Last week, I told you about Puyallup River Brewing, a brand-new bottler that just delivered its first shipment to local Tacoma Boys stores. Another Puyallup brewery seeing success is Duo Brewing, the project of Dan O’Leary, who has found success beyond his expectations with stocking his beer at bars like The Red Hot, HG Bistro and Engine House No. 9.
O’Leary sums up his success in one sentence: “We simply cannot keep up with demand.”
I was curious about Duo, so I sent questions to O’Leary by email. Here’s what he had to say.
To find out more about Duo Brewing, visit their website at duobrewing.com
TNT Diner: Tell readers about the history of your brewery. How long has the idea been brewing? How long did it take to open?
O’Leary: My wife (Heather) and I discovered craft beer when we lived in the Portland, OR area about 9 years ago. We moved from Portland to Minnesota to be closer to family. Upon arriving in Minnesota we quickly discovered there were hardly any craft breweries in the state at all. Having never brewed a batch of beer in my life I began talking to people about opening a brewery. This was about 7 years ago. A lot of ideas for names were thrown around, but the simplicity of DUO Brewing seemed to stick. We worked for nearly three years on the business plan, brewing tasty beers of course, and looking for financing. For a production brewery we estimated we would need around $350,000. After talking to five banks and fifteen investors we managed to raise zero dollars toward our goal. We shut down the idea for a brewery and moved to the Seattle area because of my job.
The idea for a brewery was put to bed for not quite a year after moving to Puyallup. But it wasn’t something we were ready to let go of, and we had learned so much from our mistakes in Minnesota. The biggest mistake was trying to start too big with too little money. That is what led us to opening a nano brewery in our detached garage. It was something we could afford (sort of) and would give us a chance to learn the business at a size we can manage, with hopefully slow but steady growth.
When the decision was made to try and start DUO Brewing again, it took us just over 1 year to become fully licensed. Though all told, it took 7 years to achieve our goal.
TNT DINER: How would you describe your brewing style?
O’Leary: I would describe my brewing style as malt focused. I once had an interesting conversation with a fellow brewer at a Tacoma pub. We were discussing styles of beer and how there are some brewers that focus on brewing very hoppy beers like pale ales and IPAs. While others enjoy working with beers that highlight the characteristics of yeast, such as hefeweizens and Belgian style ales. Then there are the beers where the merits of the malt are accentuated. Beers like amber ales, porters and stouts really come to mind here. While hefeweizen I think is a great balance of malt and yeast.
Heather, while not a brewer herself, loves craft beer and keeps the company moving in the right direction. Heather will often give me advice on how to make a beer better, what it lacks or what its strong points are. My brewing is better because of her feedback. Heather also keeps the company on the right track and reels in my unrealistic goals. About one year ago Heather began eating gluten free as a health choice. I began working on a gluten free beer recipe and right now we are quite happy with the progress of that beer. The FDA governs gluten free beer, and we are just beginning the process to get ours certified.
TNT DINER: You’re located in Puyallup? Is there a specific reason for that? Did you intentionally start brewing there?
O’Leary: We bought our house in Puyallup because we liked the area. We are located right downtown Puyallup and there are a lot of great little pubs and restaurants within walking distance. You may see me walking to various pubs with a small box under one arm as I carry beer samples to local establishments.
TNT DINER: How big is your brew operation? Are you a nano brewery? What’s your approximate annual keg production?
O’Leary: We are a nano brewery, brewing 10 gallons at a time and located literally in our backyard detached garage. Currently we have three fermentors to accommodate our various beer styles and each batch is brewed twice to fill each fermentor. Annual keg production is a bit hard to judge right now since we are still getting ramped up. I still have a day job, and balancing brewing and work may sometimes hinder the volume of beer we can get out the door.
The intention of DUO Brewing is to grow! While it may be slow at first, we intend a steady expansion over the years and hopefully soon the brew house will outgrow the space of our backyard garage.
TNT DINER: What do you mean by your motto, “Beer for your alter ego.” Please explain!
O’Leary: My “day job” is a fairly specialized occupation, and has nothing at all to do with brewing. On a drive to work one morning the thought popped into my head that it’s my alter ego that is so passionate about beer and brewing. I think a lot of people can identify with the thought of an alter ego, or being a different person in different surroundings. So beer for your alter ego it is. It’s also handy that it plays off of the DUO theme of pairs, like our beer names; Twin Ports Porter, Earth & Wind American Wheat, and Duplicity Amber Ale.
TNT DINER: Where can readers find your beers? Do you only serve on tap, or do you sell bottles, too?
O’Leary: As of this writing our beers are only available on tap. However we are working toward bottling some of our beer for wider distribution. (This) summer we are hoping to sell 22 oz bottles at a local farmers market. We recently applied for label approval for our Twin Ports Porter. Plans are in the works for a gluten free beer which will only be available in bottles to eliminate the possibility of gluten in tap lines getting into the beer.
An up-to-date list of where you can find our beer is maintained on our website: www.duobrewing.com