H e who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
So reads a quote by Saint Francis of Assisi, painted above the tiny brewhouse of Dunedin's newest brewery, Woodwright Brewing Company.
A bold statement for a brewery that only officially opened over Memorial Day weekend — it's been in a soft opening phase since March — it's one that's hard to challenge after visiting and learning a bit about the place.
Before Woodwright opened, it was the showroom for the Dunedin Woodwright, a custom woodworking shop owned by Grant and Eunice Painter that's been in business for over 20 years. Prior to that, the building was a workshop for Clark Mills, a renowned boat designer and builder.
The Dunedin Woodwright still operates next door, but the showroom is now a small, two-barrel brewery and tasting room, located right in the middle of what was recently a brewery triangle: Dunedin Brewery, 7venth Sun Brewing and HoB Brewing.
The scent of fresh-cut wood is strong from half a block down the road, giving visitors a taste of what to expect inside the quirky, weathered two-story building. There are picnic tables outside on a shell-covered lot, blocked off from the road to create a de facto courtyard, and a giant saw blade at the end with the Dunedin Woodwright emblazoned in red paint.
At the entrance, there's a wide, heavy wooden door with an iron hammer for a handle and the business name above in ornate, colorful stained glass. From the worn building, to the car-free lot, to the big wooden door with stained glass, the place feels like it comes from a different era. It doesn't feel like a brand new brewery; it feels older and more traditional.
Inside, much of the furnishing is made in house, save for the chairs and extremely cool wooden hop cone lampshades above the bar. The bartop is a solid slab of wood, with the bark of the tree still present on the side, and the tables upstairs in the loft — which is decorated with old boat plans and an inverted sailboat hanging from the angled ceiling — are thick cross-sections of a tree trunk. The tap handles are chisels embedded in wood blocks, and the large bookshelves behind the bar were made on-site. Even the pencils that you use to write down your flight selections are carpenter pencils.
The rustic, traditional motif is applied with such consistency, it's no surprise that the beers fit right into it. Brewmaster Eunice Painter trained under Greg Rapp of Rapp Brewing, a Seminole brewery specializing in authentic European styles. Her interpretations of various traditional European styles are on-point and remarkably nuanced. You won't find anything off the wall on tap — just classics like a golden ale, hefeweizen, English pale, amber ale and so on.
The thing I appreciate the most about Woodwright's beers is their subtlety. The IPA, for example, drinks shockingly mild, with light citrus notes that only develop into a noticeable bitterness in the finish. This is unlike any other IPA I've tried in the bay area. The German altbier is malty and rich up front, but with a clean, refreshing finish. Even the bolder entries into the lineup — a Belgian strong and an imperial stout — are substantial and rich without turning cloying or boozy.
The well-balanced beers of Woodwright have a finely-honed quality that is very rarely found in new breweries, much less one that's been open for just a few months. The simplicity of the beers and fine attention to detail are complementary to the expertly crafted wooden furniture and fixtures made next door and used in the tasting room — and vice versa.
Although it's small, Dunedin has a strong brewing scene, with Dunedin, 7venth Sun and HoB representing a wide range of styles and influences. It seems odd that a brewery specializing in what can only be described as "ordinary" styles would stand out as a unique presence here, but Woodwright most certainly does. With its straightforward yet deceptively-nuanced beers, there's no question that Woodwright has plenty to bring to the table — even the table itself.
— [email protected] | @WordsWithJG