Brewer Highlight Spring 2017

BRIAN O’REILLY Sly Fox Brewmaster

The Trail and the Ale

Released every year in anticipation of Earth Day, the 22nd of April, Schuylkill River Trail Ale is a refreshing, hop-forward, American pale ale, brewed with outdoor enthusiasts in mind. But this great tasting,easily crushable beer is made to do more than quench your thirst. It is brewed to honor and raise money for the 130-mile Schuylkill RiverTrail (SRT) that runs through communities from rural Schuylkill County all the way to Philadelphia.

Situated on six acres adjacent to the Schuylkill River Trail, Sly Fox is famous for its award-winning beers and its outdoor events – Can Jam Music Festival, Cyclocross Race and of course, one of the area’s best beer events, the annual Bock Fest and Goat Race.

Draught Lines reached out to Sly Fox Brewmaster Brian O’Reilly to talk about how the brewery’s passion for craft beer and dedication to the environment go hand-in-hand.

D.L. First, let’s talk about SRT Ale, the actual liquid.

B.O. It’s a low alcohol [4.6%], golden hop-forward American pale ale. Many call it a session IPA, but I’ll leave that decision up to you. It comes in 12 oz. cans and draught. I think it’s a great tasting, easily crushable beer that helps give back to the community.

D.L. The SRT is often called a “hidden gem”. When did you and your Sly Fox co-workers decide to make SRT Ale and raise money for its upkeep and preservation?

B.O. Well it might not be hidden for long. USA Today named the SRT “Best Urban Trail in the Nation”.

D.L. That may in part be thanks to your efforts.

B.O. Well, maybe. We started brewing SRT Ale three years ago. We did it for many reasons. Both our locations [the Pottstown brewery and the brewpub in Phoenixville] are located along the trail which runs parallel to the river. We take advantage of it all the time, so we wanted to highlight the SRT’s recreational value and how access to the trail and the river enhances everyone’s enjoyment of the outdoors. And you can’t brew good beer without good water.

D.L. Speaking of the water, you and your family do some kayaking.

B.O. Each year for Father’s Day at my request, my family and I kayak up the canal in Phoenixville and back down the river. It’s not much work. It’s close to home. I live on the Valley Forge side of Phoenixville, and it’s a great way to unwind.

 D.L. Sly Fox was given the “Schuylkill River Legacy Award”. The beer and the brewery’s efforts to support the trail must be going well.

B.O. We’ve donated over $9,000 to the Schuylkill River Heritage Greenway Association from proceeds we set aside from the sale of SRT Ale. It’s nice to be recognized, but we are excited that our efforts help maintain the trail and fund the procurement of call boxes, for safety, along the trail.

D.L. Can a beer like SRT Ale influence how people think about natural resources and the enjoyment of the great outdoors?

B.O. I think it can. Drinking beer is more than just the  drinking and the tasting. It’s about a shared experience and the time we spend together. If people know what SRT Ale stands for and that Sly Fox wants them to “Enjoy Anywhere – Recycle Everywhere”,that’s our motto, they will at least get the message that our brewery cares about how we impact our corner of the world. Hopefully it gets them thinking along the same lines. But if people buy it because it is a great tasting beer, that’s OK, too.

D.L. The SRT begins in rural Pottstville and continues through Philadelphia. Does that have any significance to you and the folks at the brewery?

B.O. We all believe that places like this are where everybody comes together. Whether you live in Schuylkill County or a crowded city neighborhood, everyone should have access to a place like the SRT. It adds to our quality of life and personally, it makes me feel connected to a bigger community – one that extends to Philadelphia.

D.L. What’s the SRT Spree? It’s scheduled for the 21st and 22nd of April.

B.O. It’s a party that celebrates the trail and the Earth Day release [April 22nd] of SRT Ale. You can kayak, cycle, hike or run with folks from our brewery or participate in organized cleanups. There’s  even a 50k relay race along the trail. The event ends with a huge party in Phoenixville’s St. Michael’s Park where there will be food trucks, live music and plenty of beer, including SRT Ale. Every great outdoor adventure should end with a great beer!

D.L. What else is going on at Sly Fox?

B.O. We are working on a new IPA Series called Hop Project. The beers will be fresh, new, experimental IPAs. Then our Bock Fest, better known as the Sly Fox Goat Race, is the first Sunday in May. There’s always something going on and I wouldn’t have it any other way!


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