Centralia Brewing Legend Passes

Dick Young, founder of Dick’s Brewery in Centralia and one of the pioneers in the world of Pacific Northwest microbrews, died unexpectedly in late October.

I wrote a feature about Dick in 2005 that was published in the Daily News. The story is below. Keep in mind that hours, beers on tap, etc. may have changed since I wrote the article.

Dick was a colorful and creative guy and will be missed. The next time you pour a cold one, have a good thought for him.

Photo credit to Brandon Swanson at the Chronicle.

Dick’s Brewing Company—Welcome to the Danger Zone

If the shoppers in your family suggest a road trip to the Factory Outlet Mall in Centralia, don’t panic. Just climb into the car and play along.

When you get to Centralia, tell the crew you plan to do a little meditating at nearby Fort Borst Park and will rendezvous with them at Vitamin World in a couple of hours. Jettison the shoppers at Farberware and head out Old 99 to Northwest Sausage and Deli, home of Dick’s Brewing Company, where you will find a piece of Beervana owned and operated by Dick Young.

Young, 52, worked as a butcher in the Centralia area before opening his own deli in 1982. During the mid-1980s, he began brewing in the back of the store. The beer was so popular among Young’s friends that he soon found himself exceeding the annual production limit for homebrewers.

In 1994, he went commercial and opened Young’s Brewing Company, which later became Dick’s Brewing Company. The 2,100-square-foot facility is located adjacent to Northwest Sausage and Deli.

“I started with two-three barrel tanks,” Young said. “Once a week, I’d brew six kegs.” Initially, he focused solely on three beers: Pale, Porter, and Dick Danger. The company now produces 18 beers, as well as several seasonals and experimental batches.

In 1995, Young brewed 200 barrels. By 2001, production had soared to 1,000. Young expects to brew 2,500 barrels in 2005. Of the 84 commercial breweries in Washington, Dick’s ranks 10th in production.

“I had no idea it was going to grow into this,” Young said.

He attributes the steady increase in sales to word-of-mouth advertising. “We can’t afford to do a lot of marketing,” he said, “but the message is definitely getting out.” The Centralia-Chehalis area, Olympia, and Seattle soak up most of Young’s sales. However, he is beginning to make inroads in Portland and Southern Oregon as well.

Young has always been drawn to the experimental nature of the brewing process. “It’s a lot like being a cook,” he said. “A big part of brewing is trial and error.” Because all brewers have access to the same ingredients, the end result comes down to the amount and combination of malts and hops used in each batch, boil time, and how long the beer is aged.

“When I started, I did everything,” Young said. “I’m still very hands-on today, but I have some good people who do a lot of the work.” The current staff includes 38-year-old brewmaster Ezra Cox, a former homebrewer whom Young hired during the mid-‘90s.

Young has seen a fall-off in the quality of beers produced by some “craft brewers”— those that started small but now exceed the 15,000-barrel limit for true microbreweries. “Part of it is because they cut back on the ingredients they use,” he said. A sign inside Dick’s Brewing Company, which reads “WWDD—What Would Dick Do?”—reminds employees that Young is insistent about maintaining the quality of his beers.

Despite his fondness for experimentation, Young doesn’t fiddle with tried-and-true recipes. “I haven’t changed Dick Danger since the second batch,” he said.

When Young began brewing strong, flavorful beers during the 1980s, friends would greet his arrival by saying, “Here comes Dangerous Dick with his dangerous beers.” Others began referring to Young as “Dick Danger.” That’s how Young’s flagship beer became known as Dick Danger Ale. That single brew currently accounts for 40 percent of the company’s sales.

In Dick Danger Ale, Young has successfully combined characteristics of both light and dark beers, something that few, if any, Northwest brewers have been able to replicate. “Danger is a mild ale,” Young said, “but it has enough dark malts to give it some real good flavors.”

Dick’s Double Diamond was selected as Grand Champion in the winter ale category at the U.S. Beer Tasting Championship in 2003-2004. Young, who is an avid skier, named the beer for the challenging double-diamond ski runs he encounters at Whistler and Crystal Mountain.

“I called it Double Diamond because it’s for experts,” Young said. Double Diamond is a dark and flavorful, but not overpowering. It has just a hint of sweetness.

Northwest Sausage and Deli typically has a dozen beers on tap. Customers can also purchase a wide range of Dick’s beer in bottles. Most six-packs go for $7.49. However, you can mix and match four six-packs for the case price, which is a bargain at around $26.00.

Dark beer fanatics cannot go wrong with Double Diamond, Lava Rock Porter, Cream Stout, and Imperial Porter, all of which are smooth and tasty. The big, rich Imperial is especially noteworthy.

If stronger beers aren’t your thing, try the Pale or the Dick Danger, both of which are refreshing and mild.

Dick’s also brews three sodas—Root Beer, Champagne Cola, and Orange Soda. They sell for $4.99 a six-pack and $14.99 a case.

In addition to sausage, cheese, and seven kinds of pepperoni, Northwest Sausage and Deli offers a selection of hot and cold sandwiches. Although not listed on the regular menu, an excellent prime rib sandwich is usually available on request. Northwest Sausage and Deli serves dinners on Friday nights and breakfasts all day on Saturdays.

Locally, Dick’s beers are available at the Masthead and Olympic Drug. The Masthead offers Dick Danger Ale on tap. Olympic Drug stocks a full range of Dick’s beers in bottles, including Hefeweizen, Pale Ale, Double Diamond, Irish Ale, Cream Stout, Best Bitter, Silk Lady, IPA, Dick Danger, Rye Ale, Best Bitter, and Barleywine.

If you decide to pay a visit to Northwest Sausage and Deli, be sure to coordinate your trip with Dick’s hours. Otherwise, you might end up spending the day perusing the merchandise at Cowtown or Country Clutter.

The Vitals

Directions: Traveling north on I-5, take Exit 82 (Harrison Avenue). Go left on Harrison and pass under the freeway. After proceeding west through three lights, Harrison bends north and eventually becomes Old 99. Approximately 3.5 miles from Exit 82, turn left on Prather Road. A sign on the left reads, “Northwest Sausage & Deli/Dick’s Brewing Company.” The address is 5945 Prather Road.

Hours:

  •  9:30-5:00 Monday through Thursday
  • 9:30-9:00 Friday
  • 9:30-3:00 Saturday
  •  Closed Sunday

Phone: (800) 586-7760
Web site: www.dicksbeer.com

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