“I should start a brewery.” – Every beer drinker ever, probably.
It’s not uncommon for avid beer fans to tinker with home brewing and dream of having their own taprooms, but Tim Schwarzauer and Billy Gagon of Carrboro, NC have done so with a pretty big twist: The pair is setting out to produce beer as a means to provide grants to local animal rescue organizations. Their aptly named Dingo Dog Brewing Company is on track to become the state’s first nonprofit production brewery and provide grants to area partner rescue organizations.
Unlike most breweries which start with a love of beer first, Dingo Dog originated from Tim and Billy’s shared love of animals and one of the worst disasters in US history. Almost a decade ago, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the gulf coast, killing almost 2,000 people and displacing millions. As floodwaters receded, volunteers and support poured in from around the country, including then 16-year-old Tim and his family who joined national animal rescue groups to bring strays and abandoned pets to a temporary shelter in Jackson, MS. It was there that months and hundreds of rescues later, they founded the Animal Rescue Fund of MS, a nonprofit and no-kill animal sanctuary, to continue the effort as national groups began to leave.
The experience of rescuing animals and building such a shelter stuck with Tim, now 26, through college and afterward when he moved to Carrboro, NC. He quickly grew attached to the area and its growing craft brew culture, eventually teaching himself how to home brew beer out of his apartment. When he met Billy, now 24, through mutual friends a few years ago, he introduced him to the hobby. Billy picked it up quickly and the two have since continued honing their craft.
It didn’t take long for them to figure out a way to use their love of brewing to help local animal rescue organizations and formed Dingo Dog Brewing Company, LLC in October of 2014, its name and logo in honor of Tim’s 16-year-old mix Dingo. But they’ve got a long way to go before they can produce and sell their products. They’ve applied for 501c-3 nonprofit status and are waiting for approval, meanwhile searching the downtown Carrboro area for a rental space to house production facilities, a taproom and dog-friendly patio. Once their nonprofit application is approved and they can lease a location, they must get building plans authorized before outfitting the space to fit their needs. They hope to complete most of the construction work with the help of volunteers in exchange for brewing education, and even once that step is completed, they’ll need to pass zoning, building and fire marshall inspections before they can apply for state licensure. When the state approves their license, they’ll officially be able to sell Dingo Dog beverages. Though the process is laden with hoops, Tim and Billy are hopeful is can all be completed within this year.
Once its are fully up and running, Dingo Dog will provide grants to local animal welfare groups approved by a board of directors to fund specific projects and needs. Organizations can also apply to be a part of an advisory committee which will have no voting rights, but Dingo Dog will support fundraisers for them either through privately hosted events on site or by donating beer to the organizations’ own events.
Even though they can’t get yet support rescue organizations financially, they’ve already formed close ties with two organizations, supporting them instead with dedicated volunteer time. Tim spends several weekends building fences and pens for the Coalition to Unchain Dogs to improve the welfare of dogs left tethered to chains outdoors and also fosters pets in his own home. They have also connected with the Goathouse Refuge in Pittsboro, a nonprofit, no-kill animal sanctuary providing cage-free care for cats. Both organizations have already signed on as Dingo Dog partners, and another is in consideration.
So while they continue volunteering and navigating a long bureaucratic checklist of forms, fees and red tape, they’re home brewing and bottling micro batches of year-round and seasonal beers and ciders named after beloved pets, like Buster Brown Ale and Susie’s Seasonal Cranberry-Apple Cider, to enjoy themselves or share with friends. They also continue to experiment with off-the-wall creations using inspiration from local farmers market finds, seasonal food and fruits, other brewers’ beers, and their own personal cravings, getting locally as many ingredients as possible.
Travel Well met with Tim and Billy as they started a new brew to get the feel of their brewing process and experimental natures. Using fabricated equipment from what they could find at hardware stores, like 5-gallon drink coolers and turkey fryers, and the pre industrial-era method of using gravity to move ingredients through the process, they began a batch of blueberry amber ale on Billy’s balcony with Dingo, Susie and two curious cats watching close by.
Starting with a malt base and its inherent flavors, “we look at it and go ‘how can we completely mess this up?'” Tim said of their test creations. Before the blueberry ale, Tim was making a hefeweizen with tangelo peels and juice, coriander and cardamom. On his idea list is a stout that uses breakfast cereals, a holiday beer using spruce, and another using anchovies and guajillo peppers. “I like to come up with bizarre combinations, then tell [Billy] and see how he reacts,” Tim said. Billy, now Dingo Dog’s head brewer, has no intention of trying the anchovy concoction. His creative ideas follow a simpler philosophy: “I make what I want to drink at the time,” he said. In the summer he made lighter beers, like a peach white, and in the winter he went darker with a porter and stout, like Maggie’s Chocolate Milk Stout.
While we chatted over Dingo Dog and their methods, Allen tried a Maggie and enjoyed its flavors and creamy texture. He previewed others at home, also enjoying the toasty Buster Brown, crisp and refreshing ciders, and the “manly” malty Winter Ale.
Because their batch sizes are so small, they’re not afraid to try daring ideas because they don’t lose much if they don’t work out. Depending on the beer, each batch costs between $30 and $70 to make and yields around 50 bottles. They plan to keep their production brewery small as well at five barrels only to allow for the same flexibility. “We want to stay smaller just so we can do a lot more… to play around and create funky things,” Tim said.
Small and funky they will be, a perfect fit for Carrboro and a great spot for a pint for locals, visitors and furry companions alike.
To watch Dingo Dog grow and find a home in Carrboro, follow along their story here as we’ll be catching up with them at each major milestone in the journey to becoming a brewery. You can also find them on Facebook to learn how you can support them and their partner organizations before they open.
If you’re traveling outside of the Triangle area, many states have nonprofit breweries and brewpubs dedicated to a variety of charitable missions. TW encourages you to seek these businesses out so you can fill a need for yourself and others by enjoying a craft brew.