Philly’s first microbrewery creates neighborhood hub

Dock Street Brewery was one of the first post-prohibition craft breweries in the United States.

Patrons enjoy drinks at on Thursday at Dock Street Brewery, which is one of the first microbreweries in Philadelphia. | CARLEE CUNNINGHAM / THE TEMPLE NEWS

With more than 20,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram combined, Dock Street Brewery may have one of the largest followings of any brewery in Philadelphia. 

The brewery and accompanying brewpub, located in the Cedar Park neighborhood of West Philly, has a steady stream of regulars who come to relax in the refurbished firehouse. 

Dock Street was established in 1985 as one of Philadelphia’s first post-prohibition craft breweries and the city’s first microbrewery. It opened its first location on Cherry Street near 18th in 1989, then moved to its current spot in a century-old firehouse on 50th Street near Willows Avenue in 2007. 

Founders Rosemarie Certo and Jeffrey Ware wanted to shake things up in a world of watered-down lagers and beers made by large corporate companies like Bud Light and Miller Lite. 

“[Craft beer] was just really a totally uncharted territory,” said Renata Certo-Ware, the founders’s daughter who works as the brewery’s marketing and events coordinator. “One of our earlier slogans was that we were starting the craft beer revolution, and now there’s literally a brewpub on every corner.”

Many of the brewery’s drafts are made on site and travel less than 65 feet from conditioning tanks to patrons’ glasses. 

Dock Street sells two staple beers, Royal Bohemian Pilsner and Amber Ale, that it has brewed since 1985. It also offers a newer staple: a rye IPA, an India pale ale characterized by its dry, spicy flavor.

“There’s just a wide range and variety,” said Certo-Ware, who grew up in and around the brewery. “There’s beers that can feel chewy in your mouth, it’s very heavy, it’s syrupy, it’s sweet, it’s bubbly. There’s just so much you can do, and you can never get bored.”

Adjacent to the brewpub is the Dock Street Cannery and Tasting Loung, a garage-style space used for canning the beer that also features a lounge serving beer-inspired cocktails. The Cannery opened in 2017 and frequently hosts comedic and music events. 

Dock Street plans to open a second brewpub in June near the Point Breeze neighborhood. 

In 2018, Dock Street converted to using wind-powered energy via Philadelphia-based company Inspire. Larry Miller, the brewery’s general manager, said the spent grain, or the material leftover from the brewing process, gets donated to a local farm to be used as pig feed and has been made into pretzels by the South Philadelphia company Vegan Commissary.

“It’s all about being creative with your waste,” Miller said. 

The brewpub’s dining room has boat sails draped across the ceiling, honoring the recent conversion to wind power, while also helping absorb sound.

Dock Street offers $5 brewery tours on Saturdays, where guests can sample the latest brews. The bar offers a unique canned wheat beer named Bubbly Wit, made with yeast commonly used for champagne. There are always six rotating beers on tap and one in a cask. 

The brewpub is also known for its wood-fired pizza specialties, like Mellow Yellow, which has a mustard-based sauce.

Sean Glass, who has bartended for five years at the brewpub, said he knows many of his customers by name.

“I more often than not know most of the guests’ names that are sitting at my bar, and I’ve known them for years just from here,” Glass said. “You can tell what day of the week it is here by looking around the dining room and seeing the regulars.”

Joe Hoban, a West Philadelphia resident, is one of Glass’s regulars. 

“I have liked almost every beer I’ve ever drank here,” Hoban said. “Also, the pizza is phenomenal. Honestly, it’s one of the best pizzas in West Philly.”

Past creative beers made at Dock Street include the Dock Street Walker, brewed with smoked goat brains, and Dock Street Beer Ain’t Nothin’ to Funk With, a golden saison made in celebration of 1990s hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan.

Whether it’s unusual concoctions or standard brews, the beer is meant to bring the neighborhood together, Certo-Ware said.

“The greatest thing about beer is how democratic it is,” Certo-Ware said. “It’s brewed to be enjoyed by people, and it’s not an exclusive thing, like sometimes wine can be. It’s just about having a really loud and fun, good time together with people.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the years Dock Street Brewery started brewing Royal Bohemian Pilsner and Amber Ale. The have been brewing these beers since 1985.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.