Summer on the Eastern Shore of the Delmarva peninsula means one thing: tourist season. For local high schoolers, it’s the chance to make some extra money at one of the many restaurants, which is precisely what Red Killpack and Mike Anderson did. The two started as busboys and moved up the ladder to brewer and director of sales at Big Oyster Brewery in Lewes, Delaware in just a matter of years.
In 2006 Killpack was a sophomore in high school when he decided to take a job as a busboy at the newly opened Claws Seafood House in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. June of 2007 was the summer before Anderson’s junior year in high school. He just wanted a break from the 105-degree heat, putting up exterior electric with his dad. His football trainer introduced him to the restaurant owner, Jeff Hamer, founder of the Fins Hospitality Group (FHG). Hamer, nicknamed the “Big Oyster” due to his love of oysters and the fact that his license plate happens to read Oyster1.
The Fins Hospitality Group (FHG), respectfully named for Hamer’s first restaurant that he opened in Rehoboth, Delaware in 2005, has grown to include five restaurants and two breweries. Hamer’s philosophy of success? Family. According to their website, “Every employee, past and present, is a part of our family.”
Anderson recalls that he was working on ordering alcohol for the restaurants. Hamer approached him with his plan of opening more restaurants and the need to keep the beer/liquor costs tight. At that moment, according to Anderson, he told his boss he might as well build his brewery. Hamer asked him to research a rough estimate, and by 2015, their beer was on tap at Fins Ale House, the first brewery of FHG. With its success, Big Oyster Brewery was built along King’s Highway in Lewes, Delaware, giving the company more space to expand and be creative.
Bring in Andrew Harton, the one with some brewing experience. Begining as an avid homebrewer since his Sophomore year in college, eventually became an Assistant Brewer for Iron Hill Brewery, and later a Lead Brewer. Harton recognized what was special about Hamer and FHG from day one, and was hired as a Head Brewer and recently transitioned into a Director of Brewing Operations Role.
So how did Killpack and Anderson make the final jump from busboys to working in the brewing industry? “It was pretty much a coin flip between Red and me for which one of us was going to brew and which one was going to make sales,” shares Anderson. His flip landed him as Director of Sales at Big Oyster Brewery, and Killpack began to apprentice with Harton. Killpack states, “I was managing for the company as Big Oyster Brewing was coming together, but then I got the chance to take off the managing shoes and put on the brewer’s boots and work in the brewery with Andrew. Best move I ever made!”
After just four years since its opening, Big Oyster Brewery ranked as the second fastest-growing brewery in America in 2019, according to the Brewers Association.
As for Hamer, the one who started it all with just a simple oyster house on the shore, A focus on the locals. Tourist season on the Delaware shore only lasts for the summer. Still, as any busboy knows, it’s the fantastic year-round residents that give their support, no matter the season.
Big Oyster Brewery, operating since 2015, brewing local craft beer made by the people for the people. Named 2018’s fastest growing independent craft brewery in America by the Brewer’s Association. Find us in the Big Red Barn located in, Lewes Delaware.