Plans brewing for craft beer business in Dagsboro

Zack Brown of Ocean View shares the floor plan proposal for a microbrewery he and his two brothers are seeking to open in Savannah Square. (Glenn Rolfe/Delaware State News)

DAGSBORO — Sometime this fall, business could literally be brewing in Dagsboro’s Savannah Square Shopping Center.

Pending an amendment to town code and brewery licensing, Ocean View resident Zack Brown hopes to be serving the likes of Electric Circus IPA and other craft beers with homegrown catchy names in a nanobrewery small-batch business endeavor spiced with brotherly love.

“We just have a dream to start a craft brewing business,” said Mr. Brown, speaking on behalf his brothers, Ronnie and Nick, and Brown Brothers Brewing at the Feb. 25 Dagsboro town council meeting. “We really love the location in Savannah Square. We like the accessibility and overall appearance. I believe based on it being a great location that it would be a great place to have a brewery and bring in new business for the town.”

“We’ve been brewing beer together. We are all craft beer enthusiasts and it’s time now we put our hobby into a business,” said Mr. Brown.

Dagsboro’s town council is addressing the request from Brown Brothers Brewing. It will require a change in code that would include language allowing craft beer business as a permitted use in the highway commercial zoning district. Under current code, that use is not permitted.

Kyle Gulbronson, Dagsboro’s consultant, said the next step is to create definitions of a brew pub and tasting room, add that to definition section and add brew pub as a permitted use in the highway commercial district. Language would be included to also allow a restaurant and sale for off-premise consumption, Mr. Gulbronson said.

A public hearing on the proposed code change will be held during the March 18 town council meeting, Dagsboro Mayor Brian Baull said.

The code amendment has the support of Dagsboro’s planning and zoning commission.

“We are recommending in favor of the change that would allow him to open the business,” said planning and zoning chairman Brad Connor.

“I don’t see any reason to oppose it,” said Dagsboro councilman William Chandler III after questioning Mr. Brown on the brothers’ plans.

Their two-phased plan is to start with a modern, state-of-the-art nano brewing system, tasting room/bar, then at some point in the future possibly expand to another site and incorporate a restaurant component.

“We feel that having a restaurant to begin with is a lot of overhead and a lot of responsibility and could take away from the core principles of brewing the beer and quality ingredients and things. Off the bat we’re just going to brew craft beer and sell it on site. We’re not going to plan on distributing or offering any other wine or (domestic) beer,” said Mr. Brown, adding growler fills and crowlers could leave the premise.

“Right now, this is phase 1 of the business. So that we don’t get over-extended we’re not going to have a kitchen on site,” said Mr. Brown. “Phase 2 of the business would be to buy a piece of property in Dagsboro and build a pole barn or a bigger facility and have a full restaurant on site. All three of us are going to be investing in this with our own capital, borrowing money, so we don’t want to get over-extended.”

In the absence of an onsite restaurant at the start, Mr. Brown said they are exploring a possible partnership with Porto’s Pizza & Grill for pizza delivery on busy nights as well as having one or several food trucks in the parking lot on weekends.

The floor plan includes enough space to accommodate upward of 18 four-top tables, a specious middle walkway and a full bar with 10 seats in the back. There will be separate men’s and women’s restrooms.

A small area is set aside to stage local acoustic music, duos at the most.

About a quarter of the room will be earmarked for the brewing and fermentation process.

“Something that we thought would be really cool is when people go to a brewery, they want to feel a part of it. In between the tables on both sides will be the fermentation tanks. They will have locks on them and sanitary covers,” Mr. Brown said. “That way when you are at the brewery you kind of feel like you’re a part of it with the beer doing its thing.”

They are also planning to have a “mug club” with special incentives and perks for VIP club members, such as their own mug at the brewery and invitations to pre-release parties to first sample new brew releases.

This is their first venture in the microbrewery business for the Brown brothers, who grew up in Warwick, New York, an hour from New York City.

“The combination of the three of us, we feel that we can hold a really successful business. I have been brewing beer for myself for about 10 years now. I have a business management degree, so I’ll handle those kinds of tasks,” said Mr. Brown. “My older brother Ronnie, he has a business management and accounting degree. He would kind of handle that end of the business. And then my younger brother Nick, he graduated from Johnson & Wales Culinary. He has a restaurant background, so he can help out with more of the health codes. And when we get to the expansion point, he could run the restaurant end of it.”

Mr. Brown has lived in the area for eight years. His brothers currently reside in the Washington, D.C. area. Both plan to relocate to the area; Ronnie probably in August and Nick before the end of the year.

Several years ago, there was a legal beverage establishment in Savannah Square — Mr. Bananas Lounge & Bar.

Mr. Chandler asked Dagsboro Police Chief Floyd Toomey for his take on craft breweries in the realm of public safety.

“It’s my experience that most of them are relatively low-profile when it comes to criminal activity. It’s a different type of crowd that goes there and participates in that activity,” Chief Toomey said. “Without doing a lot of in-depth research – this is just off the cuff – I don’t foresee any problems.”

Longtime Dagsboro residents Keith and Ruth Ann Marvel voiced their support in an email correspondence to Mayor Baull that was read into the record.

“As residents of the town of Dagsboro for 30 years we’d like to express our excitement and approval for the Brown Brothers Brewery proposed for Savannah Square Center,” the Marvels’ email read. “We’d like to see more business come to Savannah Square complex. We think this is a unique business that surrounding towns do not have. We believe this type of business would entice more visitors and customers to Savannah Square. This could possibly lead to additional businesses which would be a benefit for the town of Dagsboro. We welcome a local microbrewery. We found others in Sussex County that have a wonderful reputation and we’d love to have such a business in our town.”

If approved, Mr. Brown said the brothers hope to be in business this fall.

“This is the first step, getting it proved with the town. The next step after this would be to acquire my Dagsboro town business license and then I would apply for my federal and state craft brewery license. Those could take up to four to five months,” Mr. Brown told council. “As things got closer to the approval process, prior to that we’d start bidding out the unit, doing remodeling. Probably eight to 10 weeks prior to opening we’d be brewing beer and kegging and stocking up for opening day.”

“I’m thinking like early fall to open, which is good because it’s off-season,” said Mr. Brown. “Based on my reached we’d like to open around September or October, after the tourism season. That way we are not inundated with a rush. And, it would be a good time for us to open up to locals to get a feel for what they are interested in.”

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