In the parking lot at a 1990 Grateful Dead concert in Washington, Ben Spencer remembers having a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was heavy, foamy and simple.
It's how he feels a beer should be.
"At that point, I decided this is what I want to do," says Spencer, the head brew master at Dogtown Brewing Co., which opened July 27.
The Richmond native, who was previously a keg washer in Colorado and an 11-year brew master in San Francisco, says he's "digging" the multilevel space's 15-barrel system, rooftop bar and 20-tap bar.
Dogtown's specialities lie in its four flagship beers, available in 32-ounce cans: Fetch, a German-style kolsch; Manchester Standard, a pale ale; Bulldog Barleywine; and Fence Hopper, a West Coast IPA and Spencer's ideal beer.
"That's my big boy," he says. "I love it."
Guests may also can the small-batch beers themselves with an in-house crowler machine.
Spencer acknowledges the growth of breweries in the city, but until the number reaches more than 150, he doesn't want to hear the word "saturation."
"There's no such thing," he says, adjusting his blue-rimmed glasses. "We can make more beer here and take market share away from Anheuser-Busch and Miller. … People want more, so we're going to try to bring them the good beer."
- Scott Elmquist
Dogs make up the bulk of the decor, with busts and caricatures, seemingly inspired by Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs," lining the walls and entrance. The more than 10-foot-wide orange sign saying "Every Dog Has Its Day" hangs steps away from the kitchen, where chef Addie Meredith keeps track of the incoming deliveries. A woman walks by with more than a pound of queso fresco, a staple in Salvadoran pupusas.
"It's very vast in its offering, which is a little intimidating," Meredith says of the menu, which blends German, Salvadoran and Southern cuisine. "The last thing I want to do is give you a pupusa that's half-assed. … but we really took some time to sit down and think, 'Can we do these items justice?'"
The menu offers smothered tots with beer cheese, bacon and Sriracha sour cream, pimento cheese pickles, a Beyond veggie burger with fontina and bratwurst with the option of a sweet German mustard. But Meredith's go-to is something she doesn't make herself: the oysters, which come directly from the York River and Chesapeake Bay.
After a test run in the form of a beer and taco festival, the brewery, owned by developer Laura Hild*, officially opened to the public July 27 with a full menu and draft list.
Dogtown Brewing Co.
1209 Hull St.
Tuesdays - Fridays 4 - 10 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
*A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Dogtown Brewing Co. is owned by Laura and Michael Hild.