When Gene Muller '84 decided that he wanted to quit his advertising job in 1994 and open a brewery, he faced a serious obstacle.
"Investors would say, 'You've never run a brewery, never owned a business, never even worked in a restaurant, and you want us to give you money?'" Gene recalled.
Unable to open a real brewery, Gene decided to build a virtual one.
"At the time, the Internet was just starting up. When I discovered the Web I thought that it was really cool and it wasn't that difficult for me to learn basic HTML," Gene said.
Gene made a Web site and began laying the groundwork for the first-ever virtual brewery – Flying Fish Brewing Company.
"I had kind of created a blog before there really were blogs. I gave tips and information on brewing beer. It was like This Old House meets the World Wide Web."
At the time Google didn't even exist and Gene found that it was easy to stand out and generate excitement.
He sent out a press release on Labor Day 1995, and a buzz about Flying Fish Brewing Company began to develop. He was selling Flying Fish T-shirts and pint glasses to people all over the world, he had a logo, a newsletter, and a Web site – all before he sold a single drop of beer.
Gene's creative efforts did not go unnoticed. With a stack of publicity on his virtual brewery, he gained the support he needed from investors to take Flying Fish Brewing Company to the next level.
In April of 1996, Gene leased a space and was brewing Flying Fish beer by August of that same year. Now celebrating its 15-year anniversary in August 2011, Flying Fish Brewing Company has no plans of slowing down.
"We are hopeful to be moving to a much bigger space where we can triple our capacity, bring out some new styles of beer and add some more seasonal flavors," said Gene.
Currently, Flying Fish brews five year-round beers including an extra pale ale which is the highest-selling local beer at Citizen's Bank Park. In addition it rotates a series of limited-time seasonal brews including OktoberFish™, Grand Cru Winter Reserve, and Farmhouse Summer Ale.
"Our philosophy has always been to make beers that pair well with food," said Gene. "Fifteen years ago when we first started, that wasn't a common approach. Our beers tell a story; they have a beginning, middle, and an end."
On Saturday, November 12, 2011, Drexel alumni will have the opportunity to take an exclusive tour of Flying Fish Brewery and see first-hand how its award-winning beers are crafted. Gene will discuss how the four main ingredients in beer – barley, water, hops and yeast – are combined and transformed to create various flavors. He'll guide guests through the brewing machinery and answer questions along the way. Alumni will finish off the evening with a sampling of some of Flying Fish's finest ales including the widely popular Grand Cru Winter Reserve which is only available from October to February. For more information about the Flying Fish Brewing Company Tour and Alumni Reception with Gene, click here.