“You have found a place with a total commitment to craft beer.” — Chris Dilla, Owner and Founder of Bocktown
This quote should sound like heaven to craft beer lovers, as places who refuse to compromise when it comes to their selection and feature only the best from craft breweries are few and far between. Most locales are the exact opposite, reserving a small amount of taps for craft selections while featuring the common, domestic fizzy beers. But at Bocktown, craft beer drinkers from novice to experienced can feel right at home.
Bocktown in Robinson, PA opened in December 2006 and was founded by Chris Dilla, a woman whose vision was to fulfill what she viewed as an unmet demand in our community.
“I was the same as many people when I opened Bocktown,” Dilla explained. “I was trying to find something new and interesting in craft beer and food. That’s how Bocktown was born.”
Bocktown has 16 rotating drafts to choose from, as well as over 400 bottle choices in their Beer Library. They offer complimentary beer samplings weekly and have scheduled beer debut dates called ‘Beeried Treasures.’ These debuting options make Bocktown a destination on Thursdays, with anticipation running high for what’s coming out of the tap next. Also, their food menu sports a wide variety of unique options, as well as Bocktown’s spin on your favorites, with the majority of produce and meats coming from local farms and meateries.
Also popular at Bocktown is ‘Brewser’ the Infuser! Every Thursday, Brewser is called upon to amplify the many beers on tap with a special one-of-a-kind twist. Brewser’s list of infusion ingredients include bacon, pickle, cucumber, orange peel, and more.
One of the best elements you’ll find here is the “come as you are” attitude shared by everyone you’ll encounter. The common stigma of “beer snobbery” is nowhere to be found within these walls, as waiters, waitresses, and bartenders are well-educated on craft beer and able to help you make the best selection based on your tastes.
“We don’t ask our customers to have an encyclopedia of beer knowledge when they come to see us,” Dilla said. “Our staff is willing to let you tastes beers and discover what you like, then check with you to see if their recommendation was to your liking. It’s not about how beer is made, but more about connecting with the customer and describing the flavors they will taste.”
Easing into drinking craft beer full time demands a certain amount of education. It’s important to put yourself in an environment that allows you to enjoy what you’re drinking. At Bocktown, you’re not going to find something from the ‘big guys’ on tap because the idea is to keep the spotlight on the independent breweries with up-and-coming, unique offerings. Bars like Bocktown are proving you can survive and thrive by featuring beverages that challenge you, the consumer, to take a chance on something different.
“It isn’t just about the beer,” Dilla said. “It’s about trust and relationships. We are doing the work for our customers and isolating the choices down to 16 options from what’s hot, what’s regional, what’s timely and what’s worthwhile. We do the research for you, which allows you to continue to come in and receive beer education week after week.”
Establishments that were willing to buck the odds years back when craft beer was still staking its claim in Pittsburgh are enjoying the benefits of that gamble today. Just shy of five years after opening Bocktown in Robinson, Dilla saw an opportunity close to her home in Beaver County and ran with it. In search of a new challenge, she opened Bocktown Monaca in September 2011, a new location with the same feel, attitude, philosophy and devotion to craft beer, as well as the same focus on utilizing regional meats and produce.
“When we opened in Monaca, I saw money leaving Beaver County,” Dilla explained. “I petitioned the county representatives to allow me to open this establishment and give people a reason to stay closer to home. From this, Bocktown became the poster child for dining and keeping money in Beaver County.”
Bocktown’s path to success exemplifies the belief that craft beer can be your main focus AND help you maintain popularity at the same time. By employing the right people, developing a comfortable, welcoming environment, and making all patrons feel welcome, you establish a certain level of trust and brand loyalty that keeps people coming back for more.
What does the future hold for Bocktown? According to Dilla, she’d like to have five Bocktowns one day, all in suburbia, so more people can have access to better beer and better food. The idea of opening a brewery has also crossed her mind. Above all, she wants to see Bocktown continue to grow based on the reason it was founded.
“I don’t want this place to be just about me,” Dilla said. “I want it to be about the beer, the staff, and the place itself. I still see myself as the customer and the consumer. No one is coming here just to see me. Bocktown has to live on its own to grow.”
With the craft beer scene growing, establishments like Bocktown stand out as pioneers in our city. This is the kind of place a craft beer drinker can kick back, enjoy some hoppy goodness, and take sanctity in the fact their tastes and expectations will be met by each member of the staff. If your ventures haven’t yet led to Bocktown, you need to travel down that path immediately.