Dock Street Brewery
701 South 50th Street Philadelphia
Imagine a pub where you can sip on crafted beers made from flavors ranging from black pepper and Meyer lemon to goat brain and cranberry. Situated on 701 South 50th Street in West Philadelphia, the modern beer lover can do just that. This is the quirky home for Rosemarie Certo’s Dock Street Brewery, established in 1985. Originally located on 18th and Cherry Street, Dock Street is the first microbrewery in Philadelphia, and one of the first in the United States.
Dock Street Brewery’s name comes from the street that played a crucial role in Philadelphia’s brewing history. Dock Street was originally a natural harbor for Little Dock Creek, and a central hub for early taverns and breweries in the city. The harbor once flowed through to the northwest of Front and Dock Street. William Penn docked at this harbor when he landed in Philadelphia in 1862, and visited the Blue Anchor Tavern, the first tavern in Philadelphia. Later, the popular street would become a central hub for merchants and sailors who were looking to wet their whistles in one of the over twenty-one taverns that lined the streets after their perilous journeys. Dock Street Brewery attempts to hark back to this time period when the amount of breweries in Philadelphia filled the air with a smell like “vaporized bread.”
Certo’s story and business model exemplify the American dream. Certo emigrated from Sicily to Philadelphia when she was ten years old. As a philosophy and humanities student she had no prior business experience before opening Dock Street. As a small ten barrel distillery, Dock Street Brewery was the first microbrewery in Philadelphia when Certo established it in 1985, as one of the first in the nation. (Unlike national manufacturers like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoor, microbreweries are independently owned and produce less than 15,000 barrels per year.)
As a producer of microbrews, Dock Street Brewery strives to invent creative drafts that will separate themselves from the national market. Dock Street’s brews are hand-drafted in small batches with no filters or pasteurization. Moreover, they strive for unusual flavor combinations with names that echo both popular culture and Philadelphia’s own historical roots. For example, they produce a “Man Full of Trouble Porter” in homage to the only pre-Revolutionary era tavern left standing in Philadelphia. They also gained national press in 2012 for “Walker,” a pale American stout made from cranberries and smoked goat brains as a playful recreation of the zombies in the AMC television show, The Walking Dead.
Ultimately, Certo’s brewery is an important point in the timeline of Philadelphia’s beer industry: home to one of the first taverns in the United States in 1682, the nation’s first lager in the 1840s, over twenty breweries in Brewerytown in the late 19th and early 20th century, and finally, the emergence of the microbrew in 1985. Certo’s mission demonstrates a revival in the food and beer industry and an attempt to create products from local ingredients. Dock Street Brewery is a symbol of the innovation and ingenuity that drives Philadelphia’s vibrant food culture, and will hopefully serve as an important stepping stone for future local businesses that will continue the city’s historic legacy.