Dock Street Brewery

by PIDCphila
June 28, 2019

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Whether you’re looking for a laid-back spot to hang out with friends and family; enjoy hand-tossed, wood-fired pizza; drink fresh beer poured direct from the tanks; or check out a brewery tour, Dock Street Brewery is the place to be. Dock Street’s “Man Full of Trouble” ale was the 2017 bronze medal-winner at the Great American Beer Festival. Dock Street boasts a multitude of medals earned in brewing competitions in the US and abroad throughout the company’s three decades in business. They are widely known for their fearless experimental beers like the Dock Street Walker (brewed with goat brains in honor of the owner’s favorite show, The Walking Dead) and Bohemian Pilsner — their Rye IPA that Beer Advocate ranks among the Top 15 Rye Beers in the World. Founded in 1985, Philadelphia’s first all-grain brew-pub, and one of the first post-prohibition craft breweries in the country, has come a long way. Behind the accolades is a rich story of an immigrant owned business that was started by a female brewer who entered and navigated a male dominated field.

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“I started the business with my former partner. He was a chef. I was a gourmet cook and we started homebrewing at home,” said Founder, Rosemarie Certo. “I was born in Sicily. My family in Sicily grew olives, and they made olive oil. They grew grapes and they made wine, so as a child, they couldn’t get me out of the wine vats because I just wanted to stomp on the grapes.”

Growing up in that environment, then moving to America at the age of 10, she loved making things with her hands and she learned to sell them as she got older. Likewise, her former business partner grew up in a household with a wine cellar; plus, he was a chef later on. Upon meeting, they were both inspired to start homebrewing. “We’d have dinner parties and all our friends loved to come,” said Rosemarie. “Our homebrew — some of it was horrible. We were just learning. Some of it was intriguing to us and all our friends loved the homebrews. That encouraged us to make more and to learn the art. They just gave us confidence.”

Their confidence led them to further pursue homebrewing on another level. “At that time, the American beer landscape was a vast sea of bland beers. Their mega brewers made and sold mainstream beers,” she said. Rosemarie and her partner wondered why Americans weren’t making interesting, full bodied, complex, and nicely balanced beers, so they set out to help change the landscape.

To take on this challenge, they needed resources and financial support. They originally couldn’t get a distributor to sell their beer or find anyone to fund the brewery and restaurant they wanted to build at 18th and Cherry Street. After a year and a half, they found some investors, and eventually, they ran across PIDC through former Philadelphia City Councilman and former PIDC Board Member, Thacher Longstreth. “He went to bat for Dock Street and encouraged PIDC to give us a loan and no one had ever done a loan like that before for a small American brewery. Back then, small craft breweries were unheard of,” said Rosemarie. They were then introduced to people within Philadelphia, which Rosemarie says was very helpful in building their business. PIDC also assisted with resources to help them purchase machinery, equipment, and space for their brewery and commercial kitchen.

“PIDC wants to make sure that they are dealing with businesses of integrity, businesses that will help benefit the city.” -Rosemarie Certo

Dock Street received a loan from PIDC for the first Dock Street Brewery and Restaurant in 1990. Prior to building this brick and mortar location, and starting in 1985, Dock Street brewed their beer in Utica, New York. The company opened their first Philadelphia location at 18th and Cherry Street. “Our corporate mission was to elevate the status of beer. We wanted to put Dock Street Brewery and Restaurant in an elegant and upscale environment that boasted the fact that beer is a noble beverage. Dock Street immediately became a huge success, and after a few years, sales were in excess of $3M, which in the 1990’s was a pretty big feat,” said Rosemarie.

Dock Street was sold by her former partner in 2000, but then reacquired by Rosemarie in 2002. As the sole owner, Rosemarie took on the challenge of continuing to keep her business afloat, and again, acquired more resources from PIDC. In 2007, Certo oversaw the completion of her new brewpub located in a 110-year-old converted firehouse at the corner of 50th and Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia. Now, she is developing a larger facility at 2118 Washington Avenue, which is expected to open soon. This facility will help by quadrupling the brewing capacity and will have a mess hall style tasting room.

“I’ve always loved working with PIDC,” said Rosemarie. “PIDC helps a lot of small to medium-sized businesses, as well as larger businesses. They are very thoughtful of where they get involved. PIDC wants to make sure that they are dealing with businesses of integrity, businesses that will help benefit the city. It is a good fit because we also live by those principles.”

PIDC is proud to support a woman-owned, immigrant owned brewery. Dock Street Brewery truly enhances Philadelphia’s Craft beer culture with its rich history and its focus on quality and innovation.

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