By Cassie Hepler
We attended a Brewer’s Luncheon with Two Roads Brewing on a Friday afternoon in April at Alla Spina (1410 Mount Vernon Street) to meet the men behind this award-winning Connecticut brewery and their “road less traveled” philosophy.
Charming and kind-eyed brand ambassador Clem Pellani was in the house to answer questions.
Q: Please tell us about the history and background of Two Roads Brewing?
A: It’s a bit of a long story but I will try to make it short! The idea for Two Roads Brewing was our CEO, Brad Hittle’s idea.
Brad, myself and our Brewmaster, Phil Markowski have been friends for over 20 years. During that time, we worked together in the beer industry in various combinations including Rolling Rock, New England Brewing, Southampton Publick House and Pabst. We always dreamed of owning a brewery together but we never quite put it all together until Brad came up with the idea for Two Roads.
The idea came about after working on a project together and trying to find a place to have a craft beer contract brewed. We quickly realized that it was difficult to find world-class contract brewing facility for craft beer. When our project came to an end, Brad called Phil and me and presented the idea of building our dream brewery and launching our own beer brand while at the same time filling the void in the market for a craft contract brewing facility. We thought it was a great idea! Brad then enlisted the help of his long-time friend Peter Doering to handle the financial side of the business and our partnership was born.
We bought and renovated a classic 100 year-old red brick factory building in Stratford, Conn. We thought this was a great way to honor the manufacturing history of Connecticut while also building the brewery of our dreams. We then launched the Two Roads brand in December of 2012 with the philosophy to brew beers based on classic beer styles but with a Two Roads twist.
Now two and half years in, we are selling our beer in six states – Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and the great state of Pennsylvania! We are also making beer for a collection of established brewers that we really admire including Evil Twin, Stillwater, Notch and Lawson’s Finest Liquids among others. It’s become an incredibly fun environment to work in because we have all of these talented, world-class brewers congregating there.
Q: Why did you join the Philly market?
A: We decided to start selling our beer in Philly because it is truly one of the great beer cities in the U.S. Philly is only 160 miles from Stratford, so it’s only a three hour drive from the brewery and from our standpoint, that’s pretty local! Our Brewmaster, Phil Markowski, is also well known in the Philly craft beer community.
Q: Where does the name Two Roads come from?
A: Our CEO, Brad Hittle came up with the name. His mother used to talk to him about the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken”. She instilled in him that the idea of taking the Road Less Travelled was a great way to lead your life. When Brad suggested the name, we loved the way it sounded and more importantly, we loved the meaning behind “Take the Road Less Travelled”. It really resonated with us because of the way we lived our lives as individuals and the way we wanted to run our brewery. (Explore Philly feels you, Two Roads!)
Q: Your brewery has amazing reviews and great beer, how do you manage to stay on top?
A: This really happens because of the amazing people in our company starting with Phil Markowski. When we talked about opening the brewery, we knew our beers would be great because Phil has such a strong background in craft brewing and we loved his beers. Phil has won well over 25 medals at the GABF and World Beer Cup and he is one of the few winners of the Brewer’s Association’s Russell Shearer award for Innovation in Craft Brewing. He also is the author of Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition. Phil is constantly innovating and coming up with new ideas and he is a key reason we stay on top.
We also do it through the contributions of the other incredible members of our team. Regardless of whether they are brewers, sales people, accountants, etc., virtually everyone in our company is an uber beer geek who embodies craft beer culture. They are all encouraged to come up with ideas for beers styles, beer names and anything else you can think of. We foster a very collaborative environment.
Q: Name your favorite booze and why? Be honest, no promos here!
A: Beer! No question about it. The diversity of beer is unmatched by any other “booze” in my opinion. I can find a beer to match any mood I am in and any food I am eating. It can be refreshing and thirst quenching or it can be big and bold and everything in between! It can be a session beverage at 4% ABV or a sipping beverage at 12% ABV.
Q: Tell us what it’s like to eat, sleep and drink beer?
A: Ha! This is a good question. The answer is that it’s awesome! (We bet!) We all have heard the expression – “do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. I have found that to be completely true. That goes for our employees as well. I manage the sales team at Two Roads, and I always find it so awesome that our team visits breweries when they go on their vacations. This is what they choose to do with their leisure time. I used to work in marketing on toilet paper and I can say with certainty that I never visited a toilet paper factory when I went on vacation. We truly work in a special industry where you want to eat, sleep and of course drink the beer.
Q: If you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: This is usually a tough question to answer because my beer choice typically depends on my mood at the moment. Assuming it would be way too tacky for me to pick one of our own beers, it would have to be Pilsner Urquell. This is one of the world’s perfect beers to me. The malt flavor is delicious, the Saaz hops flavor is unmatched and it has just the right amount of balancing bitterness. It’s incredibly tasty and refreshing all at the same time.
Q: Why do you think the craft beer movement is so strong?
A: I think there are a lot of good reasons but ultimately, it’s because the products are delicious. Craft beer is flavorful. It’s diverse in style. You can find a beer for whatever mood you are in and you can find a beer style to pair beautifully with whatever food you are eating.
Craft beer also embodies the notion of local. Current culinary trends are toward local products made with skill and craftsmanship. Craft beers are increasingly made with local ingredients and most styles of craft beer are best when consumed fresh and usually closest to the brewery.
Craft beer also taps into the feeling of community. It’s made by people you may already know or have a good chance of meeting. Craft brewers are people who are interested in getting to know you and telling you their story. Breweries have also developed into gathering places for the local community. Brewery tasting rooms are places to meet, have fun and drink your favorite beers at their freshest.
Another factor is that craft beer is incredibly fun. The people working in the craft brewing industry tend to be a bit on the unconventional side! The beers they make, the names they choose and the graphics they use tend to be pretty out there and awesome. American craft brewers love to experiment and bring new ideas to brewing and continue to innovate and redefine what beer is to people. This is all very appealing.
Q: Will you be doing brewing pairs with local distributors? That seems to be a trend lately.
A: We will be doing collaborations in the future. There are so many talented and fun brewers to work with. We are working on our first collaboration now with Evil Twin and it will launch it in the fall.
Q: Why should Philly love your beer and where can we find it?
A: Philly craft consumers are as knowledgeable as they come and I think our beer will appeal to them because they are well made and we tend to put a unique spin on the styles we brew in order to add something special to each beer. We also brew a wide variety of styles so I think we’ll have a beer for everyone’s tastes. You’ll be able to find it throughout the Philly metro area. We’ll also be launching in New Jersey later in the year.