Beyond the Beer: The Inside Life of a Brewmaster                      

Dick's Brewing Company
Dave and Julie Pendelton celebrate a win for their Barley Wine - a testament to the couple's hard work at the brewery. Photo credit: Dick's Brewing

From the flagship brew in Dick Danger Ale, to the recent GBFA silver-medal winning Barley Wine, Dick’s Brewing Co., a small-scale brewery and taproom in Centralia, bottles more than 20 different beers.

And one man is there every step of the way.

Meet Dave Pendleton, head brewer and brewery manager. Brewing, cleaning, plumbing, labeling, Dave does it all, working up to 12 hour days in production.

“I feel fortunate because I get to be so involved with each part of the process. It’s very fulfilling work,” Dave says.

Dick's Brewing Company
What does it take to brew Dick’s beer? Science, time, and cleaning. A lot of cleaning. Photo credit: Dick’s Brewing

What started out as a hobby with his dad at the age of 15 has turned into a true labor of love, one that at times is grueling and gritty—a ‘glorified janitor job’ as Dave’s mom likes to call it. But Dave wouldn’t trade brewing for the world.

“I never get tired of my work,” says Dave. “I’ve always been passionate about brewing.”

As much as he loves creating new beers and brewing old favorites, Dave also tends to the back-end work of the brewery, such as tinkering on equipment, or sterilizing tanks—an essential part of being a successful brewery owner, says Dave.

Hired by Dick’s founder, the late Dick Young in 2006, Dave quickly learned the nuances of the brewery equipment, from the fermenting tanks (which each have their own name, such as Olivia and Norman), to the bottle line, which looks like it came straight from Laverne & Shirley. Dick taught Dave about the electricity, plumbing, and how to stack the shipping boxes just so.

A tour of the brewery gives a nod to some of the inner-workings. If you can take your eyes off the impressive tanks, you’ll see a table strewn with tools and supplies. Discarded coffee mugs rest near the latest project, and used towels indicate a clean-up. In some places, it almost has the feel of an auto shop.

Dick's Brewing Company
Dick’s Brewing head brewer Dave Pendelton caps every beer by hand. He also does the plumbing, electrical, and cleaning. Photo credit: Dick’s Brewing

And it’s not because any equipment is faulty – Dick’s operates in tip-top shape, and has a strong reputation for quality. It’s because Dave and his small crew are so hands-on. The brewery is home away from home; Olivia and Norman, their work children.

From the day brewing starts, to the moment it’s shipped, Dave has had a hand in production. He and assistant brewer Brandon Bock work staggered shifts, brewing two batches at a time, up to 10 a week in the summer. And while the creative process and taste tests are a huge part of the job, Dave assures there is a lot of grunt work involved.

“It can be a miserable place to work,” Dave says with a smile, “you’re constantly wet and dirty and you’re constantly cleaning.”

But, he adds, he would never turn anyone away from brewing. In fact, he has mentored a variety of people interested in brewing. Some have the chops, while others realize it’s not quite what they thought it would be.

Dick's Brewing Company
The tinker table at Dick’s Brewing holds many items to help the brew house run smooth. Brewer Dave takes care of most of the work needed to keep equipment running and beer flowing.
Photo credit: Nikki McCoy

“A lot of times, in the brew process, you work for 15-20 minutes, and then you wait for even longer,” explains Dave. “For instance, it can take 20 minutes to mash, then it needs to sit for an hour, so you get your tank cleaned, sterilized and ready. There’s a lot of clock watching.”

Dave gets busted knuckles and ruined shoes, and makes sure to wear his brewer’s uniform —“Carharts, an old sweatshirt, and Romeo boots, ” he laughs.

There’s no installed heating in the warehouse and winter work days get cold.

Come Friday and Saturday nights though, the space heaters come on, and the beers get passed around. Dick’s transforms into a taproom and Dave and his wife (and sometimes-brewer) Julie, the daughter of Dick Young, pour beers and swap stories with the small-knit community of regulars and tourists following the tap trail.

“In the end, that’s why it is so fun,” says Dave. “Because we’re involved with people and we’re involved with beer.”

Visit Dick’s Brewing Company at 3516 Galvin Road in Centralia.  The tasting room is open 3:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays with free tours at 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.  Call 360-736-1603 with any questions.

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