brewing beer since 2008. Bowen and Hayward met at Villanova University, where they were both taking an accounting class. Their mutual affinity for craft beer turned into a career when they began brewing beer by renting space at other breweries.
They traveled around, not exactly squatting, at breweries in Indiana and New York before arriving at their current space, Thomas Hooker Brewing Company in Hartford, CT. When the time came to open a brick and mortar brewery, the owners were very interested in returning to the Philadelphia area. Defibaugh, a Port Richmond resident, encouraged his partners to look at spaces in Fishtown and Kensington.
After some searching and speculation on where future development may occur, the group found one of the last 6000 square foot buildings for sale in South Kensington. They plan on opening an enormous brewery and restaurant with plans to turn the lot next door into a beer garden that will rival the size of Frankford Hall.
“We are going to be the newest members of the neighborhood,” Bowen said. “We’re building a production brewery and beer hall and were really excited to get it open.”
According to Bowen, the brewery will have a 15 barrel system for aging their special brews. He also wants the brewery to integrate art, music and even food trucks. They’re still going to use Thomas Hooker Brewing Company to make their keg beers and bottles, but the Kensington location will feature brews only available on the premises.
“The [Riverwards] location will be a lot of draft only, exclusive beer,” Defibaugh said. They hope to have about eight beers on tap, most of which will be rotating. Their beers are playfully named after 90s pop culture references, like Chickety China the Chinese Chicken Fresh Hop IPA (a nod to “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies) and Stacy’s Mom IPA (named after Fountains of Wayne’s hit by the same name). “The idea is very serious beer with very silly names,” Defibaugh said.
They’re currently looking at a wide scope of food options right now, but they want to keep it simple while they focus on their beers. According to Defibaugh, they are going to have a small kitchen, but he says they are very interested in working together with nearby restaurants to have them provide food that can be served with minimal preparation. “I feel like The (Good Spoon) Soupery right down the street could be a good option,” Defibaugh said.
Spirit News was granted exclusive access to the space earlier this winter.
The post-industrial building has been unoccupied for approximately four to five years. The interior is split into two large rooms, both with very high ceilings. An old mechanical lift hangs from wall to wall, well above the floor, and is eerily reminiscent of a time when Kensington was booming with manufacturing jobs. The carriage house in the rear is filled with random discarded items and the roof has collapsed onto everything, so there will be a lot of work to turn the space around.
According to Defibaugh, Evil Genius wants to preserve the building’s historic industrial feel, but also utilize the space for indoor plants and green concepts to enhance the overall experience and functionality of the brewery.
Defibaugh anticipates that the initial opening will bring about 10-12 jobs to the area, but he believes they will need to hire more people to staff their kitchen once it is up and running. He hopes that the Brewery will open its doors this summer. “I think it’s going to bring a lot of people to a new part of Kensington that they haven’t been to yet,” Defibaugh said.
Defibaugh pointed out that the lot across the street had recently been purchased, as well as the building next to them, so he feels that section of Front Street will experience a major change in the immediate future. “Everyone just goes to that one little corner of Frankford and Girard, but we have a huge neighborhood with a ton of spots,” Defibaugh said.