“We want to give the best beer to our community and we really take it to heart when people like our beer,” says 2SP Brewing Company’s Director of Sales and Marketing Mike Contreras.
Rooted in Delco, beloved in Chesco, 2SP Brewing Company is passionate about crafting award-winning beers and committed to giving back to the communities that support them. “Everything we touch is done with passion,” 2SP Group’s Director of Operations Michael Stiglitz says, “from the beer and food to the way we treat our staff.” The Two Stones ethos is to offer great food created by talented chefs with quality ingredients and “no frills.”
The award-winning 2SP brewery is a natural outgrowth of the popular Two Stones Pubs, which in the 2010s were some of the first local restaurants to offer a broad selection of craft beer. Stiglitz describes the 2SP Group as a family of businesses. These now include the Two Stones Pubs in Kennett Square, Jennersville, Hockessin, Wilmington, and Middletown, as well as the new 2SP Tap House in Chadds Ford and 2SPizza in Newark and 2SP Brewing in Aston which, Stiglitz says, is “the heart of the family.”
When Stiglitz called Contreras in 2014 to ask what he thought about coming on board with a new brewery he was starting, Contreras, who was representing the biggest brewery in Delaware at the time, wasn’t sure. “I asked who his brewer was,” Contreras says. “When he told me it was Bob Barrar, from Iron Hill, I immediately said yes.” He laughs. “Having Bob on board was like having an Olympic swimmer in a bathtub.”
The legendary Barrar has won over 30 Great American Beer Festival medals and 11 World Beer Cups and is best known for his Russian Imperial Stout. His small but dedicated 2SP team put out over seven thousand barrels in 2022, putting it in the top ten breweries in Pennsylvania. Looking ahead, Contreras says, “We want to continue what we’re doing, going deeper, creating exciting new beers as well as old favorites.” 2SP Brewing Company now distributes beer in several neighboring states—and, through a connection Contreras has with an old rugby buddy, 2SP exports beer to Japan as well.
Unchanging values in an ever-evolving industry
Beyond creating the best beer they can, Stiglitz and business partner Ben Muse seek to be active partners in supporting local charities, collaborating with other breweries, and engaging with community enterprises. “We work hard, and we’re supported by our communities, and we’re blessed to be in a position to be able to give back to charities,” Stiglitz says. “We see ourselves as stewards of these funds to support the communities that support us.”
For example, a recent effort to support the Delco Skatepark Coalition, which is working to build adaptive and inclusive skateparks, resulted in the special release of a Hazy IPA called Atomic Age, named after a skate zine. “It goes beyond beer,” Contreras says. He was excited about the collaboration and the opportunity to give back to the community, but he was also grateful for the inspiration for the name of this release. “The hardest part of running a brewery is coming up with the names,” Contreras says, laughing.
There’s often a kind of reciprocity involved in giving back that supports good causes while building awareness of community-minded businesses. Kennett Collaborative’s major annual fundraisers, Kennett Brewfest and Winterfest, are two examples of this synergy. “What started as our two key fundraisers to raise money for our nonprofit programming and events in Kennett have now become world-class craft beer events supporting regional breweries like 2SP,” says Kennett Collaborative’s Executive Director Daniel Embree. “Kennett Brewfest and Winterfest are legendary,” Contreras says, “and these events gave 2SP Brewing our first great exposure when we started eight years ago.” While craft beer events are now a dime a dozen, he says, “Kennett is legit. You have to bring your best.”
Kennett Brewfest organizer Jeff Norman agrees. “Michael Stiglitz and 2SP have been invaluable partners and a generous anchor sponsor of our events over the years,” he says. “And they always bring fantastic beer to the fest!”
“It used to be craft brewers against the world,” Contreras says, “but craft brewing is becoming more competitive.” While some breweries respond with innovation, the 2SP approach to making good beer has always been “Consistency, consistency, consistency,” Contreras says. “We ask how we can represent this style the best, amplifying the flavors—as opposed to trying to make something different, adding a new twist.” There are trends in craft brewing, he says, “but for the most part we don’t deviate too much. Philadelphia is a hard market. When we send out a new beer, people know that Bob and the 2SP team have created something they’ll enjoy and that’s appropriate to the season.” In the summer, for example, 2SP has brought back a beer that was popular a decade ago, adding strawberry flavor to its refreshing and easy-drinking Hefeweizen Switchblade Strawberry.
Despite the competition in the world of craft brewing, “We’re all small businesses and we all need each other,” Contreras says. Craft beer brewing also tends to attract a specific type of person. “There’s no tolerance for ego. The industry is full of cool people, the kind you want to pick up the phone to talk to.” This like-mindedness helps to facilitate organic and creative collaborations. 2SP is looking forward to working on a new release this spring with Philadelphia brewery Sacred Vice, and another with Zydeco Brew Werks in Tampa. “We can take risks and have fun with these,” Contreras says.
2SP’s collaboration with their Delco neighbors, the multi-billion-dollar Wawa corporation, illustrates the brewery’s feisty can-do approach. “Why not send them an email?” Contreras thought, when he had the idea to create a craft beer to dovetail with Wawa’s release of a special reserve coffee.
To his very great surprise, Wawa embraced the concept. Between October and November 2018, the small team worked around the clock to deliver the beer. The resulting social media frenzy and national press helped to expand the reach of 2SP. But in the end, Contreras says, it’s all about the process and the beer itself. “In a small company there isn’t any red tape,” Contreras says. “We all look out for one another and do our best for everyone’s success. We want to give the best beer to our community and we really take it to heart when people like our beer.”
The industry attracts creative and dynamic people with all sorts of different stories and backgrounds. Contreras, for example, was finishing up a graduate degree in cultural studies in California and wondering what he’d do next when he got a call from HR at Sam Adams in Boston. They had his resume and offered him an interview and then a job, which he accepted. It wasn’t until later that he found out his mom had sent them his resume. “My mother did know best,” he says with a chuckle.
2SP’s pandemic response reflects the spirit and power of coming together to support one another and serve the community. “When COVID hit, seventy percent of our business was ‘on premise’ at pubs and restaurants—which all closed in March 2020,” says Contreras. And, of course, the pubs that make up the rest of the 2SP Group were shut down as well. He pauses as the gravity of that reality—even now—sinks in.
“I called Mike and said, ‘Your team has to float this boat,’” says Stiglitz. He still remembers Contreras saying, “OK, we’ve got this.” And they did. The day the shutdown began, 2SP launched their Delco Happy Hour Facebook group. “We had no idea what the response would be,” Contreras says. “But we figured people hunkering down at home might want beer, so we posted a simple question: ‘How many of you would want home delivery?’” The response—hundreds of comments and thousands of likes—was overwhelming.
The notoriously challenging Pennsylvania laws allow for home delivery, but Contreras wanted to get the blessing of 2SP’s wholesale partner, who supplies their beer to bars and restaurants, before going ahead. When they said yes, with the caveat that all sales go through the Facebook group, it was full steam ahead. The team pulled together to release a new 16-ounce can every 15 days for 12 months, with home delivery and a Saturday contactless drive-through pickup at their Aston premises. The project also helped transform their business model. “It made our brand more recognizable on the shelf,” Stiglitz says. 2SP is now widely available in stores as well as in pubs and restaurants. No one was furloughed, and Contreras and Stiglitz credit both the hard work of the 2SP team and the support of the Delco community for the success of these efforts.
In typical 2SP style, however, this pandemic response was also about giving back to the community. With the tagline “Drink Delco Donate Delco,” 2SP donated the five dollar delivery fee to local charities. “We raised thousands of dollars for causes in our community,” Contreras said. “Delco is a unique place, almost a country unto itself,” he says. “Because it’s densely populated, you see when people are struggling, and people help each other out.”
The brewery at the heart of the 2SP Group has the communities it serves at its heart—and the feeling, it appears, is mutual.
Be sure to stop by to taste some great new releases from 2SP Brewing at Kennett Winterfest next Saturday, February 25th, and follow 2SP on social media.