By Irvin B. Harrell
Suffolk’s long wait for a brewery is almost over.
Brick & Mortar Brewing Company is scheduled to tap its first keg on St. Patrick’s Day at its downtown digs on East Washington Street, giving the city’s its first taste of the craft beer craze and cutting short what has been some fairly long drives for beer lovers in the western part of Hampton Roads.
So one can understand why co-owner Dave Stacknick says he plans to make the brewery an entertainment center for the area. The good news is he has the room to do it.
The 10-barrel brewhouse has a 160-person capacity, with a 3,000-square-foot tasting room. There is outdoor seating for 25. His small bar seats only six, which means the crowd has plenty of room to mingle. Stacknick plans to host several different types of entertainment, including live music.
Stacknick and his co-owner wife, Rachel, will run the day-to-day operations at the brewery. They also have hired an event coordinator.
The two have been married for seven years and have a 6-year-old son, Trent. They met in the Navy and were stationed at Naval Station Norfolk for a few years before buying their first home in Virginia Beach.
When they bought a new home in 2013 on 3 acres in Whaleyville, Suffolk, Dave Stacknick’s beer-brewing wheels started turning.
“I was talking with my wife and told her I was thinking about getting a shed for the house,” he says. “I could build a one-barrel system and get electricity run to it. Then I thought, ‘If I’m going to go through all of that trouble, I might as well go ahead and open up a brewery.’”
Stacknick was no stranger to the brew game. He had been home-brewing for about five years. He also helped Michael Stacks, friend and owner of The Bold Mariner Brewing Company in Norfolk, when it first opened.
“I helped them with their build-out and helped (Stacks) with his first recipes,” he says.
He also is friends with Scott Krick, owner of MoMac Brewing Company in Portsmouth. Regionally the nearest brewery to Brick & Mortar, MoMac opened in July 2017.
The Stacknicks approached Suffolk’s Economic Development Authority in their quest to open a brewery near home base. The EDA provides grants and technical assistance to stimulate industrial and commercial growth in economically distressed areas. The agency helped the couple find an affordable site.
“The EDA had gone to several craft beer festivals looking for folks interested in bringing a brewery to Suffolk,” Stacknick said. “So we reached out to them. They are still continuing to help, which we are thankful for. We have a couple investors who came with the building. Two were attorneys, which helped with the legal structure of the company.”
Brick & Mortar sits along a busy stretch of downtown Suffolk, home to such restaurants as Amici’s, Boogie’s Soul Food, and Harper’s Table. There are also a few empty storefronts nearby awaiting further investment.
The brewery, which was home to a car dealership in the 1930s, will feature an interior that combines rustic and industrial. Its starting lineup of beer will include Peanut City Porter (a peanut butter porter), Modest Molly (a white India pale ale), a blonde ale, a black IPA and an Irish red. He says he plans to start kegging some different brews soon.
One of the things that will set Brick & Mortar apart from other breweries, besides location, Stacknick says, is that he “likes to blur the lines between different styles to see what we can come up with.” He uses his Modest Molly as an example.
“It’s sort of a traditional white IPA, but we added sage, coriander, lemon grass, and orange peel, with less of a hop build, so it’s not bitter,” he says.
The Stacknicks get some of their inspiration from their friends at Big Ugly Brewing in Chesapeake, a watering hole they frequent.
“They make the best New England IPA I’ve ever had,” he says. “It’s been exciting watching their product progress.”
In the long term, Stacknick envisions expanding, as well as bottling and canning his brew.
“I know that canning has been widely popular; however, bottling appears to be the high-quality product,” he says. “I figure we’ll be doing some maybe about a year down the road.”