Dew Point, the new neighborhood breweryJun 21, 2016 10:25AM ● By J. Chambless
The team at the Dew Point Brewing Company, from left: Fran Hoffman, Alexa Hoffman, Nick Matarese, John Hoffman, Georgiana Hoffman and Cody Hoffman. (Photo by Jie Deng)
By Richard L. Gaw
The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium,
located on Senate Street in South Carolina, boasts that it has more
than 200 beers from around the world on its menu, and has become a
required visit for those who are drawn to such names as Blanche De
Bruyelles, Hummingbird Water, Left Hand Hard Wired, and something
called Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar.
For many years, it has been a favorite haunt for students at the University of South Carolina, and when Alexa Hoffman of Hockessin was a student there from 2005 to 2009, she and her college friends would occasionally stop by the Flying Saucer for pint nights. Her father John, she thought, would love this place, given that he was already well ahead of the curve on the whole home brewing fad, messing around the kitchen stove attempting to perfect a batch or two. After all, he was a chemist, so he loved the art of creating variations on the theme, and sometimes, his teenage son Cody would peek over his father's shoulder, admiring what was happening.
On Christmas morning in 2008, Alexa received a home brewing kit as a gift, and within weeks, what was originally her gift became a shared one. At the age of 16, under the supervision of his father, Cody prepared his first batch of beer with the kit, and that was all he needed to chart the course of his life. By the time he graduated from high school two years later, he began a pursuit that has become his passion, and one that will soon be shared by the entire Hoffman family: the Dew Point Brewing Company, located in the historic Garrett Snuff Mill in Yorklyn, which is scheduled to open in the middle of July.
Before all of this begins; before the doors of the area's newest brewery and tasting room swing open to welcome the entire community; before anyone gets to enjoy the Belgian-inspired beers that Cody will bring to everyone's taste buds, it is important to understand how this family business went from mere kitchen experimentation to a full-fledged reality.
It began with the 18-year-old Cody Hoffman, unable to climb to the next rung of his dream, and finally, through the assistance of someone who believed in him, getting there.
"I called about 20 different breweries all over Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, and I never heard anything back," he said. "Finally, Brendan Anderson from Triumph Brewing in New Hope, called me back, and gave me the chance to learn how to brew beer."
Cody spent the next eight months in New Hope, working side-by-side with Anderson, soaking up everything he possibly could. For the first few months, he labored in the less-desirable aspects of brewing, but he realized that in order to be able to become what he wished to be, it was crucial that he know every stage of the business, from the artistry of brewing to pushing a mop around.
"I went from stove top cooking to going right into the professional aspect of brewing," he said. "I spent the first three months scrubbing floors, but anyone who wants to learn to brew beer needs to first do the dirty work. It was very intense in the beginning, but if you want to learn how to be a brewer, you first need to learn that cleanliness is next to Godliness."
His next stop was at the Twin lakes Brewing Company in Greenville, and then to brewing school in England, located about 20 miles south of New Castle, where he spent the next eight months. When he got back from England six months later, John sat down with Cody.
"I told Cody that if he ever wanted to open up his own brewery, let's talk," John said. "A lot of breweries were beginning to pop up in our area, and I thought it would be a great family business."
His son said 'Yes.'
In October 2013, after more than a year of searching for the right location for the brewery and tasting room, John came across a dilapidated building in the Garrett Snuff Mill complex, built in 1901, that served as the repair shop for the mill. With all of its old wood and brick and rustic feel, this is where a brewery and tasting room should be, he thought. He peered into the windows of the vacant building. He began to envision the lower floor as where Cody would be; where the brewing tanks would be positioned, and where his son could be in his own element.
"I obviously saw Cody as the brew master, but I looked at the skill set of everyone else in the family, and I thought we had everyone we needed," he said.
Here was the roster John envisioned: His wife Georgiana, a controller for a non-profit organization, would handle the business side of the operation. Alexa, a Philadelphia resident, would become the brewery's special events coordinator. His nephew Nick Matarese, the owner of The Barn Collective, a marketing firm in Wilmington, would be able to brand and promote the business. His brother Fran, a custom carpenter and the project manager for Delaware Mill Work in Middletown, would take the rusty bones of this unused building and bring it back to life.
Together with contractors, Fran went about the work with the intention of preserving as much of the historical building as possible. He restored the original door. He remade the tabletops and bar top in the tasting room out of reclaimed mahogany. He constructed the face of the bar with reclaimed pine. He kept the building's original ceiling beams while accenting the tasting room with soft lighting.
"Everything, from the reclaimed wood, the restoration of the original structure, and all the way down to the type font for our graphic identity, was done with the goal of matching the look of the brewery and tasting room to the space itself," Nick said. "We wanted to make it feel as if this brewery has been sitting here for one hundred years. This building is part of this area's history, and in no way were we going to diminish that. We wanted to bring a sense of that history to this brewery."
The name "Dew Point" was one of more than one hundred potential names for the company, but the winning one came to Cody when he was waiting out a rainstorm in the home garage of a friend in Delaware.
"I pulled a can of beer out of the refrigerator in the garage, and instantly, drops of water began dripping off of it," Cody said. "I thought, 'That's the dew point,' and I thought that would be a great name for a brewery."
When the Dew Point Brewing Company officially opens it doors for the first time, visitors to the tasting room will have an opportunity to taste five beers, either through purchasing growlers, or visiting the second-floor tasting room. Eventually, Cody envisions being able to create as many as ten -- all inspired by his appreciation for Belgian-style brewing.
"Making beer is all about science and art, and Germans know the science about beer, and Belgians know the art about making beer," he said. "The way Germans approach making beer is that everything has to be according to spec, on the exact time frame, whereas, for Belgian beer makers, it's more of a wine-making approach."
To accompany the brewery, a constantly-changing fraternity of local food trucks will provide a constant menu of items. The timing of their opening could not have been more perfectly placed; Dew Point will join the nearby Kennett Brewing Company, the Victory Brewing restaurant and the Creamery in Kennett Square -- as well as the newly opened Two Stones Pub in Hockessin -- as the newest installments of what has become a local craft brewing phenomenon.
"We're trying to make the brewery both a place to come by and take home a growler, and a bar area where you can buy a pint and hang out with us for awhile," Nick said. "We know that we're sitting on a place that's unique, with roots in the historical fabric of this area, and we're trying to turn it into a destination point, for not only beer aficionados, but their families as well."
"We are looking to be known as a neighborhood brewery," John said. "That's exactly what we want to be, and that's fine with us."
The Dew Point Brewing Company is located on 2878 Creek Road in Yorklyn, in the Garrett Snuff Mill complex. Visit them on Facebook at "Dew Point Brewing Co.," and at www.DewPointBrewing.com.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw,
e-mail [email protected].