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CASTLE MALTING NEWS in partnership with www.e-malt.com
21 July, 2019

Brewing news USA, VA: Dogtown Brewing Co. coming to Manchester on July 27

The former Thalhimers department store at 1209 Hull St. in Manchester will soon be home to a multistory beer hall and full-service restaurant when Dogtown Brewing Co. hosts its grand opening on Saturday, July 27, the Richmond Magazine reported on July 17.

Brewmaster Ben Spencer, 45, grew up on the city’s North Side but fled west at 21. Living in Boulder, Colorado, he fell in love with home brewing thanks to one of his roommates. A couple years later, he became a keg washer at Oasis Brewing in Denver and slowly worked his way up the brewery ladder.

He returns to the city with an extensive portfolio, one that includes collaborations with meaderies and wineries and stints at Oskar Blues and Boulder Beer Company in Colorado, as well as Strike Brewing Co. in San Jose, California.

Spencer’s longest tenure thus far was in San Francisco at Magnolia Brewing Co., where he served as brewmaster for 11 years and won three medals at the Great American Beer Festival. He also dabbled in beer consulting and facilities management for Laughing Monk and Standard Deviant Brewing in San Francisco and Seaside Brewing in Oregon.

“There were other things peppered in, but I always came back to beer,” Spencer says. “I’d like to think I came into this fully prepared. … As a brewer you are always gathering what you learned one day and applying it the next.”

The Richmond Spencer knew in the ’90s is vastly different from the hop-heavy, food-driven city it is today. When he left, the only game in town was Legend Brewing Co., but now the ever-growing number of breweries in the region is teetering close to 40.

With two decades of brewing experience, knowledge of different beer markets and a sense of hometown pride, Spencer hopes to bring something unique to the scene and remind Richmonders of the tried-and-true beer styles the culture was built on, not just fleeting trends.

“I like to focus on beers that taste like beer,” Spencer says. “So much beer history has come before us, and it’s our job as new brewers to morph it into what people want now. We’re mostly focusing on traditional styles.”

Spencer says his specialties are German- and English-style beers, and he wants to introduce as many gluten-reduced products as possible. The 20-tap squad of suds at Dogtown includes Fetch!, a German-style Kolsch; Manchester Standard, a Virginia Pale Ale; Fence Hopper, a West Coast IPA; Bulldog Barleywine; and the forthcoming Mexican Hairless Mexican lager, Triple Dog Dare Belgian tripel, Rosenegk Tidal Wave session ale and more.

A major component that differentiates Dogtown from the majority of area breweries: food. “That’s what Richmond is missing,” Spencer says, “breweries with food.”

Currently Fine Creek Brewing and Legend Brewing are among the few local breweries with on-site kitchens, while Triple Crossing has a designated pizza oven. In May Hardywood West Creek announced plans for Joe Sparatta of Heritage and Southbound to open a restaurant in its space.

The menu at Dogtown concentrates on pub-style fare, blending German, Salvadoran and Southern influences. Items are described as “spicy, pickled and meaty” and meant to be paired with a pint.

The elevated “hand foods” are feature seasonal ingredients and include creations such as pulled pork, mushroom and garlic, and queso and scallion pupusas; Anderson's Neck oysters (from another company owned by the Dogtown Brewing Co. owners); a variety of hot dogs and sausages, dry-rubbed wings, pork schnitzel and Belgian ale-braised beef ribs; and almost 20 different sauces including mango-jalapeño, sweet German mustard, lemon-caper butter and horseradish cream.

“We’re trying to keep it approachable,” says Executive Chef Addie Meredith, a Durham, North Carolina, native previously of Tazza Kitchen. “I’m super stoked about the pupusas; it’s something that’s become more prevalent in the city.”

There are currently no plans for distribution of Dogtown's beer, but Spencer says it is something they envision in the future. A handful of the beers can be purchased on site, and the brewery also offers crowlers.

Dogtown also boasts an expansive rooftop bar with traveling dim sum carts and a game room on the mezzanine.

The project adds to the growing Hull Street commercial corridor and marks the latest venture from husband-and-wife team Michael and Laura Hild, who opened Hot Diggity Donuts last summer and Butterbean Market & Cafe in early January. Last week Ajay Brewer of Brewer’s Cafe, along with partners James Harris and Josh Reed, opened a waffle and milkshake concept, Brewer’s Waffles.

On Saturday, July 20, Dogtown will host a soft opening event: The inaugural Dogtown Beer and Tacos Festival takes place from 2 to 10 p.m., with activities, food and beer spread throughout the parking lot, inside the restaurant and at the rooftop bar. The brewery's grand opening is the following Saturday.


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