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May 17, 2024

Evil Genius' Matt Lally details the art behind coming up with nostalgic '90s beer names

The head brewer explains the Fishtown company's creative process and picks his favorite hazy IPA as part of his Brewer's Choice six-pack

Food & Drink Beer
Evil Genius Matt Lally PROVIDED IMAGE/Matt Lally

Head brewer Matt Lally has worked at Evil Genius Beer Co. in Fishtown since 2018.

At Evil Genius Beer Co., "There's no crying in baseball," "Just tap it in," and "You're killing me, Smalls" are more than just iconic '90s movie phrases; they are a hazy mango IPA, sour farmhouse ale and raspberry shandy.  

Picking random, yet nostalgic, beer names is kind of Evil Genius' "shtick," head brewer Matt Lally said.

  • brewer'c choice beer series
  • Brewer's Choice is an new occasional series where PhillyVoice asks local brewers to build six-packs using our prompts. Look for it on Fridays or follow along on social media with #brewerschoice.

"Our owners (Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward), like me, are children of the '80s and '90s," Lally said. "We sometimes joke that our references are going to be too old for the kids that are drinking our beers these days, and they're not going to know what the hell we're talking about."

In a Star Wars-esque black-and-white scroll on its website, the Fishtown brewery lists every beer it's ever named — and it's a long catalog. Lally said they keep a master list of potential names that's compiled from suggestions made in a Slack channel. 

"Sometimes (the beer) is a one off and it's never going to see the light of day again ... so we don't waste a great name on it," Lally said. "But if we're like this beer rips and we want this to be a staple and use over again, then I think we put a little more thought into making sure that it's a name that resonates with people and isn't too obscure."

MORE: From the brewery that combined beer and water ice, Neshaminy Creek's Rob Jahn gives his Brewer's Choice

But even Lally has admitted to having to Google some of Evil Genius' beer names to understand the reference, including their flagship peanut butter porter Purple Monkey Dishwasher. (It's from "The Simpsons.")

While Evil Genius might draw in new customers by calling an IPA "Stacy's Mom," those customers only come back if it's the beer that's got it going on. And the Evil Genius behind those flavors is Lally, who made a career out of brewing after not drinking until he was 23 years old and out of college. 

"It wasn't until I discovered craft beer that I really got into it," he said. "I lived in Northern Liberties and discovered the Foodery and you can make your own six-packs. 

"I nerd out that I had my own version of Untapped before Untapped was a thing. I had an Excel spreadsheet of all the beers I've ever tried, where they're from and my ratings on them."

While working at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, Lally got an apprenticeship at Triumph Brewing Co. After a year and a half of being paid in free lunches, he became an assistant before being named lead brewer at the Princeton location. After a brief stint at Victory, he started working at Evil Genius in 2018 and is now the head brewer. 

Here's Matt Lally's handpicked six-pack. Each beer choice is based on prompts provided by PhillyVoice, and we asked him to limit selections of Evil Genius' beers. The answers have been edited for length and clarity.

1. What would you pair with an Italian hoagie? 

Gold LagerStoudts, 4.7% ABV

Perhaps this is cheating because we're now producing the Stoudts brand, but I don't consider Stoudts Gold one of "my" beers; it firmly belongs to Carol Stoudt. It's one of my all-time favorites, just a little more bitter than a helles, just a little more malty than a pilsner. I relish it any time I get to throw a keg on here at the taproom. 

2. With Evil Genius being known for its creativity, what's the best beer name you've ever heard?

Regular Human Bartender Jackie DaytonaEvil Genius, 13% ABV

We're known for our wacky beer names, and my favorites are the ones that people actively chuckle at while ordering. The most recent of these for me is "Regular Human Bartender Jackie Daytona," a cherry Belgian quad (that I'm currently aging a portion of in oak barrels). It's a funny phrase by itself, but even more so if you're a "What We Do in the Shadows" fan. Honorable mention goes to a beer I've never had: Apparently there's a (town in Austria formerly) called F---ing, and their light, or "hell" lager, is called F---ing Hell. 

3. You just returned from a vacation overseas. What's your favorite European beer?

SchwarzbierKöstritzer, 4.8% ABV

The best beer I had in Europe was the Velikonočni Lager by Pivovar Strahov. Unfortunately, you have to go to Prague to get it. As far as beer you can actually get in the states, for me it would be Köstritzer Schwarzbier. Black lager is one of my favorite styles — it's crisp and refreshing with just a touch of dark roast flavor. You can't get it too many places. Fortunately, Frankford Hall almost always has it on tap. 

4. Beach season is right around the corner. What's in your hand when your feet are in the sand? 

Prima Pils, Victory, 5.3% ABV

I don't drink on the beach. (It's illegal! How dare you!?) But I am fortunate enough to have in-laws with a beach house in Brigantine, and my wife and I go down there nearly every weekend in the summer. My father-in-law is a classic boomer in that he loves World War II documentaries and "plain yellow beer," so I try to keep his fridge stocked with the most delicious yet unscary stuff there is, which for me is Prima Pils. 

5. You said you've embraced the challenge of trying to perfect hazy IPAs. What's your favorite?

Fuego, Tonewood, 6.2% ABV

My brother sings and plays guitar professionally, and once a month or so I join him on drums for a gig. Regardless of what random bar I find myself in on a Saturday night, they almost always have Fuego on tap, and that's great because it's one of the best IPAs I've ever had. So it's my default beer out at a bar, and since I'm lucky enough to live between their two locations, it means I usually have a 12-pack in my fridge, too. 

6. If a friend came over tonight and you were to offer them a beer that's in your fridge right now, what would it be?

Hallertau Pils, Human Robot, 5.2% ABV 

Human Robot's brewery is only six blocks away from Evil Genius, so it's easy to keep my fridge stocked with Hallertau Pils, which is my favorite of their beers. Light but flavorful, and just bitter enough. Unfortunately, when I go over there, I'm also tempted to get a gigantic sandwich from Poe's, and then I need to lie down and take a nap.