For 22 years, an old building on Rehoboth Avenue has been at the center of what has evolved into the craft beer movement in the United States.
Once home to The Crab Pot, The Sandbar and later Dorian’s and The Ruffled Duck, the building at 320 Rehoboth Ave. is the place where Dogfish Head would get its start and then grow from a crude, two-keg brewing system to one of the leading independent craft brewers in the country.
On Nov. 6, the building began to come down as Dogfish transforms the space into a courtyard, merchandise store and brewhouse that will tie into the new brewpub, which opened in May.
As bystanders photographed the final moments of the old building, Dogfish Vice President Mariah Calagione said the teardown of the old facility was not a sad occasion, but a moment of excitement for the company’s future.
“To me, it’s not a sad day. The night of the closing party, when there were people in there, that was the coolest ending we could have had. This is exciting more than it is sad,” she said.
Taking the place of the old brewpub will be a new merchandise stand in front; in back will be a five-barrel brewing system and distillery that connects to the brewpub. The courtyard will have about 40 seats, General Manager Ryan Schwamberger said, which is about the same as the old brewpub’s patio. Calagione said the plan is to open the new courtyard in late spring, if the weather cooperates.
“It’s exciting,” Schwamberger said. “We’ve been in a construction phase for a few years now. It’s really exciting to see it coming together and finishing up.”
He said the new brewhouse and distillery will have glass windows so guests can look inside to see the brewing process. Schwamberger said the courtyard will connect both the brewpub and Chesapeake and Maine restaurant next door, which has an unused side door built in anticipation of tying it to the courtyard.
Schwamberger has seen the old brewpub deteriorate, whether it was failing electric, plumbing or the HVAC system, but he understands the nostalgia of the place and what it still means to people as the old building finally comes down.
“I’ve seen the guts of the building. I’ve seen how desperately it needs attention. But, so much happened in that building. If walls could talk, right?” he said.