written by Dave Miniaci
John Wible is a man who enjoys bringing happiness to others. Whether it’s brewing beer for thirsty patrons at 2nd Story Brewing or helping children meet Santa Claus, no task is too tall. And for Wible, his joy came through the virtue of waiting.
Wible, a Penn State graduate, spent time in IT. He ended up at Cherry Hill Photo, a company that provides mall Santas for 300 shopping malls around the country and in Canada. Wible sets up the technology for the company, bringing Santa to hundreds of children a year.
“It’s like a family there,” Wible said. “It’s not family-owned but its roots are in a family-owned business. Every one there is great. And we get to bring out Santa.”
It was a job he enjoyed, but that was just the beginning of his story.
In 2008, he was at the Apple store at the King of Prussia Mall and saw a girl in a Phillies hat. Wible, a huge fan of the team, was also wearing a Phillies hat. It also happened to be during the team’s World Series run. The two struck up a conversation and agreed to go on a date.
You could say, “the rest is history,” as Wible went on to marry that girl, Gillian. But there’s more to it along the way.
After 9 months of dating, Gillian was accepted to graduate school—in Vancouver. This obviously put a possible strain on the relationship.
“We decided to give it a shot,” Wible said. “It wasn’t easy. We Google chatted all the time.”
Of course, without his girlfriend, Wible had a lot of time on his hands. And he was itching to pick up a hobby.
That’s when he turned to home brewing. Wible admits he was not a craft beer drinker for a while. He said he was a Bud Light drinker in college and his early 20s. He turned away a Sierra Nevada after one sip for being too bitter, and he still enjoys unwinding with a Narragansett. But he was intrigued by the idea of brewing something himself.
“I just Googled ‘home brewing’ and Keystone Homebrew came up and I went there and bought a pumpkin ale,” he said. “And I made my first beer. It turned out like shit, each bottle had like an inch of pumpkin sludge on the bottom. But I drank it. I got buzzed off of it. And I was like ‘OK, this is pretty rad.’ And within like three months, I became obsessive. I wanted to brew everything.”
Wible spent a couple years brewing and perfecting beers. He had hoped to find a home for his brewing outside of his actual home. It was around this time Triumph Brewing announced it was closing its location in Old City on Chestnut Street. Wible had considered it himself but decided it might be too much work, and he didn’t know anything about operating a restaurant.
However, his mother-in-law, Debra Grady, did.
She saw the story in the newspaper about the restaurant/brewery closing and sprung into action. She rounded up friends of hers from the restaurant industry and talked to Wible about his brewing.
Two years later, they were moving in to 2nd Story Brewing.
“The idea of owning a brewery was a serendipitous occurrence,” Grady said. “The craft beer movement was taking off, Triumph put their Philadelphia location up for sale, and my curiosity about the real estate listing led me down the path to ownership. I have a farm in Chester County and the idea of connecting the farm enterprise and the brewery seemed natural to me. At the farm, we have dedicated several fields to hops and barley with the intention to supply the brewery.”
While the origin of the name seems obvious—the brewery is on the second floor of the building—there is more to it.
“You know, I have people wonder that and that’s what they think the name means and I’m OK with that,” Wible said. “But for Deb, this was the next step from having a farm, for me, it was the next step from home brewing and from my previous jobs. For a lot of us, this was a new beginning, a second story, if you will. So there is that double meaning with it.”
Even with the success of 2nd Story, Wible hasn’t quit his day job.
He still works with the Santas, and the two jobs even crossover. This past Christmas, 2nd Story had an event where parents could bring their children to take photos with Santa.
“It was a fun thing to do for the kids,” Wible said, then laughed, “but it also seems 40-year-old women really love Santa. They were talking a lot with him and kissing him on the cheek. It was hilarious.”
As with the start of his brewing, Wible receives inspiration from his wife. One of the brewery’s flagship beers is the IPA Adsultim. Gillian, a Latin teacher, provided the name, which is Latin for “by leaps and bounds, by hops.”
The brewery’s black IPA is named Brewer’s Widow, and of course, Gillian also helped with that, with a touch of humor.
“Starting a brewpub is time consuming and restaurant hours are very different from school hours, plus he has a second job, so John and I had to adapt to having less time at home together,” Gillian said. “I began to joke around that the brewery was making a widow out of me. I added the tagline that the beer was ‘bitter, with a touch of resentment.’ Maybe a touch of truth there but it would be selfish of me to keep John from his brewing and to prevent everyone from getting to drink his beer! We’ve adapted to the new routines and make sure to spend as much time together as possible. So no worries about me pushing him into a mash tun and making myself a brewer’s widow for real!”
While getting the brewery off the ground has been an adventure, Wible has enjoyed the ride.
He is already thinking on new ways to expand the brewery and draft list, namely barrel-aged beers and possibly distribution.
But he also is growing as a brewer along with the brewery.
“It has been positive from the beginning,” Wible said. “The beer is progressing for the better. Part of the reason I like making new beers all the time is it’s a challenge. I know what I want a beer to taste like and it’s fun to get that taste out of my head and into a glass.”