–by Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog–
At the old Herbfarm in Fall City, a bearded man made his way through the crowd, moving from group to group, person to person. He was loud, gregarious, barrel-chested and strong, and he was always smiling. He walked up to me and slapped a sticker on my T-shirt and said, “You haven’t tried my beer yet. What’s wrong with you? Get over there and try some.”
It was 1994, the beer was Dick Danger Ale, brewed in Centralia by Dick’s Brewing Company, and that man was Dick Young. The sticker on my T-shirt said, “Dick’s Beer Test Dummy.” I immediately liked him and the beer. Dick Danger Ale and those stickers were a big hit at the beer festival that year, not only because it was new, but because Dick’s enthusiasm was infectious.
The passing of Dick Young in 2009 was a devastating blow for the local craft beer community. At age 56, Dick was going strong and seemed to have many years ahead of him when a sudden aortic aneurysm took his life. This is not a memorial for Dick Young. Instead, it is a profile of the brewery that bears his name, which is now in the care of his daughter Julie Young McGregor.
To understand the spirit of the beer, you must know a few things about the man behind the beer. Dick was a man’s man: a boater, a butcher, a smoker-of-meats. He was adventurous: a Harley rider, a scuba diver, and avid ski junkie. His nickname was Dick Danger. So get it straight: the beer is Dick Danger Ale. Not “Dick’s danger.”
Dick’s Brewing Company is located in Centralia, WA. The brewery on Galvin Road is open for tastings on Friday’s from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. Across town, along old Highway 99, you can stop by Northwest Sausage and Deli, which offers much more accessible operating hours. Along with tasty deli food and meats, you can sample the full complement of Dick’s beers. They sell beer to go, including growlers. Northwest Sausage and Deli is where it all began and is still owned and operated by the family. As I said, Dick was a smoker-of-meats. He built the original brewery next to his smokehouse.
The brewery originally opened as part of Northwest Sausage and Deli. Dick started homebrewing in 1984 and soon-there-after began selling homebrew supplies out of a backroom at the deli. He made beer in his spare time. Legend has it that Dick might have even offered to pour you a pint of his beer back in those days. Fast-forward to the early 1990s and Dick decided to make it legal and get a license to brew. By 1994, Dick was pouring his adventure-inspired beers at beer festivals and bars around the area.
Eventually the brewing business outgrew the meat business and Dick’s Brewing Company moved to a new location across town. The brewing and packaging facility is likely larger than you are imagining. One of just a surprisingly small handful of Washington breweries that packages its product in 12 ounce bottles, Dick’s is available at grocery stores across Western Washington. Around Seattle, it is a bit rare to find it on draft, so consider it a treat when you do.
While Dick’s Pale Ale, Dick’s IPA, and Dick Danger Ale are the beers you will most commonly find on the shelf, keep an eye out for Dick’s Grand Cru, Dick’s Double Diamond Winter Ale, and other less-common offerings. They’re all good.
In the wake of Dick’s untimely death, it was a tumultuous ride at first. Nobody was sure how things would shake out. Today, Julie Young McGregor and Head Brewer David Pendleton are committed to forging ahead and making Dick proud. They know Dick left some big shoes to fill. They know that it will take a lot of effort to match his passion and enthusiasm. The grieving is over and now Dick’s Brewing Company is moving forward full stream ahead–fearless, no holds barred–just the way Dick would have wanted it.
Dick’s Brewing Company
3516 Galvin Rd.
Centralia, WA 98531
Northwest Sausage and Deli
5945 Prather Road Southwest
Centralia, WA 98531