Grand opening ahead for downtown Tacoma’s Dunagan Brewing Co.

When Dunagan Brewing Co. opens later this year, it will join a crowded downtown Tacoma brewery scene that includes Harmon Brewing Co., Pacific Brewing & Malting Co., Wingman Brewers, Tacoma Brewing Co., and Odd Otter Brewing Company.

But owner Jesse Dunagan is undaunted by the competition.

“I am impressed by the talent of all the brewers here in Tacoma,” said Dunagan. “One beauty about the craft brewing industry is there is a lot of camaraderie.”

In May, the Tacoma Daily Index was first to report Dunagan Brewing Co. planned to move into 1126 Commerce St., which is located near the Link light rail station at South 11th Street, and steps away from the South 12th Street hill climb that connects Pacific Avenue and Broadway (see “Dunagan Brewing Co. to open in downtown Tacoma,” Tacoma Daily Index, May 27, 2015; and “Tacoma Daily Index Top Stories — May 2015,” Tacoma Daily Index, June 1, 2015). The storefront was previously occupied by Shanghai House, a Chinese restaurant, and Tacoma Cross, a medicinal marijuana shop.

Dunagan, 33, grew up in Tacoma and recently left the tech sector to start his eponymous brewery. He just completed a six-month renovation of the 2,200-square-foot space, which has seating for 35 people, and a production room with five fermenters. Earlier this week, Dunagan offered the Tacoma Daily Index a sneak peek inside Dunagan Brewing Co. While he and his friends-turned-brewers—Jon Russell and Nick Wheeler—began to prepare a dark and aromatic Irish Stout, Dunagan discussed his new business venture.

Jesse Dunagan (right) and Jon Russell prepare an Irish stout at Dunagan Brewing Co. in downtown Tacoma. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

Jesse Dunagan (right) and Jon Russell prepare an Irish stout at Dunagan Brewing Co. in downtown Tacoma. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

“There’s a lot of support here. What better place than Tacoma?”

I was born in Portland, but I grew up [in Tacoma]. I learned to sail right down on Thea Foss Waterway. I used to teach sailing and volunteered a lot around here. I moved away—down to California, up to Canada for a little bit—and then I moved back to Tacoma. I came from the tech industry. I did research and development for graphics on cell phones and video games. I kind of wanted to come back home and start the [brewery]. There’s lots of support here. A lot of old friends. What better place than Tacoma?

“I’ll always be learning.”

[Making beer] is a skill that you learn and always improve on. I’ll always be learning. I made my first batch of beer on my own at home. Like a lot of hobbyists, they are curious, they get their beer kits, they go home, and they make their five gallons. They put it in a Cornelius keg and call all their friends over. But with every batch you get better. It just stayed with me and the curiosity was always there. That was probably about seven years ago when I made my first batch. I don’t know how many batches I’ve done since then. Too many to count.

“We have an American pale ale, but we have made it our own—an Irish American pale ale.”

I am impressed by the talent of all the brewers here in Tacoma. The plan here is to make quality craft beer and maybe push the envelope a little bit in our own way. We’ve got a couple different [beers] in the fermenter now. We’re making a red lager. We’re going to put that on nitrogen when we’re done. We’re going to put some clover honey into it in a couple days. That’s going to be delicious. We have an American pale ale, but we have made it our own. So I guess you can call it an Irish American pale ale. We’re making a really amazing dry stout that is going to have a lot of character. A couple of the beers we’ve yet to settle on. We’re definitely going to have a hoppy IPA. We don’t have a lot of capacity, so we’re only going to have five beers to start, and then we’ll expand after that. I have some more fermenters coming from Germany. Right now, they’re on a boat somewhere, sailing on the ocean.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

We gutted the whole facility and put in new infrastructure. [I plan to open the] first or second week in November. As soon as I have a little bit more confidence in where things are, I’ll put a date out there for everybody. Everything else is ready to go. It’s real important for me to have the best beer I can for people when they come in. If it’s not, I can’t serve it.

We’re right downtown and amongst all the other breweries. If people want to walk down to Odd Otter or Harmon, we’re right in the middle. We’re right on the trolley line, and not too far from the water. We’re kind of in an historic area of downtown. It’s kind of cool. We’ll get a brewery tour going where people can hop on the trolley and hit up all the brewery stops along the way.

We’re going to have music and a lot of more traditional Irish foods, but do a little bit of an updated version. Irish sambas. Small bites. We’re going to have tasting platters that go along with the beer and bring out some of the flavors. And we’ll talk about the histories of the beers and the craft itself. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Dunagan Brewing Co. is expected to open in downtown Tacoma later this year. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

Dunagan Brewing Co. is expected to open in downtown Tacoma later this year. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several books. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.