Beer brought Eric Sipe beautiful things.
It brought him love. He and his girlfriend fell for each other among the coriander and citrus notes of Deschutes Brewery’s Chainbreaker White IPA. He recalls that moment and the beer they were drinking with all the fervor of a romantic poet.
Beer would go on to play a leading role in many moments the 26-year-old Tucsonan recalls fondly, whether it was celebrating successes or making new friends over a quiet pint or two.
It’s a faith in fermented beverages that borders on obsession, one that eventually grew beyond the boundaries of his personal life and into a new craft brewery opening this fall on Tucson’s north side.
Dillinger Brewing Company will pour its first pint this October at 3895 N. Oracle Road, about a mile down the road from the Tucson Mall.
Sipe spent a year revamping the building and raising the ceiling to make way for the towering stainless-steel tanks required to make high-quality suds. He also knocked out a few walls to make way for a tasting room and storage areas for grain, hops and other supplies.
The backbone of the brewery is brew master John Ritter, whose resume includes gigs at Tucson’s Nimbus Brewing Company and Scottsdale’s Pinnacle Peak Patio Steakhouse and Microbrewery. He also worked at nationally renowned Portland brewery Widmer Brothers, among others.
“He’s everything you could want. He’s like a renaissance painter, but his craft is beer,” said Sipe.
“He knows it on such a deep personal level, it’s incredible. He’s got multiple gold medals from the Great American Beer Festival, so he’s got the pedigree, and he’s just a great all around good person,” said Sipe.
Sipe and his business partner, Eric Rosas, haven’t settled on which beers they’ll start with, but they’ll focus on standard German and American beers that are recognized and respected by the beer community at large.
“There are a lot of very talented breweries that are making very difficult styles,” said Sipe. “I’m coming in hoping to be the old grandfather who is doing things the way they’re done traditionally. We’re going to start with doing what we know how to do, and doing it well, before we get experimental.”
Patrons can expect nutty English brown ales, German Kölsch-style brews and a handful of other European and American craft beers.
Dillinger Brewing Company will eventually be able to offer more than a dozen brews on tap, but initially it will start with four or five.
But it’s not all one long happy hour when you’re getting into the brewing industry.
The owners have certainly done their homework, testing the water supply, installing sophisticated brewing gear and spending long hours ensuring the state-of-the-art facility will operate at peak performance.
They’ve also navigated the complicated and arduous local and federal permitting proccesses required to legally produce craft beer to industry standards.
On the business side, the brewery’s founders have degrees from the UA’s Eller College of Management. They also have a great deal of experience working in corporate beer sales and at local breweries, both behind the bar and on the product line.
Once things are running at full speed, the brewery will be able to produce about 3,000 kegs a year, allowing them to distribute to pubs, restaurants and other businesses.
When designing the brewery and taproom, Sipe and Rosas took a bare-bones approach that highlights the brewing process.
“Essentially, it’s a factory. I want people to understand and appreciate the entire process of how the beer is being made,” said Sipe. “I wanted people to know they are in a brewery, that beer is coming 30 feet from the tanks straight to their mouths.”
The taproom will seat about 50 people and feature both bar seating and tables that can accommodate larger parties.
Dillinger Brewing Company enters the brewing scene at an exciting time. In 2015, Arizona had 78 craft breweries and ranked 18th in the country as far as breweries per capita, according to The Brewers Association, a non-profit organization that promotes domestic craft brewing.
Tucson has played no small part in that progress. In the not-too-distant past few breweries called this city home, but an array of breweries ranging in styles and sizes are rapidly creating a scene that many beer buffs never thought possible.
The growth of the craft brewing industry is one reason Sipe gives for opening the brewery, but he’s also excited about joining a community of brewing enthusiasts who are welcoming him into their world.
“People get excited about beer,” says Sipe. “Everybody loves beer. When I first posted my number I got calls from other people in the industry wishing me luck, bars, restaurants, all contacting me to say they’re excited I’m coming to town. It’s a welcoming and happy industry to be a part of.”