Blink and you might miss this brewing upstart hiding out in an industrial area of east Dearborn.
By M.J. GALBRAITH
Tucked away in a light industrial stretch of town is Downey Brewing Company, Dearborn’s latest craft brewery to open to the public.
In a part of town that favors function over form, the brewery’s bright red door is the only thing that stands out among the browns and grey hues of industry. There’s no big sign — nothing to call to attention to it at all, really. Blink and you might miss it.
But beyond the door is a cavernous space, complete with everything you’d expect from a brewery’s tap room: Brewing equipment, a bar, lounge, tables and chairs, and games like cornhole and darts. There’s a cool factor here, a meat-and-potatoes brewery where the beer comes before design, and one that’s maybe a little hard to find.
“I think we’ve got a really interesting feel, being in the location that we are and the building that we’re in. At first I thought that might be kind of a detriment to business, being out of the way, but everyone has the Internet these days,” said Dan Downey, the co-owner tasked with publicity for the brewery. “And people are always in search of beer.”
It has an industrial feel to it, which is something that befits the Downey family. The Downey Brewing Company Tap Room, 13121 Prospect, is located in what used to be “the junk room” for KDG Finishers, a paper die cutting company in the commercial printing industry, still in operation today. Dennis Downey started KDG in the 1980s and his son, Dean Downey, now runs the family business. Dean also runs the brewery with his two sons, Dan and John. The three Downeys, co-owners Dean, Dan, and John, opened the tap room in November 2016.
The Downeys took a DIY approach to starting their brewery, clearing the old equipment and boxes out of their future tap room, building the cooler and bar by hand, and painting the 20 ft. ceilings themselves. A crowdfunding campaign in 2014 helped raise $25,000, which was then used to purchase the commercial brewing equipment. Grandpa Downey was kind enough to lease the space to his son and two grandchildren for a dollar.
Each Downey has his own role in the company. The youngest brother, John, is considered the main brewer, with Dean, the father, contributing a few brews, too. Dad also uses his experience running KDG to handle the day-to-day operations of running a business. The oldest brother, Dan, handles the marketing and publicity side of things. Annette, Dan and John’s mother, helps out around the tap room. And the grandfather, Dennis, comes by from time to time, too.
“My grandfather gets a kick out of it,” Dan said. “He enjoys seeing us start a business because that’s something that he did. He was an entrepreneur. He’s having a lot of fun with it, and kind of advises us some times on different decisions. I think he takes pride in it.”
And then, of course, there’s the beer. There are eight beers on tap, rotating between the classic flagship beers and the more experimental brews. There’s the traditional, like Mr. I.P.A., an American IPA named to honor the recently deceased Mike Ilitch. And then there’s the more creative, like Yin and Yang, the former a more traditional dark stout while the latter an unconventional white stout.
Dan says that going into Downey Brewing Company, so much of the focus was going into beer production that they weren’t initially going to open a tap room. But a law that allows for breweries to self-distribute the first 1,000 gallons they make changed their mind. Now, since opening the tap room last November, 75 percent of their production goes into feeding the tap room. Bigger brewing equipment will have to be ordered soon.
Name and title: Daniel Downey, Chief Marketing Officer
Year Downey Brewing Company opened: Grand Opening was Nov. 5, 2016
One interesting job you had before running Downey Brewing Company: Haha I’ve had quite a few, take your pick: Paper route, Pushing wheel chairs from gate to gate at the airport, sales and marketing intern for Comcast, working the Test Track at Walt Disney World, Real Estate Broker, Bouncer, Marketing Director for KDG, etc.
What is the motto on your family crest and what does it mean to DBC: Lamh Laidir an Uachtar. Which is Gaelic for “strong hand upper most.” To us, that means, Strength from above.
What’s the funnest thing about running a business with your family: I would say coming up with the beer names is probably the funniest part. Sometimes there is a bit of a back and forth discussion on what will be the official name of a new beer.
(This story was reprinted from Metromode Media. It also is available here.)