When Tucson locals and University of Arizona graduates Eric Sipe and Eric Rosas were searching for a name for their brewery, it was a historic criminal with ties to Tucson that would lend a hand… or name.
Dillinger Brewing Company is scheduled to open December 30 at 3895 N. Oracle Rd.
But first, if you don’t already know the story, a most brief history lesson:
After robbing numerous Midwestern banks throughout 1933, John Dillinger and his gang were looking for a place to hide to escape mounting police pressure. The perceived anonymity and mild winters lured the group of seven to Tucson in late January 1934.
Three members of Dillinger’s gang had rented a house at 927 N. Second Avenue. The house wasn’t ready to occupy so they stayed at the nearby Hotel Congress. In the early morning hours of January 23, the hotel caught fire and all occupants were evacuated, including the gang members. The trio were desperate to have their luggage retrieved and paid two Tucson firemen a hefty amount to retrieve their bulky luggage from their room, which – unbeknownst to them – was full of weapons and stolen money from past bank robberies. The next morning, one of the firemen noticed a picture from True Detective magazine as the same two men. He immediately notified the Tucson Police Department and the next day the gang members were arrested at the rental house.
Sipe and Rosas met while attending the University of Arizona seeking business degrees but both had a passion for brewing beer and had hooked up with UA graduates and local brewers Mike Mallozzi and Myles Stone at Borderlands Brewing Company. The two let Mallozzi and Stone know that they were looking to open up a brewery and wanted to learn more about the business including the brewing process as well as tending bar and facility upkeep.
“There were actually three Erics that interned at the same time,” said Mallozzi. “Sipe had an ambitious spirit, was full of energy, and a curious soul. I couldn’t be more pleased to have other colleagues of that caliber,” said Mallozzi.
Once the two graduated from the Eller School of Management, they pursued careers in the business field but eventually returned to the brewery idea and put out a national ad for a head brewer, which they found in John Ritter.
Ritter, a commercial brewer for 30 years, who had received numerous medals from the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup as well as many other regional awards, is entrenched in the craft beer world. He’s a consultant for 13 different breweries and is a certified beer judge, including at this year’s festival in Denver where he was on the panel judging the doppelbock and kolsch styles.
Ritter has worked for Bridgeport and Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Ore., Pinnacle Peak Patio Steakhouse and Microbrewery in Scottsdale, and as a sales rep for Nimbus Brewery Co.
Ritter had previously lived in Tucson and received an engineering degree from the University of Arizona before his foray into home-brewing.
Over the past year, Sipe and Rosas have worked long and tireless hours to get the spot available for thirsty Tucson patrons. Located at 3895 N. Oracle on the back side of a strip mall that houses a pawn shop, tropical fish and camera repair shop.
With its shady back alley location, the brewery is sure to be an oasis for those looking to duck in incognito, almost like Dillinger himself.
The grand opening celebration begins Friday, December 30 at 2:00 pm and goes to midnight. The brewery will re-open at 11:00 am the next day with a party into the new year, staying open until 1:00 am on January 1.
Sri Lankan fusion truck The Curry Pot will be on hand to feed thirsty party-goers.
Available beer at the grand opening includes:
- Wild Wild West Coast IPA – A citrusy, tropical and strong west coast style IPA.
- Lock Down Brown Ale – A german style Alt (old) brown. Brewed to style.
- Roadrunner Red: A hoppy, bold, copper colored red ale
- Desert Wheat – A clean, unfiltered wheat ale using local wheat grown in Marana.
- Seduced by Serrano – A Hatch green chile and Serrano pepper infused wheat ale
The interior of the building has an intentional minimalist ambience.
“Essentially, it’s a factory,” said Sipe. “I want people to understand and appreciate the entire process of how the beer is being made. I want people to know they are in a brewery, that beer is coming 30 feet from the tanks straight to their mouths.”
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The facility seats around 50 patrons at both the bar and at tables.
With so many new breweries opening up across the country, Sipe and Dillinger Brewing are looking to ride the wave of popularity for all it’s worth.
Since 2012, the Brewers Association has seen an increase from 2,456 craft breweries to the highest-ever number of 4, 269. According to the Brewers Association, Arizona currently ranks 18th with 78 craft breweries and 1.6 breweries per every 100,000 adults over 21 years of age.
When asked if the brewery opening has anything to do with Hotel Congress’s upcoming “Dillinger Days,” Sipe could not confirm nor deny any involvement.
“Well, I’ll be damned.”