Enter Chris Costello.
“Chris is a total pro,” Ryan says. “He’s got the education, experience, and passion for running the Tasting Room operation. In the past few weeks, he’s gotten the hang of what we do around here, and, as a long-time fan of CMBC, he’s had no problem fitting into our culture. We’re glad to have him aboard!”
Originally from Mayfair in Northeast Philadelphia, Chris attended Fr. Judge High School, a Catholic high school for boys, before attending the very public Penn State, majoring in Hospitality Management.
Not only did college prepare Chris for running this place, it also got him on television. After his sophomore year at Penn State, his fraternity brothers dropped a full sheet cake on his head and posted it on YouTube for posterity.
“They asked me to walk outside,” he recalls, “we had a large balcony overhanging, and when I got to the edge, they dropped a whole sheet cake on my head. About a year later, MTV contacted me, and they used the clip on Rob Dyrdek’s Ridiculousness.”
The sheet cake was left over from Homecoming, and it went remarkably untouched.
“So, I guess they figured, ‘What better way to get rid of it than by dropping it off the deck?’,” he says. “I guess there’s more than one way to enjoy a cake.”
After college, Chris tried his hand at homebrewing. Once: a chestnut brown ale.
“It turned out alright,” he says. “It was ‘consumable’. I wouldn’t say it was good, but I wouldn’t say it was bad.”
“Being in the bar aspect — learning how to properly run a bar, keep everything stocked up, what’s important behind the bar — learning all that was definitely important,” he says. “Even going back to my time as a bartender: you can’t teach how to interact with people. You just have to learn it.”
He eventually moved into management, having managed a Bahama Breeze for two years.
“That definitely gave me the training as to how to run the business,” he says. “You can interact with people all day and have that fun, but there’s still business to be done at the end of the day.”
Throughout his career, Chris had focused on craft beverages — not only beer, but wine and spirits, as well.
“I think alcohol is an interesting beverage in general,” he says.
When he’s not brushing up on the latest craft beverages, as one might expect from a guy who grew up in the shadow of Cottman and Frankford — traditionally the intersection that receives the brunt of Philly’s sports celebrations — Chris is a huge Philly sports fan. However, it sounds like he’s earned his Philly fandom honestly.
“I was in Philly for the Super Bowl,” he says. “It was one of the best moments of my life. You get year after year of disappointment, but being a Philly fan runs in my family. Everyone’s a big fan. My wife’s family are all big fans. My grandmother was the biggest fan I knew, and she passed away the year before, so she never got to see a Super Bowl. But, a year-and-a-half later, we got one.”
“There’s nothing like being forced to wear a Hawaiian shirt every day,” he jokes.
When he’s not cheering the home team or wasting away again in Margaritaville, he loves to fish.
“Mostly sharks,” he says. “Catch-and-release.”
In fact, fishing is how he became acquainted with the brewery in the first place. He’s been coming to Wildwood his entire life, and when he started making trips on his own, he’d simply go one exit further.
“I love it down here,” he says. “There’s a lot to do. If you want a quiet night, there are great places for dinner, or if you want to party like you’re 22 again, there are places for that, too.”
He and his wife, Alice, would frequently visit Cape May to enjoy their time off.
“A big point of moving down here was being closer to the beach and closer to what she calls ‘our happy place.’”
They’d try to come down at least once a month — usually day trips, though sometimes full weekend trips — for the past five years or so.
“My grandmother has a house down here,” he says. “I spent six summers working down here, but before that, we always vacationed down here.”
“So, last minute, I’m coordinating with two of my friends and my mom,” Chris recalls, “to cancel the plans here and move it to the winery. We still did come here afterwards.”
They’d both always loved the beer and the atmosphere of the brewery, and that was part of the reason Chris wanted to work here.
“We always talked about living down here at some point,” he says. “I honestly didn’t think it would be until we retired. Or I hit the lottery.”
Yet, when he saw the posting for a new Tasting Room Manager on Instagram, he decided to throw his hat in the ring. For the second time.
“The first one was for a sales position,” he says. “And I truly had no experience being a sales rep, so there were no hard feelings on that one.”
Regardless, Chris is looking forward to the challenge of running the Tasting Room at CMBC.
“Really, the challenge is finding ways to do what’s already being done so well and find ways to do it better,” he says. “Before I got here, everyone knew what was going on, and you hear people talk about how great a brewery it is and people say that you really have it down to a science. So, the challenge is perfecting what’s almost perfect already.”
Chris is looking forward to learning more about beer “in general — how it’s brewed and different aspects of each beer.”
However, what he’s really looking forward to is becoming more of a part of the CMBC family.
“I’m loving it so far,” he says. “The people are great. The beer’s great. It’s nice being able to have a crappy day — which happens — and you take five steps out of your office and have a beer and unwind a bit.”
And the beer Chris always reaches for?
“Corrosion,” he says. “I love sours and I love IPAs. I’ve never seen another sour IPA out there, to be honest. I think it’s done well.”
Be sure to say hello to Chris the next time you see him in the Tasting Room!