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