Imagine a family gathered around a jigsaw puzzle, and as each member completes his or her own section of the board, the larger image becomes clear. The Giannopouloses are that kind of family, and for more than a decade their labor of love has been keeping all the pieces in place at Sly Fox Brewery.
Pete Giannopoulos and his brother, John, had been homebrewing for more than a year when Pete decided to turn the hobby into income. However, after a deal to open a brewery with a New Jersey investment group turned sour, Pete was ready to pack it in and return to his previous life as a corporate salesman. Just as the dream to professionally brew began to fade, Pete’s father stepped in with an idea: Why not make the family members business partners?
“We were always in each other’s business anyway,” jokes John.
The seven family members gathered one evening to put their heads together and dream up a name for their new operation. While researching the history of Chester County, Penn. (where the Giannopoulos crew is from), the family noticed a little, red animal that kept popping up as a point of attraction.
“Chester County, at least at one point, was a rural county, and there was a lot of fox hunting,” explains John. “My mom came up with ‘Sly Fox,’ and that’s the name that stuck. That’s kind of a tradition here, and there’s still a high population of foxes.”
Pete put his artistic skills to work and designed the original logo for Sly Fox, which was later modified into the grinning fox seen on labels today.
Only a few months after officially opening its doors to the public in December of 1995, the brewery made a splash when its Sly Fox Amber IPA won the title of “Philadelphia’s Favorite Beer.” But according to John, it wasn’t until some new blood came to the brewery their beers really took off.
“When Brian O’Reilly got to the company [in 2002], that’s when everything changed,” says John of Sly Fox’s current brewmaster. “He’s a really smart guy. That’s when we took it to the next level.”
To date, the company (with two Pennsylvania brewpubs in Phoenixville and Royersford) has put out more than 50 different types of beer (from eisbocks to biére de gardes to IPAs), including the 2007 GABF gold medalist Pikeland Pils and bronze winner Instigator doppelbock.
Whether success came from persistence, family support or simply out-foxing the odds, John says the Giannopouloses are right where they want to be.
“When I look back and compare where we were to where we are today, I would have never thought this,” he says. “But now I think our vision is clear, and we’re committed.” –Christopher Staten