History of Slyfox Beer
The Sly Fox story begins in 1994 when Pete Giannopoulos, who left his job in corporate sales earlier that year to pursue his dream of opening a brewpub, found a site in Phoenixville that seemed perfect, an old inn with a barn in the rear which he envisioned as the brewery. But when he talked to the New Jersey investors who’d been encouraging his search, he discovered that talking was the extent of their game.
A bitter disappointment, of course, but one which turned out to be a good thing. What had been merely a prospective business now became prospective family business and that, as they say, made all the difference. As Sly Fox Brewery has grown over the years into a thriving and expanding enterprise, the one constant has been the unswerving commitment of the Giannopoulos family to its success. Things all fell into place with a single suggestion from family patriarch Dr. Peter H. Giannopoulos: “Why not let us be your partners?”
In the end, the proposed original site couldn’t be worked out, but with the whole family on the case, that proved to be just a minor bump in the road. A couple of months went by which had Pete reluctantly contemplating a return to the corporate world, but then came a phone call from his mother. She’d been walking around Pikeland Village Square on Rt. 113 just a touch to the southwest of Phoenixville proper when she noticed a large building in the rear with a “vacant” sign on the door. “I think I’ve found the place,” she told her son. And indeed she had.
Pete designed the pub and he and his younger brother John set out to become professional brewers, hiring San Diego consultant Mary Lou Moore to help them design basic recipes from which they formulated their own beers. The whole family pitched in, with Mrs. Giannopoulos helping with decorating and various aunts and uncles helping out. Older brother Harry was put in charge of the books and financial records and younger siblings Wendy and Glenn signed on to work at the pub.
The name “Sly Fox” was arrived at during a family meeting (there were lots of those) to reflect the brewpub’s home in Chester County and the area’s fox-hunting tradition. An original logo designed by Pete, an artist by avocation, was modified into the familiar smiling fox lifting a pint which adorned the Phoenixville location for its first nine years. A sign featuring that logo and Pete’s original drawing both still hang in the pub. Origin of the restaurant
Wisely recognizing that while being a brewpub was what would make them unique among most of their competitors, it was the restaurant side of their business which would be a determining factor in their success, the Giannopoulos family made Sly Fox an affordable, appealing dining option for the entire community. The effect has been to create an eclectic clientele businessmen and women dressed for success, a family with young children out for dinner, young people out for an evening on the town. Sly Fox has been cited several times over the years as a favorite Chester County dining spot.The open design of the main bar area and a popular outdoor drinking and dining terrace in warmer weather give the pub a welcoming and inviting ambiance that is enhanced by a friendly serving staff and knowledgeable bartenders familiar with the beers they pour. The sense of camaraderie which pervades the pub is made tangible by Sly Fox’s involvement in its community, most notably an annual golf tournament which has raised funds for local charities since the first year the doors opened. Good food and good people have been vital to its success, but brewpubs are ultimately defined by the quality of their beers, of course, and Sly Fox quickly established itself as a beer-lover’s pub. Sly Fox Amber IPA was voted Philadelphia Favorite Beer at a judging in the spring of 1996, only a few months after the doors opened, and other awards followed, including a Gold medal as “Best Bitter” for Sly Fox ESB at the annual State College Microbrewers & Importers Exposition in 1998. The first brewer was John Giannopoulos, who was succeeded in the brewhouse by Brady Van Duff, his former assistant. Van Duff was followed by in turn by Bob Waterman before award-winning brewer Bill Moore (Stoudt’s, Independence) came on board in 2000-2001 and manned the kettles until current head brewer Brian O’Reilly arrived in March 2002.O’Reilly kicked things up another notch with his talent for promotion as well as making beer. His enthusiastic efforts quickly increased off-premise sales and made Sly Fox a familiar tap handle at some of the area’s top beer bars. He created popular events such as the annual Bock Fest & Goat Race in May and Robbie Burns Birthday Bash in December, both of which draw visitors from as far away as New York and Virginia, and Incubus Friday, which fills the pub to overflowing the first Friday of each month when Incubus Triple is tapped. His beers won Bronze medals at the Great American Beer Festival in 2002 (French Creek Helles) and 2003 (Pikeland Pils, an earlier version of which, brewed at a since closed brewpub, won a Gold medal in 2000). Sly Fox was voted Third Best Brewpub in the country at beeradvocate.com in July 2003 and named Philadelphia’s Best Brewery by Philadelphia Magazine in July 2004.This steady record of success, plus a growing demand for Sly Fox beers which taxed the capacity of the 10-barrel Phoenixville brewhouse, fueled the search for a second location, which the owners began in the summer of 2002. In an echo of the first site not working out for the original Sly Fox pub, lengthy negotiations to create a full-scale brewery and pub in the historic Foundry building in Phoenixville were ended by mutual agreement in early summer 2003. Then, as it had in 1996, a second search turned up an ideal location, at 312 N. Lewis Road in Royersford. That 12,500 square foot site, which opened in November 2004, houses–in addition to a 7,000 square foot restaurant–a 20-barrel brewhouse with both a bottling line (for 22oz and 750ml sizes) and the first canning line in the Mid-Atlantic region, which was added in 2006. With this expanded capacity, O’Reilly, brewery operations manager Tim Ohst and their brewing staff are able to meet the demand for Sly Fox beers, a market which has expanded into Pittsburgh and Harrisburg as well as the immediate Philadelphia region in Pennsylvania and both New Jersey and New York City markets at the end of 2006. With a full-scale brewery, two pubs, a loyal local customer base and both beer and food which attract visitors from all along the Eastern seaboard, Sly Fox moves into its 12th year of operations with the same confidence and vigor which marked its earliest days. The family business has expanded that family to include customers, friends, employees and suppliers and made itself a vital part of the growing western Philadelphia suburbs.