Workhorse Brew­ing Co. opens in King of Prus­sia

The Phoenix - - COMMUNITY - By Gary Puleo gpuleo@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

UP­PER ME­RION >> King of Prus­sia hasn’t been a one horse town for a long time, but thanks to Dan Her­sh­berg, CEO and founder of Workhorse Brew­ing Com­pany, it’s fi­nally a one brew­ery town with plenty of work­ing class val­ues to grease that brew­ery’s wheels.

For the town’s first brew­ery in its long, rich his­tory, the Philadel­phia na­tive and his busi­ness part­ner, head brewer Nate Olewine, chose a horse-themed name that they hope will re­flect the in­tegrity of the folks who will be drink­ing the tra­di­tional, no-non­sense suds pro­duced by the 30-bar­rel brew­house.

“We wanted a name that was rep­re­sen­ta­tive not just of the core tenets of the brew­ing in­dus­try, the blue col­lar men­tal­ity, but also the cul­tural ethos of the greater Philadel­phia area,” noted Her­sh­berg, wear­ing a bright blue Hawai­ian shirt, as Sam Cooke’s “Won­der­ful World” echoed through­out the cav­ernous but some­how cozy Workhorse tap­room.

“So when we’re think­ing about who will be drink­ing our beer, not just now but as we ex­pand our foot­print, it’s go­ing to be peo­ple who value de­pend­abil­ity, ap­proach­a­bil­ity, and all of the qual­i­ties of a workhorse. As busi­ness­men we’re very much ‘roll up your sleeve, get the job done’ kind of peo­ple, not hov­er­ing around man­ag­ing other peo­ple. We thought that kind of men­tal­ity was re­ally im­por­tant to show the (phi­los­o­phy) of the com­pany. As peo­ple come in to drink, those are the qual­i­ties, re­gard­less of whether you’re a blue col­lar worker or a white col­lar worker, we be­lieve that every­body in this area has — those same core val­ues about grow­ing up in this re­gion. We don’t want to say our core de­mo­graphic is lim­ited to one niche.”

Re­gard­less of the niches they oc­cupy, most cus­tomers will crave a bite to eat with their beer at some point. Al­though Workhorse is not a restau­rant, a va­ri­ety of food trucks will ro­tate avail­abil­ity on site, Her­sh­berg as­sured.

If the process of com­ing up with a catchy, mean­ing­ful name took some time, de­vel­op­ing the busi­ness model took even longer — three years, in fact.

Al­ready a Cor­nell Univer­sity-ed­u­cated en­tre­pre­neur run­ning a suc­cess­ful, sports-cen­tric, Philadel­phia ap­parel com­pany, Philly Phaith­ful, which he still op­er­ates, Her­sh­berg was in­spired to launch his own brew­ery af­ter spend­ing time with a friend who had started the highly suc­cess­ful Rhi­negeist Brew­ery in Cincin­nati.

“I went out there out of en­tre­pre­neur­ial ex­cite­ment, just to see what he’d been do­ing. He had ex­plo­sive growth with the com­pany, with a re­ally im­pres­sive busi­ness model. He in­vited me out there to the fa­cil­ity and I spent four days learn­ing ev­ery­thing about the in­dus­try and just fell in love with the cul­ture of craft beer,” Her­sh­berg re­called.

“I loved all the ex­cite­ment around it and how chal­leng­ing it seemed to be. So, look­ing for an op­por­tu­nity for pro­fes­sional growth, with Philly Phaith­ful I was the sole pro­pri­etor of a busi­ness that sus­tained my life, and that was great, but I wanted to grow my fam­ily and re­ally grow a busi­ness. With some­thing like craft beer you have to be com­pe­tent in so many dis­ci­plines, from prod­uct to man­u­fac­tur­ing, brand­ing, mar­ket­ing, sales, hos­pi­tal­ity — all those things com­bined to say this is a great op­por­tu­nity to re­ally push my­self.”

Cir­cling Philadel­phia for the ideal lo­ca­tion, it even­tu­ally be­came ob­vi­ous to Her­sh­berg that the only site wor­thy of his vi­sion, ca­pa­ble of host­ing a bar­rel­ing room, 60-bar­rel fer­ment­ing room, pri­vate space for par­ties and other events as well as a tap­room roughly 20 times the size of Cheers, was nes­tled on Manor Drive in the in­dus­trial heart of King of Prus­sia

“We ended up in King of Prus­sia be­cause we were look­ing for some­thing that specif­i­cally fit our busi­ness model, which was large scale re­gional pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity,” Her­sh­berg said. “We needed a space in an area that had easy ac­cess for cus­tomers and dis­tri­bu­tion, and King of Prus­sia be­ing so close to ev­ery ma­jor high­way with a litany of old in­dus­trial and ware­house build­ings that were avail­able made per­fect sense.”

Her­sh­berg con­nected with Olewine, an award­win­ning vet­eran of the brew­ing in­dus­try, who came on board hav­ing over­seen ex­plo­sive growth at the Lex­ing­ton, Va.-based brew­ery Dev­ils Back­bone, the 2014 win­ner of the Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val (GABF) Mid-Sized Brew­ing Com­pany of the year.

“I have al­ways loved beer but I wouldn’t say I came into this as a craft beer afi­cionado,” Her­sh­berg said. “I’ve kind of taken on these last three years as a learn­ing process as well. Since i don’t have the back­ground in craft beer, I wanted some­one who has the ex­pe­ri­ence of not just know­ing and un­der­stand­ing the in­dus­try, but do­ing it on a large-grade scale.”

Worhorse Brew­ing made its de­but ear­lier this month with a port­fo­lio of ”ap­proach­able” beers, in­clud­ing New Eng­land IPA; Helles; Amer­i­can Pil­sner; IPA and Vi­enna Lager.

“There are so many craft brew­eries on the mar­ket, just to be com­pet­i­tive you have to have ex­cep­tional beer. The amount of money we spent and the fa­cil­ity we built is in­dica­tive of that kind of com­mit­ment,” Her­sh­berg said. “We want to be sure that we don’t put any­thing out on the mar­ket un­til we’re con­fi­dent it’s 100 per­cent right.”

The tra­di­tional style Workhorse brews should al­ways be true to their ori­gins, Her­sh­berg al­lowed.

“We’re not brew­ing beer with crazy, funky fla­vors or have an out-there pro­file, it’s all about tra­di­tional styles that are ap­proach­able and ac­cept­able. So whether you say you like a tra­di­tional lager, I want you to be able to drink that lager, but if you’re a craft beer nerd that comes in seek­ing some­thing top of the line, I want you to be able to say that’s the best lager you ever drank.”

Since “top-notch suds are merely the ante to play the game,” in Her­sh­berg’s words, a suc­cess­ful brand needs to cre­ate mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with its cus­tomers.

“Our whole ap­proach to this in­dus­try is that we want to po­si­tion Workhorse as a hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness that hap­pens to be a brew­ery, as op­posed to a brew­ery with nice peo­ple,” he said. “Ev­ery­thing we’re try­ing to do in terms of how we con­nect with our guests, whether they’re on site here or at the lo­cal bars and restau­rants drink­ing our prod­uct through our part­ners is to show them that their needs are first and fore­most. In terms of how we want to en­gage with our cus­tomer,” Her­hberg added, “it’s not about com­ing in and drink­ing what we tell you to drink. If you don’t like draught beer, you can have a glass of wine or cider or soda. We have all of that too.”

Workhorse Brew­ing Com­pany is lo­cated at 250 King Manor Dr., King of Prus­sia. Phone is 215-539-3472

GARY PULEO — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Dan Her­sh­berg, owner and founder of Workhorse Brew­ing Com­pany, in the King of Prus­sia brew­ery’s mas­sive tap­room.

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