By Bob Townsend
Since opening in 1997, beloved Decatur Square beer mecca Brick Store Pub has spawned two successful sister destinations in the immediate neighborhood, Leon’s Full Service and Kimball House.
But the new venture from partners Dave Blanchard, Mike Gallagher and Tom Moore, Good Word Brewing and Public House in Duluth, is much further removed, both in mileage and concept.
Blanchard, Gallagher and Moore joined two former Brick Store employees, longtime general manager Todd DiMatteo and beer manager Ryan Skinner, to create the brewery restaurant in the new Parson’s Alley Development.
Situated along Duluth’s burgeoning Main Street, the build-out includes a 10-barrel, three-vessel brewing system that was assembled to quickly turn out multiple batches of a wide variety of house-made beer on draft.
Head brewer Kyle Jeppesen relocated from Canada to join the Good Word team. Among the current recipes designed by DiMatteo and Jeppesen, Donna-Maria is a dry, hoppy Belgian-style saison. Rocksteady is a light British-style mild ale. Never Sleep is a tropical-style American IPA. And Canadian-American is an easy-drinking blonde ale.
The design for the restaurant by Atlanta’s Square Feet Studio is focused on an imposing rectangular bar topped with marble and appointed with dark antique brass tap handles. The open space is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling paneled windows and cozy booths and seating niches.
Simply titled “Shared Food,” the varied menu leans toward Southern and Latin influences, including the sous vide tender-meets-crispy Izzy’s Puerto Rican Fried Chicken, and the braised pork-filled Evelyn’s Empanada.
On the more traditional pub grub side, the Americano Hamburgesa is decadently stacked with two beef patties, mustard, American cheese, sauteed onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles and burger sauce, served with fries on the side.
In addition to the rotating house offerings, there are guest taps with local craft beer, a list of wines by the glass or bottle, and signature cocktails such as the Duluth with Rittenhouse Rye, Cynar, Carpano Antica, Dolin dry vermouth, and bitters.
One recent evening at Good Word, all hands were on deck, as Blanchard, Gallagher, DiMatteo and Skinner scurried between tables and popped behind the bar, and Moore peeked out from the door to the kitchen, where he was working the line.
DiMatteo and Skinner said the germ of the idea for collaborating on a bar and restaurant goes back some three years, during the time they were working together at the Brick Store.
“When we were in the office one day,” DiMatteo said, “I asked Ryan, ‘What else do you want to do?’ Ryan said, ‘What do you got in mind?’ And after that, the idea went from a beer bar to a brewpub in about two weeks, I think.”
“Three years ago, the brewery laws were terrible, but with a brewpub, you could have a restaurant and the ability to make different beers all the time,” Skinner said. “So we thought that was the way to go to be more creative. Of course, we’d both been working in restaurants forever. And we already worked in the best beer bar anywhere, so we didn’t want to just mirror that.”
Choosing to locate the business in Duluth, near where Skinner has lived for five years, proved to be a negotiation. But, ultimately, the prospect of being able to build a brewpub from the ground up at a reasonable cost made the decision an easy one.
“It would have been tough to do this inside the Perimeter,” Skinner said. “Building here was great. The city helped us in every way. We had no issues getting permits in a timely fashion.”
“I moved out here about 13 months ago,” DiMatteo said. “It was a leap of faith. But it’s been great, honestly, especially with the city of Duluth. We have a 16-ounce can seamer that we plan on firing up soon. People can take that to go, or they can even take a plastic cup out of here, if they want to, and walk down to the green.”
3085 Main St., Suite 520, Duluth. 404-973-2077, goodwordbrewing.com.
More images from a First Look at Good Word