On Monday, 3/24/14 we got back to the grind again when we drove down to Salisbury, MD and spent our afternoon at Evolution Craft Brewing Company. While there, we spoke to founder Tom Knorr and head brewer Geoff DeBisschop who told us that Evolution originally opened up in Delmar, DE in 2009, but since they had 128% growth in their first year, they outgrew the original facility quickly. The location we visited was opened up in April of 2012 in an old ice plant where all of the rooms used to be kept at 15 below zero.
Tom and his brother John have owned several restaurants in the area since 1996 but, after years of working long days, they wanted a way out. Honing in on their passion for craft beer that started back in college, the brothers were able to open up Evolution Craft Brewing Company with Geoff, an award-winning brewer from Boston. There were three beers in the original line-up: Primal Pale Ale, Exile ESB (which is now known as Exile Red), and Lucky 7 Porter. All of those beers were made to pair well with food so they would be able to get their beer into restaurants by sharing the knowledge they had from experience. Primal Pale goes well with seafood, Exile Red goes well with steak and burgers, and the Lucky 7 Porter has smoked, roasted, coffee, and toffee notes to it, so it goes well with heartier foods like smoked BBQ.
Primal Pale, Exile Red, Lot 3 IPA, and Lucky 7 Porter are now the year-round beers found in 6-packs, and Lot 6 Double IPA is also year-round but found in 4-packs instead. At one point in time, the brewery was making test batches of IPA to find the best one to go with and their favorite was the third batch, hence the name Lot 3. That beer accounts for 45% of their overall sales and has an incredible, unforgettable nose through the use of Amarillo, Cascade, Citra, Chinook, and Centennial hops. Lot 6 is the doubled up version of that one, but only uses Columbus, Centennial, and Citra; both beers were delicious. Rise up Stout is one of their seasonal beers (offered somewhere between September and March) and is a collaboration with a local coffee roaster, Rise Up Coffee. If you like coffee, you will like this beer – 75 pounds of whole coffee beans were added to what they call a Caribbean-style stout, giving it a prominent coffee taste. Look out for new beers this year, such as ones in the Incubator Series which are all candidates for possible new year-round beers.
The brewery also has a series of beers under the Prelude tag which are all base beers for a barrel aging program they have on site. Prelude Black is a dark strong ale which also serves as the base for Winter Migration – a bourbon barrel aged version – as well as a new variety coming out this year which is aging in Jack Daniels barrels. Prelude Red is a red ale that gets thrown into barrels with lactobacillus and pediococcus in order to make their sour beer known as Nouveau Rouge; that beer was named as top 25 beers of the year last year in Draft Magazine. Each barrel of the soured Prelude Red comes out differently, so they blend together certain proportions from each barrel in order to give it more consistency. Nouveau is done twice a year and some of the barrels have been aging now for three years. They also have the Prelude Gold which is a golden strong ale that gets aged on freshly shipped DonQ rum barrels for 4-5 months to become Spring Migration.
Their beer is mostly found in 12oz bottles or different sized kegs, but some hand-bottled large format bottles are packaged as well. Due to restraints of their labeler, the brewery can crank out around 5,000 bottles per hour, but since the new bottling line has the ability to do closer to 7,000, they are planning to redo the rest of the line over the next 6 months. Distribution of the beer can be found throughout northern Virginia, DC, Maryland, Delaware, southeast Pennsylvania, and southern New Jersey. Much appreciation goes out to Tom and Geoff for giving us a personalized look into their operations, as well as Bryan and Lauren for guiding us through our flight in the taproom!
Author: Michael Roberts