On a peninsula where Delaware’s Dogfish Head is often the lone wolf offered amongst an ocean of more standard, sheep-ish brews, the name Evolution Craft Brewing has steadily and deservedly gained market share, from Ocean City to Charm City.
Why, in and around Easton it’s become downright easy to find a varietal or two of Evo’s deliciousness. Giant, Acme, Wishing Well, Town & Country, Harrison’s—they all stock multiple offerings. And this is a very good thing.
Geoff DeBisschop, Brewmaster of Evolution Craft Brewing, is an Easton resident. When I tell people this, I feel extra proud of Easton. Although Evo is produced in Delmar, Delaware, with a new facility about to open in Salisbury, this is the type of beer that I mention to other beer people/foodies when I travel, with many of them having heard of it. It’s kind of a big deal.
Fact is, Tommy and John Knorr—the principal owners of Evolution who also own Wicomico County restaurants Red Roost, Boonies, SoBo's, and Specific Gravity—chose DeBisschop, who was in Boston at the time, to be their beer guru.
“I said, ‘Hey I'm looking for something new,’” recalls DeBisschop. “My friend, who was consulting with the Knorrs at the time, said ‘Well I've got something interesting.’ That was pretty much it. We moved here right after Thanksgiving, just over three years ago.” The “we” includes Geoff’s wife Kathy (also employed with Evolution) and young son.
Geoff was no stranger to beer, having been in the brewing industry since 1994. Previous experience came with the New Haven Brewing Company in his native Connecticut, as well as New England Brewing Company and John Harvard's Brewhouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After attending brewing school in Chicago, he rifled off ten straight years in the great beer city of Boston, honing his craft in an atmosphere DeBisschop speaks fondly of.
“[Boston’s] great in the sense that it's a big city and I was able to be exposed to new and interesting ideas, brewing and otherwise,” explains Geoff.
One such quality attained in New England, and already a goal of restauranteurs the brothers Knorr, was an astute consciousness of the relationship between beer and food. “We wanted some core brands that complemented food rather than overpowered it,” says DeBisschop. “Tommy and John's restaurant background certainly played a role in this.”
This quality is definitely there when you sample Evo’s varietals—the attention to detail, full-bodiedness, and deliberate flavor combinations that definitely hint at what types of foods they might be best enjoyed with. And while it’s no secret that beer has come a long way in terms of how it’s consumed, paired with foods, and generally speaking, given a seat at the adult table next to it’s somewhat wealthier vineous cousin, it’s being represented quite well in our own backyard.
Rather than explode onto the scene a few years back with a mess of marketing, smoke and mirrors, Evolution experimented, solidified, and fine-tuned their core line-up of beers, which today are: Primal Pale Ale, Exile ESB, Lucky 7 Porter, Lot No3 India Pale Ale, and Rise Up Stout (a collaboration between local coffee roaster Rise Up Coffee and Evo). This “mainline” of solid brews has set the tone for everything else DeBisschop and his crew have delivered thus far, which include names such as Jacques Au Lantern, Summer Session Ale, and (Spring) Sprung.
Evo’s good fortune abounds, as their new facility in Salisbury—a refurbished ice plant located downtown—allows the team to produce and package higher quality beer to the tune of an immediate 50% increase in capacity, while also adding a full-service restaurant.
So with a brand that people clearly support and an expansion taking place a bit further to the south, I had to ask Geoff if staying in Easton was now in question. Surely, a much shorter commute and closer proximity to all things Evo would be dancing around somewhere in his head.
“When we moved down here initially, we didn't feel at home in Salisbury,” recalls DeBisschop. “Easton felt much more familiar to us, and being an hour from DC, Baltimore, and less than that to Annapolis, we felt like it would be an easier transition. It's been great and we have found great friends, and are really happy here. The commute is worth it. Plus, it used to take 40-45 minutes to drive to work in Boston and that was only seven miles, so commuting 50 minutes and actually moving is no big deal.”
Our sentiments exactly, Geoff. Now keep making that delicious beer. And if you want to open a tasting room in Easton, we’ll be waiting in line.