By Ariel Yong
Although the brewery won’t be open for a couple of months, Shawn Phillips has had the name picked out for a long time.
“Whenever my wife and I were having children way back in the day, she would name the girls and I would name the boys. And we never had any boys. But I always had a first name and a middle name for my firstborn son which would have been Spencer Devon. So it’s our third child.”
Phillips, a retired marine who lives with his wife in Fredericksburg, a city he fell in love with after he was stationed there, will open Spencer Devon Brewing this October.
For the past five years, Phillips has been investor in Fredericksburg’s Blue and Gray Brewing Company, where he also managed the brewery’s station at local beer festivals and, a handful of times, assisted the brewmaster in producing beer. With his own home brewing, coupled with experience at Blue and Gray, the North Carolina native is in the process of designing Spencer Devon, with an “industrial-meets-natural” theme. The brewhouse is encased in glass so customers can see the brewing process from “anywhere [they] sit in the restaurant.”
“We’re putting the brewery right in the center of the restaurant,” says Phillips. “So we’re going to be a brewery that happens to have a full kitchen as well.” Running the kitchen is Justin Cunningham, the current owner and chef of Fizzlebottoms. Cunningham will close his Fredericksburg lunch counter by the end of September to start full-time for Spencer Devon’s October opening. Cunningham plans a small, contemporary American menu—”it’s not burgers and fries,” he says—which he hopes to change monthly. His focus will be featuring dishes that reflect America as a melting pot.
The brewery will offer four staples, including a milk stout and an IPA and some of the hops will be sourced from local farmer Hunter Mitchell who’s growing Cascade and Galena plants. Phillips is currently interviewing a brewmaster and says CEO and executive brewer Bill Madden at Mad Fox Brewery in Falls Church has been instrumental in counseling him on what he should look for in a head brewer. One of the premiere brewers in the area, Madden also advises Antonio Maradiaga, who is opening Twinpanzee Brewing Company at the end of this year. Madden also talked to Phillips about the business of brewing. “Whatever questions I have, he answers,” Phillips says.
Phillips wants to donate a percentage of its profits to veteran charities, such as Wounded Warriors. The former marine is still researching other charities and says the intent is to give back to the community. / Opening in October 2014: Spencer Devon Brewing, 106 George Street in Fredericksburg