Andrew Still sat down with Melissa and Kevin Walter, the owners of Love City Brewing, to learn more about one of the top players in Philadelphia’s thriving and continually evolving beer scene.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the background of “Love City”.
A: Kevin started brewing for Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in 2009. He was waiting tables at their Media location when a position opened up in the brewery. He went for it and was hired! Kevin worked his way up from being an assistant brewer to supervising six locations. We had been talking about doing something together for nearly 4 years before we actually opened. We make a good team, and we wanted to have more control over our work lives. Thankfully we have some amazing friends who believed in us and helped us make it happen!
Q: Where the first batch was made?
A: The first batch of Love City beer was made right here at 1023 Hamilton Street! We came up with the names and recipes at least a year before we actually started brewing. Interesting fact – our wheat beer’s name is “Generator Wheat”, and the first batch we brewed before we had power to the building, so, “Generator Wheat” was brewed on generator power!
Q: Why did you choose Philadelphia? What is your favorite aspect of the city?
A: Philly is our adopted hometown. We’ve lived here for nearly a decade and we’re never leaving. This city has world-class food, beer, and culture, but it still feels manageable. We feel at home in our neighborhood, but we can still catch a train downtown for a fancy dinner or a show.
Q: What do you love most about your business?
A: We love creating a product that we are proud of and sharing it with others. Kevin has always loved cooking for other people. He is a generous person at heart and loves sharing things he has made. Melissa was a therapist before getting into the beer business. She wanted to create a welcoming space where people can hang out and have good conversation.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your business?
A: We have a small staff who are incredibly dedicated and amazing! But we are all wearing multiple hats. Sometimes there just aren’t enough of us to go around, and we end up having to rein in some of the things we’d like to do.
Q: Do you consider yourself a foodie?
A: We’re both vegetarian, and we appreciate delicious, thoughtful veggie dishes (Charlie was a sinner. is our go-to for fancy date nights). But we also love comfort food like mac and cheese out of a box. So maybe we’re half-foodies.
Q: Do you consider yourself a “beer snob?”
A: This is something we feel strongly about. Neither of us are beer snobs, and we don’t appreciate the snobby aspects of craft beer culture. We think you should be able to drink what you love. We don’t judge people for drinking Budweiser. We just want to offer people a high-quality, local option. Obviously, we think you’ll love our beer and maybe pick up a can of Love City Lager instead of a big beer next time!
Q: How do you select the food trucks that you feature?
A: We reached out to a few trucks directly, and some came to us through the Philly Mobile Food Association. We’ve developed some great relationships with them and keep inviting some favorites back. But we’re always looking for new ones too!
Q: Do you have any heroes? In the brewing world, or in life in general? Any companies or people you aim to emulate?
A: We actually got to meet our brewing heroes – Vinnie & Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company. Everything they make is just superb. We’re also impressed with them as a company. They grew slowly and consciously, and they have always been talked about as a great company to work for. If we can do half of what they’ve accomplished, we’ll be happy!
Q: Are you sports fans?
A: Kevin is a die-hard baseball fan! He’s very disappointed in the Phillies. Melissa spent her high school and college years in marching band, so she is a football fan by default. We both enjoy watching the Eagles.
Q: Do you support any charities?
A: This is a big part of our mission. Every year, we choose 4 nonprofit organizations to work with. The staff from those organizations help us brew a beer. We then donate 10% of the total sales of that beer back to them. In 2018, we only worked with three because of our April opening. They were: Pathways to Housing, What Is: Mindfulness, and For The Least of Our Brothers.
Q: What is your signature brew? Do you do any testing?
A: Our Love City Lager is a beer that we’re really proud of. It’s not easy to make a good, consistent lager beer. Kevin spent his 8 years at Iron Hill Brewery testing recipes, so he had a good idea of what he wanted to do with the Love City brews.
Q: Any upcoming seasonal brews?
A: We will have our Sylvie Stout that was aged in New Liberty bourbon barrels on tap soon! We can’t wait. The chocolate and coffee backbone of the stout blends perfectly with the oak and vanilla notes from the barrels.
Q: Do you have any plans for expansion?
A: Right now, we’re focused on highlighting our awesome taproom at 1023 Hamilton Street. We are also consciously expanding our distribution sales to bars and restaurants.
Where: Love City Brewing (1023 Hamilton St, Philadelphia, PA 19123)
When: Wednesday, November 7, 2018