Delaware brewery takes over space once occupied by the Little Brown Jug

Old Dog Alehouse & Brewery opened last November in Delaware. It's owned by a collective that includes Steve and Tanja Hughes (head brewer and restaurant manager, respectively); Joe and Jessica Spann (general managers); Braden Henderson (executive chef); Shawn Walker (who helped with the restaurant build-out); and Neal and Kathy Kruse.

The brewery and taproom inhabits a building dating back to the late 1800s; for decades it was the Little Brown Jug Restaurant, a staple of Delaware's dining scene. A couple of other concepts cycled through the space before the Old Dog Alehouse crew purchased it.

Steve Hughes began as a casual homebrewer years ago, pre-dating current trends in brewing. “I started out … in my basement,” he said. “We didn't have a lot of money, we liked beer and so we made beer. We didn't know what an IPA was back then. We knew it as a hoppy beer. We put in more hops than a man could stand. And we had a ball doing it.”

Hughes and his wife, Tanja, considered starting a brewery when they connected with Jessica Spann, whose family was interested in opening a restaurant. “A couple of weeks after that discussion,” Steve Hughes said, “we signed the papers and started Old Dog Alehouse & Brewery.”

The name comes from the owners' love of dogs. “The real owners are Louie, Layla, Blue and Anna,” Hughes joked. “They are the dogs that make up Old Dog, with Layla being the inspiration for our logo. Our signature beer is our hop-forward pale ale, Louie's Paw. The name is inspired by my wife's dog, Louie.”

Much of the build-out was completed by the owners and their families. Their goal is to promote craft in everything they do, from the kitchen and the beer to supporting other breweries.

Hughes said the brewpub has been well received in Delaware. “We want to be part of the community,” he said. “That was so important to what we want to do — to be charitable and support the community. That's why we're in this, not to be the next Boston Beer Company. Just like in ‘Cheers,' we want a place that you want to be, to make good friends and hang out.”