Thinking Local: Dock Street Brewing

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CHRIS MONTGOMERY TTN Dock Street Brewery is based in West Philadelphia. The brewpub opened in 1985.

Philadelphia brewpubs, including Dock Street Brewing, provide a place for microwbreweries to serve and sell their beverages.

The Philadelphia craft-brewing industry has grown leaps and bounds in the last two decades, and Rosemarie Certo has been a part of it every step of the way.

Certo has seen her company, Dock Street Brewing, grow from a small homebrewing operation to one of Philadelphia’s finest brewpubs.

“Our mission was to elevate the status of beer in the U.S.,” said Certo, who has been involved with Dock Street since she and a partner began home brewing in the ‘80s.

In 1985, Certo and her partner opened Dock Street selling exclusively cases of beer. By 1990 they opened a $2.5 million brewpub and restaurant at 18th and Cherry streets in Center City.  With no prior business experience, Certo credits a naïve notion and passion for her work to getting the brewery up and running.

“If it weren’t for naiveté, we would have never started,” Certo said. “We had no clue how to run a business [and] had never done that before, and somehow what carried us through was such a real passion and believing in what it was that we were doing.”

Dock Street was sold in 1999. Then, Certo bought the company back in 2002 and brought it to its current location on 50th Street in West Philadelphia. Certo said that the location is perfect for the brand.

“This neighborhood really reflects the philosophy that gave birth to craft beers…a big buy-local, buy-regional movement – buy quality instead of quantity,” Certo said.

The buy-local movement spreads past the bar itself and into the kitchen, which uses a 100 percent wood-burning oven. Dock Street also gets its beef from a local organic farm and makes most of its ingredients in-house.

Dock Street offers a diverse and eclectic atmosphere filled with music, art and people of all walks of life.

“On any given night, it’s not a college bar, it’s not an alternative people bar, it’s not a family bar, it’s not a singles bar, it’s not a couples’ bar – it’s all of the above,” Certo said. “And that’s what I really love.”

The brewery features a 10-barrel brewing system, four fermenters and six lagering tanks, ensuring that customers have a wide range of rotating brews to choose from. The only beer offered year-round is the bar’s most popular beer, a Rye IPA.

“We brew it about once a week and can barely keep up with it,” said Marilyn Candeloro, head of marketing and publicity at Dock Street.

The bar’s winter standard is the Man Full of Trouble Porter.

Although Certo has noticed the massive rise in craft beer and has no doubts it is vastly more mainstream than in Dock Street’s early days, she said she still sees room for expansion, noting that craft beer only makes up approximately 5 percent of the U.S. beer market, as opposed to imports, which make up about 13 percent.

“It’s been a steady, steady rise in consumption of craft beers, but it’s still not enough,” Certo said.

Dock Street has many events to keep Certo busy, including a scholarship fundraiser for the Cedar Park Neighbors, weekly movie nights on Tuesdays and perhaps its biggest event, an outdoor concert during Philly Beer Week in June.

Kyle Noone can be reached at kyle.noone@temple.edu.

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