Longtime friends Mike Beresky, Phil Harris and Jake Howell still remember the mantra taught to them by their Pennwood Middle School football coach — “Don’t get satisfied.”
In fact, it’s written on the wall of Second Sin Brewing, which the trio opened in November 2019 at 1500 Grundy Lane in Bristol. The sentiment means to never get complacent and always strive to be better, something they practice at their brewery.
The Times recently caught up with Beresky, of Yardley, who shared details on how Second Sin keeps upping the ante, from its creative nine-part, movie-themed release this month to expanding operations to another location.
Currently, Second Sin is in the midst of Action August, inspired by the guys’ passion for action films. Rather than brainstorming one or two beers to go with the theme, they did something even cooler.
“We wrote out a script for an action movie and have broken it up into nine beers. If you follow along throughout August and collect these beers, you’ll see the story play out in one coherent storyline,” explained Beresky. “And if you take the labels off and put them together, it will form a movie poster.”
Two installments are dropping weekly (the final will be a single release). However, this intense schedule isn’t exactly new for them, especially brewer Howell, of Fairless Hills.
“We release a new beer every week, and those beers are, for the most part, brand new recipes. We rarely repeat a recipe,” said Beresky. “We want to provide a new experience for customers every time they come in.”
This, added Beresky, is one of the major perks of being a smaller brewery — they can do stuff that the more established companies can’t. Second Sin is also living proof that smaller breweries can hold their own against the big guys.
In the spring, Second Sin was one of 64 breweries to participate in Breweries in PA’s annual PA Beer March Madness, which allows fans to vote for the best brewery in the entire state. The first round, said Beresky, was “divisive to the people of Bristol,” who had to choose between them and Odd Logic Brewing Company. Not only did Second Sin win this bracket, it then came out victorious against New Trail Brewing Company and Troegs Independent Brewing, two of the biggest names in the industry. Second Sin advanced to the final four before getting ousted by Pour Man’s Brewing Company.
“If we had to lose to somebody, I’m glad we lost to another small brewery,” said Beresky. “Plus, if people didn’t know about us, it was free marketing. And the people that had our beer, they really spoke about it. They really pushed that what we’re doing is good and that the product is of high quality.”
Second Sin is also currently the No. 9 rated brewery in the state on the Untappd app. There’s even a loyal group of fans who call themselves “Disciples” and have a dedicated Facebook page.
Beresky, Howell and Harris, of Fallsington, have come a long way from their first attempt at brewing. This took place around 2007, a year after graduating from Pennsbury High School, with a Mr. Beer home kit. Though Beresky described it as “terrible,” their skills would someday improve.
While attending Penn State, Howell began using home kits obtained directly from brew shops. As he started making his own recipes and fine tuning his process, he began to really enjoy it. After graduating in 2011, Howell spent a year in a “normal person job.” And he couldn’t have hated it more.
“The man with an astrophysics and physics degree decided to take an unpaid internship at Climax Brewing in Jersey to learn how to do it on a real system,” reflected Beresky, who said Howell’s professional experience has made all the difference in Second Sin’s product.
It was at this point that Howell got Harris, a fellow Penn State grad, and Beresky, who went to Temple, back into home brewing. Their output was so great that they had to host regular parties at Harris’ place to get rid of all the beer. Within a year, the three had a serious discussion. Could they turn this into a business? Would it be doable?
They eventually moved into 1500 Grundy Lane, where Broken Goblet was housed before its move to Bensalem. Yet three months into their operation, COVID-19 closures struck.
“You can make a million business plans. I think we had somewhere like 45 different versions of our very first business plan,” said Beresky. “But you can never plan for a global pandemic. That was quite the shocker, a once-in-a-100-year thing.”
Still, they quickly pivoted. Within two days, the three were “growlering out” beers and spending almost 12 hours daily hand-canning just one batch of beer. New beer releases continued, and artwork was added to the cans. At the end of 2020, Second Sin released the double IPA “I Survived 2020.” It’s now become an end-of-year tradition to release a new “I Survived” edition based on what trials have occurred the past 12 months.
With things (sort of) back to normal, Second Sin is eyeing locations for a second taproom, either in Bucks County or on the border of Montgomery County. The goal is for the next spot to have more foot traffic, something Beresky said the Bristol taproom lacks.
“You kind of have to know about us to find us. It’s tough that way,” he said. “So we’re looking to solve that problem with the next location by making foot traffic a priority.”
Right now, Howell is the only one of the trio who works at the brewery full-time. Beresky and Harris have other full-time jobs, something one of them may re-evaluate if and when the second spot opens. Beresky praised his wife, with whom he recently welcomed a baby, for being understanding of his crazy schedule.
Though Beresky doesn’t get much sleep, he’s thrilled that Second Sin is resonating with the masses and he’s excited for what’s to come. There’s a forthcoming collaboration with Troegs and, as Second Sin’s name keeps getting out there, who knows what else.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org