Return to the Sly Fox Beer Legacy News Archive


It all started in front of maybe 25 people in a rainy parking lot outside a short-lived brewpub in Collegeville with a goat named George beating three other competitors to the finish line, breaking away from his leash and running to the other end of the lot and up into the truck in which he'd arrived, cowering in the corner until his owner soothed him and carried him inside for the naming of A Maibock Called George, whereupon the victorious animal relieved himself on the carpet.

That was 1999. A lot has changed since then.

After moving to Sly Fox in 2001 when head brewer Brian O'Reilly signed on, the annual goat race to determine the name of the year's Maibock has become the centerpiece of an all-day Bock Festival which draws thousands to Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery in Phoenixville's Pikeland Village Square to enjoy German food and music and what may be the most extensive lineup of Bock beers poured at any brewpub in the nation on a single day: Slacker Bock, Helles Bock, Instigator Doppelbock, two Eisbocks (Helles and Instigator) and the To-Be-Named-Later Maibock. The race itself has evolved into a multi-heat event leading to a final run matching the day's best performers.

Come and join the fun on Sunday, May 4 at Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery in Phoenixville. Things get started at 11am and continue throughout the afternoon in front of the pub, filling the parking area.

There have been some improvements made this year to accommodate the ever-growing attendance. Food and beer sales locations will be reconfigured and expanded to cut down on the wait in lines. The quantity of special logo-ed glasses (Helles this year) offered for sale has been doubled from 2007. There will be eight porta-potties (two last year). And, in a move to open things up and ease traffic congestion on Rt. 113, parking has been moved offsite to a location about one mile down the road. Shuttle buses will be running throughout the day.

You can get more details, participate in a sing-along and run your own online version of the goat race here.

Every Sly Fox aficionado is familiar with these monthly events. On the First Friday of every month, Incubus Tripel goes on tap in Phoenixville at Noon. On the Second Friday of the month, February through November, a new Varietal IPA Project beer is released. On the Third Friday of the month, a firkin of cask ale goes onto one of the handpumps in Phoenixville at Noon. These beers pour until they're gone and that's it until the next time.
Check our Monthly Calendar for the dates

Sly Fox beers will again be pouring at some of the region's top beer festivals and events in coming weeks. Look for us at the Manayunk Brew Festival on April 26; the Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers Fest on May 17; the Harrisburg Brewers Fest on June 21.


The 2008 release of Incubus Tripel, one of Sly Fox's most popular beers, is scheduled for this June. Incubus is Sly Fox's biggest beer at 10.3% abv and has developed something of a cult following because of a decision made three years ago to have it available on draught only on the first Friday of each month at Sly Fox Phoenixville.

"Because we consider Incubus a very special beer," explains brewer Brian O'Reilly, "it seemed like a good way to acknowledge that was to make its availability special as well. First Fridays have become something of a bar and tavern 'thing' in recent years and marking our acknowledgment of that with one of our most desirable beers turned out to be a great promotion for both the pub and our customers."

The June date can't come too soon for Incubus fanciers, a number which sometimes appears to include everyone who has ever tasted it, because the 2007 release is entirely sold out at this point (although you might find a case at a good craft-oriented retail shop)aside from the kegs set aside for the monthly tappings.

Incubus is a classic interpretation of the Belgian Abbey style, a dry and spicy brew which is burnished gold in the glass and wonderful on the palate. It is brewed with German Pils malt and invert sugar and this year, as explained by O'Reilly in his "From the Brewer" column below, will be made with a different yeast strain this year so every Incubus lover should be especially eager to taste the result.


The most frequent questions I am asked when conducting a tasting and talking about our Belgian style beers Incubus and Ichor are "Why is it called tripel?" "Do you use triple the malt, or is it triple the alcohol?"

The origins of the styles Single, Dubbel and Tripel are rooted in classic partigyle brewing (running additional water through the mash to collect a second beer with the remaining sugar). This old technique was abandoned for the newer style in which brewers sparge, which means rinsing the sugar from the malt by spraying hot water over the top of the mash in the lauter tun (essentially a giant strainer). This modern method was pioneered by the Guinness brewery early on in their career and has won popularity because it is more efficient. I'm sure this helped the Guinness brewery gain an edge on its competitors.

Early brewing was often performed on a larger scale at European monasteries and it was common for the monks to use the same malt for three distinct mashes. They would mix the grist with water and make a first mash. This would then be drained off and boiled to produce the premium beer. It would receive three chalk x marks on the barrel (remember, paper labels were not in use yet). The same malt would then be mixed with more water and another beer would be produced for sale. It would receive two x marks on the barrel. The third mixture was used to produce a table beer for the monks. Water was not always safe to drink, so beer was preferred at every meal. Those x's were how these beers became known as Single, Dubbel and Tripel. Eventually they were recreated with the modern sparging technique.

Things have changed somewhat from those long-ago days, of course. After World War 2, Westmalle redesigned their Tripel to compete with the new lighter-colored lager beers. It was a hit and many of the Abbey style beers followed suit. And the La Trappe monastery eventually decided that Tripel was not enough, so they named their dark 10% abv beer a Quadruple.

We have released Ichor, our Quadruple, in bottles again this year after a one- year break. It is one of the most complex beers we brew and ages the most gracefully. This year we took the bold step of using a different yeast strain, and we are very happy with the results. It has attenuated the beer while leaving the malt and ester character intact. I am eager to brew Incubus Tripel with this strain later this month.

These big, complex beers take lots of time to ferment and they can be hard to fit into the brewing schedule, so we always hope to keep enough around the brewery to enjoy most of the year--but they almost always sell out.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

© Sly Fox Brewing Company, All Rights Reserved.