A lot of people ask me how I got into the craft beer business, and frankly it is my wife’s fault. It was the early 90s, and I was living in Delaware at the time, working for my father’s billboard business. I had attended Boston University, graduating with a degree in engineering, and still had a lot of college friends who lived in New England. One of those friends was getting married and invited me up for the weekend to celebrate. At that party is where I ended up meeting my future wife, Susan.
At the time she was living in Boston, and we had a long distance relationship. I had an active social life, and she would often call when I was not home, so she decided I needed a hobby to keep me home. She ended up buying me a homebrewing kit for my birthday.
I soon became an avid homebrewer, and was joined by Mark Edelson, who would become my future business partner. We would brew beer on Sundays during the fall and winter while watching football games. We played soccer together and were active in the Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce). We were the two beer geeks who always brought our homebrew to parties and events.
We entered our beers in homebrewing contests and started to win medals, so we decided it would be fun to make it a career. In the beginning it was just an excuse to drink good beer as we dragged our future wives across the country visiting brewpubs in search of ideas.
At that time I remember Mark and I attending our first Craft Brewers Conference in New Orleans in 1993, still just “wannabe’s.” In 1994 my family sold the billboard business and things started to get more serious. I no longer had a job, and decided to go back to school. I attended the University of Delaware’s MBA program, with the hope of some day making our dream become a reality.
We eventually met our third partner, Kevin Davies, who had a long history in the culinary side of the restaurant business, so we went in search of sites. As we looked, we reached out to friends and relatives who helped us raise the initial capital to start our company.
In 1996, after looking at many sites in Delaware, we choose a site on Main Street in Newark, and in 1998, expanded our company to our second restaurant in West Chester, PA. We now have eight restaurants in three states, and hope to continue to organically expand in the greater Philadelphia region.
Today, my wife likes to joke that my “hobby” that was supposed to keep me home at night actually keeps me busy more than ever, but she knows that I am lucky enough to be doing something I love and that makes it all worthwhile.
Learn more at IronHillBrewery.com.