You already know the beer is fresh, the menu inspired and the service top-notch. So we came up with a few things you might not know that are uniquely Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. Whether you lift a pint in West Chester, nosh some nachos in Maple Shade or host an event in Wilmington, these trivia tidbits capture the Iron Hill essence at all 10 of our restaurants.
1. All about our architecture:
Yes, our restaurants are comfortable with a customer-friendly layout and cool design, but there’s a lot more to it. Iron Hill's architecture follows core elements of the turn-of-the-century arts and crafts (or craftsman) movement. You’ll see a strong use of wood in well-proportioned forms such as our interior window walls plus the use of ordinary materials such as slate, copper, iron and galvanized steel. Back in the day, the craftsman style exemplified the movement away from the waning grand classical style. At Iron Hill, it underscores our handcrafted message.
2. Our bird logo takes flight:
You’ve seen it on our napkins, coasters and glasses and throughout the restaurant: our mysterious bird that has a storied past linked to our architecture. Some of the main developers of the arts and crafts movement, such as William Morris, were influenced by Japanese design. The Iron Hill bird icon was inspired by an existing Japanese motif (of unknown origin) and enhanced with hops and barley within its wings. The result is a unique, memorable and evocative symbol. And one easily translated into iron.
3. More on our murals:
The murals in our restaurants are the result of a collaboration with internationally acclaimed artist Jeff Schaller. It all started in 2002 when he was commissioned to impart his whimsical imagery to the walls of the Wilmington restaurant. We asked him to create art that underscores our brand message of delivering fresh, handcrafted and made-from-scratch products. The rest is history, and much more than murals. Jeff has been involved in a number of projects, including beer labels and t-shirts. Adapting images and ideas that suggest an atmosphere of fine food and exceptional beer, Jeff continues to create original, dynamic works that capture each restaurant’s local flavor.
4. A hill by any other name:
Our first restaurant was in Newark, and we wanted something that gave a nod to local lore but also translated to a growing company. President Kevin Finn did a little research and came across a list of names for roads in Delaware. Skimming through the list, he saw the name Iron Hill Road and thought it might be cool because it was local and had history. But he also sensed it would translate to areas outside of Delaware.
The actual Iron Hill is the little hill you can see traveling south on I-95 on the left just before you hit the Maryland tollbooths. It does have a place in history, and is actually the highest hill in Delaware—at a whopping elevation of 331 feet. It is said George Washington watched the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge from the hill since it was deforested at the time due to iron ore mining.
5. Iron Hill’s first brewer started as a homebrewer:
Both Kevin and his business partner, Mark Edelson, were award-winning homebrewers, and while both crafted the first beers served in the Newark flagship restaurant, it was Mark who became Iron Hill’s first official brewer. As the business took off, Kevin moved into the restaurant manager role and his brother, Brian, became Mark’s first assistant. Brian eventually became Newark’s head brewer after West Chester opened.
Mark won the first Iron Hill medal at the 1997 GABF, a gold for Lodestone Lager (a Munich Helles-style beer). Brian won his first medal, a gold for Maibock (in the Bock category) in 1999. Since 1997, we have won 39 medals at the GABF and 17 medals at the World Beer Cup and were named the "Large Brewpub of the Year" at the GABF in 1995 and the World Beer Cup Champion Brewery and Brewmaster “Small Brewpub” in 2012 and again in 2014.
6. Journey of a future restaurant owner:
Kevin hadn’t planned on owning restaurants. In fact, he went to school to study biomedical engineering, but a D in biology made him change course. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in manufacturing engineering, yet returned home to work for his family’s outdoor advertising business in Delaware. But like many young people, he spent much of his early years working in the restaurant business.
Kevin’s first formal job (outside of delivering papers, mowing lawns and painting neighbors’ houses) was at his neighborhood Burger King where he worked through much of high school. In Boston, he took jobs at bars and restaurants before moving to Killington, Vt., to “be a ski bum.” There, too, he worked in restaurants before finally moving to back Delaware. He adds, “And of course, I moonlighted in Delaware restaurants like Stanley’s, Kid Shelleen’s and the Stone Balloon over the years while I worked in our family business.”
When he looks back, it seems as if destiny had a hand: he’s spent most of his adult life working in the restaurant business. What started out as a way to earn a little extra money turned into something amazingly delicious and successful.
7. And Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant was born:
Like so much of Iron Hill’s story, it all started in Delaware during the time Kevin was working in the family business. While visiting college friends in Boston, he met his future wife, Susan.
At the time, she was living in Boston and he was living in Delaware, so they had a long distance relationship. Susan decided he needed a hobby to keep him busy while she wasn’t around, so she bought him a homebrewing kit. He started making beer at his house and eventually Mark joined in the brewing. As Kevin tells it, “We would usually brew on Sundays during the fall and winter, watching football, making beer and of course drinking beer. We eventually entered contests as homebrewers, and when we started winning awards we finally deciding to make a business of making beer. After a couple years Xavier Texido (owner of Harry’s restaurants, among others) introduced us to Kevin Davies, and the three of us formed a partnership and started looking for sites. After looking for a long while in Wilmington, we decided on our first site in Newark.”
Now you know how Iron Hill became the go-to spot in three states. Stop by your neighborhood Iron Hill and taste the results of fortuitous happenstance, admire the architecture and then impress fellow bar mates with your Iron Hill smarts about our logo, murals, name and founders. Feeling just a little bit cooler than everyone else? You should, savvy Iron Hill customer. You should.
With 10 locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, there’s an Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant near you. We specialize in handcrafted beers and fresh, from-scratch New American cuisine. Monthly releases vary by location, so scout out our beers on tap and visit us soon.
Content provided by Dish Works author Nina Malone.