Brick Works Brewing and Eats was only just founded in 2016, but in the two years it’s been open, the brewpub has made a name for itself for its locally sourced, made-on-site food and beer.
Already the brewpub has plans for expansion. A second location is set to open in the fall, in a new development called Taormina Square in Long Neck, DE.
Brick Works was founded by Eric Williams and Ryan Maloney of Mispillion River Brewing, which opened in Milford in 2013, and Kevin Reading of Abbott’s Grill, also in Milford. Brick Works Head Brewer Justin Colatrella began his career five years ago at Fordham & Dominion, before he went to train at Mispillion and eventually ended up at the Smyrna brewery.
About the brews: Room to experiment
Because Brick Works is equal parts food and brews, Colatrella was tasked with producing beers to complement the menu. He quickly learned to adapt his style of brewing to what guests who are pairing their beers with food are looking for.
“While people want really face-smashing beers on the production side, at a brewpub they’re looking for something that’s not going to overwhelm their palettes,” said Brick Works Marketing Director Lauren Bigelow. “Because they’re eating something with it, and because a lot of people are coming in here for business meetings, they want lower alcohol.”
Luckily, working at a brewpub rather than a production brewery has allowed Colatrella to produce lagers, which production breweries tend to shy away from because they take longer to ferment, slowing the tanks’ turnover time and lessening the amount of beer produced overall. With the freedom to take his time in the tanks, he’s able to brew maibocks, pilsners and generally experiment with all kinds of beer styles.
So far, the experimentation has paid off. Colatrella just recently took home a bronze medal in the U.S. Beer Open’s tea category for “Total Tea-Call,” a green and black tea-infused pale ale brewed with lemondrop, loral and pacifica hops. (Unfortunately the last keg of Total Tea-Call kicked the Sunday after the award was announced, so only a handful of Brick Works patrons will ever know the taste of the award-winning tea beer.)
“I was excited,” Colatrella said. “It was a new category at the U.S. Beer Open, and I just happened to have a beer that fit it, so I was like alright, I’ll go for it.”
Colatrella often gets his inspiration from sitting at the Brick Works bar chatting with bartenders, and by talking to people out in the field when his newest beer is released on the third Thursday of every month. On those busier nights, he’ll help barback while garnering feedback and reactions from guests, and that’s how he decides if he’ll ever brew it again.
“I’m like a lot of people — you don’t feel like what you do is perfect, you always find that one thing you can do to make it better,” he said. “I’m always striving for that one thing to make things better.”
The latest third Thursday release was You Like Mongo?, a mango mojito blonde ale that plays off the mango Mai Tai cocktail. The inspiration for that beer came, he said, when he was ordering a drink for a friend at a cruise ship bar.
“I go to the bartender and ask him if I can get a mango Mai Tai, and the bartender goes, “Oh… You like mongo?” And he points at me and says that, and then he starts making it, the shaker in his hand, just staring me down: “You like mongo?” as he nods his head. And I’m just like, “…Why?”
Making the leap from Kent County to Sussex
Colatrella is currently training a new brewer in the Smyrna location, and plans on bouncing back and forth between Smyrna and Long Neck when the new location is open. His ultimate goal, he says, is to run the Long Neck brewpub.
“I think a lot of the creativity and everything I’ve put into this place will help transition [there],” he said.
There will be a crossover in the beers that are on tap at the two locations, Bigelow said, but the brewers at the two locations will each be doing their own thing, too.
“We’re starting to see what has worked for us and what may not have,” Bigelow said. “It all goes back to just playing with style and it’s something we like doing to keep it fresh. And that’s why people come back, we always have something new to try.”
Brick Works Brewing and Eats Long Neck location is slated to open in the fall.