Dock Street Brewing Company.
Who would have guessed you could run a brewery based on the words of the hip-hop legend Ice T? Well maybe that’s not exactly what happened, but Ice T once said, “Passion makes the world go round. Love just makes it a safer place,” and that could pretty much be Dock Streets mission statement.
Under the ownership of its passionate owner, Rosemarie Certo, Dock Street has redefined itself as brewery as well as helped to rebuild a troubled part of Philadelphia. Now located in West Philadelphia, Dock Street Brewery is in an area of the city that isn’t usually frequented by outsiders. West Philadelphia has long had an image of being an unfriendly more dangerous area, but now days through the passion of Rosemarie there is a noticeable change in the neighborhood. Going on to celebrate its two-year anniversary at the 50th street location, there has already been a 40% increase in property value and stronger desire for new business’s to move in. There are rumors of even such renowned beers places as The Foodery looking to move in and tap into the market Rosemarie has created. Turning the area into a cultural mish-mash of all kinds of people shows what a little passion can do for a struggling area.
The first time I walked into Dock Street Brewery, I can honestly say that I was in awe. I had never expected to see such a place in the area. Having a very cool, artsy, underground café in SoHo type vibe, it was really an escape from everyday Philadelphia. Being a New Yorker at heart, I felt at home between the atmosphere and the one of a kind smell of pizza baking in a wood-burning oven. Their menu consists of seventeen artisan style pizzas topped off with such unique ingredients as pears, walnuts, crÃ¨me fraiche, and pine nuts. Dock Street also uses a variety of cheeses ranging from fontina and gruyere to goat cheese and gorgonzola. The pizzas are truly delicious and quite possibly the best in Philadelphia. Baking the pizzas in the custom built wood burning oven truly adds an authentic taste that sets these pizzas apart. They also serve a variety of fresh salads and burgers as well as incredible homemade mozzarella sticks. All of the food looked fantastic and was served with pride.
In the land of cheese steaks, Dock Street is home to a New York institution that Philadelphia has struggled to recreate. Rosemarie explains having Pizza take center stage on her menu with a three-month trip she took to Italy. While there she frequented a giant outdoor pizza restaurant owned by her cousin. The restaurant had two outdoor wood-burning ovens and created what she believed to be some of the best pizzas she has ever had. It was eating there that she fell in love with pizza and idea of cooking it in the wood ovens. Upon returning form her trip, Rosemarie built her own wood oven in her back yard and would regularly throw large pizza parties for all her friends. They were no simple parties though; Rosemarie has the mindset that if you are going to do something, do it as perfect as you can. For these parties she threw, she would ensure that there would always be a large group of people and would prepare a week in advance, prepping all kinds of unique ingredients. She would go as far as to cure her own salmon, a lengthy process, just to insure she could come up with a new creative style.
Now of course there is more than just food at Dock Street, there is also the thing that made them famous, the beer. Dock Street Brewery was one of the originals in the craft beer scene. Being in business for over twenty years, they helped set the stage for the beer scene that we have all come to love. At their peak, Dock Street was a multi-million dollar operation and was distributing in 24 states. Today, they keep things a little simpler. They are in a brewery that has a capacity of roughly 1,200 barrels a year, of which they usually only brew about 1,000. Keeping it small though helps Rosemarie and head brew master Ben Potts be creative and gives them the freedom to brew as original beers as they desire. They do have their four flagship beers that they brew regularly, but outside of them, Ben has the freedom to let his imagination run wild. They don’t have the pressure to keep a routine seasonal line available. Instead they brew such unique styles as a dunkel-berliner weisse, a style that as far they are concerned is yet to be marketed. They are also working on such styles as their Sudan Grass, which is a gluten free beer, a honey wiese as well as a traditional hefeweizen. In the longer future, Ben had a few wine barrels aging some new styles in the back, but they won’t be available for about a year.
Like there food, their beer is brewed with passion. Rosemarie is truly passionate about everything at Dock Street. While sitting at the bar discussing the beer with her, she line up three different styles in front of me to sample. After she placed them all down she just happened to glance at them and notice the variance in colors between them and just fell in love with how beautiful they all looked lined up next to each other. She went on to point it out to the staff that was around as well. Listening to her speak on how much she loves the art of brewing beer and appreciates every aspect of the beer, you can’t help but to grow a whole new appreciation for the beer that Dock Street brews. Whether it’s drinking the Satellite espresso stout to recreate the feeling of sitting on the Mediterranean savoring a cup of espresso or smelling the beautiful aroma that comes out of the head of hop garden to show how beautiful a beer can smell, there is a story behind all of Rosemaries and Bens beers. It’s that story that puts the heart into the brews, and makes them all exceptional.
Whether it’s the food, beer, or atmosphere, every aspect of Dock Street Brewery shows what a little passion can do. In Rosemaries case, it’s an abundance of passion, and the result is a truly perfected experience. Dock Street is an inspirational place that has inspired a whole neighborhood to better themselves. Props to you Rosemarie Certo, you have made the smaller Dock Street greater than it has ever been.