New brewery looks to bring back South Richmond, one beer at a time.
By Sean C. Diaz | Photos by Eric Lusher
The owners of the one of Richmond’s newest breweries, Dogtown Brewing Company, hope their business will not only coax hesitant drinkers south of the river, they hope it will lead to a revitalization of the once-bustling part of town.
Before Manchester got its name, the area south of the James River was called Dogtown, due in part to its shape, resembling that of a dog’s head. The area has not been a hotspot of activity in recent years, with beer-thirsty locals preferring instead to frequent brewery-rich Scott’s Addition.
“We’re employing locals and looking to bring more jobs here,” says Ben Spencer, Dogtown’s head brewer. “We also want to make a mark as a unique brewery for this area.”
Spencer, a Richmond native, has worked for several breweries, including San Francisco’s Magnolia Brewing Company, where for 11 years he made award-winning beers.
Dogtown’s owners, Church Hill Ventures, run other businesses nearby — including Hot Diggity Donuts and the Butterbean Market — and have big plans for revitalizing the surrounding Manchester area, starting with Hull Street where the brewery is located.
The brewery itself has a Wes Anderson vibe, with framed caricatures of dogs on the walls, bright pastel booths and eclectic knickknacks lining the windows. The bar takes up a lot of space with an expansive tap list and a raw bar of locally caught oysters. Chef Addie Meredith has created a menu that features simple beer-friendly meals from charcuterie boards to beer-braised short ribs.
Dogtown keeps with the canine theme for its beers, offering brews like Fetch!, a German style kolsch, and Tummyscratcher, a New England IPA. And while it will offer a variety of styles, Spencer says his forte is traditional English and German beers.
“I want my beer to taste like, well, beer — not a dessert,” he says. “I’m not trying to trick you into thinking you’re drinking a cupcake or something. Plenty of people are already doing that and doing it rather well, in my opinion.”
The brewery’s prized feature is its rooftop — a space that was originally intended to be dog-friendly until the health department nixed the idea. Spencer says it’s easily the best view in town, an opinion that’s hard to dispute when you look out over the entire Richmond skyline.
“For now, we’re playing around with things to see what sticks. But, until we’ve broken in the brewery a little, we have a lot to do for our community,” Spencer says. “And we’re just hoping to see this area grow.”