Dick’s Brewing Co. — the beloved small-scale brewery and taproom in Centralia — bottles more than 20 different beers.
From the flagship brew of Dick’s Danger Ale, to the recent GBFA silver-medal-winning Barley Wine, one man is there every step of the way. Dave Pendleton is not only brewery manager, he’s head brewer. Cleaning, plumbing, labeling, Dave does it all, working up to 12-hour production days.
“It’s very fulfilling work,” Dave says. “I feel fortunate because I get to be so involved with each part of the process.”
Dave began brewing with his dad at age 15 and now finds that it’s his true calling, albeit one that at times is grueling and gritty—a “glorified janitor job” as Dave’s mom likes to call it. But Dave wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve always been passionate about brewing,” he says. “I never get tired of my work.”
Dave finds great joy in creating new beers and brewing old favorites. But a successful brewery owner does more than that, says Dave, who also does back-end work for the brewery, such as tinkering on equipment and sterilizing tanks.
Hired by the late Dick Young (for whom the brewery is named), Dave quickly learned the ropes of the business, including taking care of 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,” there was a lot to learn. But by paying close attention to his mentor, and recognizing the potential in himself, Dave mastered the electrical systems, the plumbing and the how to stack the shipping boxes just right.
Eleven years later, Dave and team are like a well-oiled machine. A tour of the brewery gives clues to some of the innerworkings. Take your eyes off the impressive tanks and you’ll see a table scattered 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.
And it’s not because any equipment is faulty — Dick’s exceeds quality standards. It’s because Dave and his small crew are so hands-on. The place has a well-loved feel, because the brewery is home away from home; Olivia and Norman, their work children.
From the moment brewing starts to the day beers are shipped, Dave has had a hand in production.
He and his assistant brewer work staggered shifts, brewing two batches at a time. Summer finds them in their peek months, where they brew up to 10 batches a week. While creative input and taste tests are perks of the job, Dave assures there is a lot of hard labor involved.
“It can be a miserable place to work,” says Dave (with a smile). “You’re cleaning and you’re constantly wet and dirty.”
However, Dave says he would never deter someone from brewing. Another aspect of Dave’s job is mentoring. He has instructed a variety of folks interested in brewing over the years. Some have what it takes, while others realize it’s not quite what they thought it would be.
“There’s a lot of clockwatching,” Dave confesses. “A lot of times in the brew process you work for 15 to 20 minutes, and then you wait for even longer. 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.
The hard labor is far from glamorous. Dave often comes home with ruined shoes and busted knuckles. On work days, he makes sure to wear his brewer’s uniform —“Carharts, an old sweatshirt and Romeo boots.” Plus, 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. These are the nights Dick’s transforms into a taproom. There, you’ll find Dave and his wife Julie, (who is also the daughter of Dick Young and a sometimes-brewer herself) pouring beers and swapping stories with Lewis County regulars and tourists who follow the tap trail.
“In the end, that’s why it is so fun,” says Dave. “Because we’re involved with great people and we’re involved with great beer.”