Friendship results in new Downingtown micro-brewery

Dylan Meanix  and Kevin McGovern are opening East Branch Brewing Co. on the site of the old Minquas Fire stationn, 202 E. Lancaster Ave. Downingtown.
Dylan Meanix and Kevin McGovern are opening East Branch Brewing Co. on the site of the old Minquas Fire stationn, 202 E. Lancaster Ave. Downingtown. PETE BANNAN - DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA
Kevin McGovern and Dylan Meanix are opening East Branch Brewing Co. at the site of the old Minquas Fire station, 202 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown. They expect to be open by the end of the summer.
Kevin McGovern and Dylan Meanix are opening East Branch Brewing Co. at the site of the old Minquas Fire station, 202 E. Lancaster Ave., Downingtown. They expect to be open by the end of the summer. PETE BANNAN - DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

DOWNINGTOWN >> Two friends meet in school and dream of one day starting their own brewery.

They work for years for others but always keep in the back of their minds the childhood dream.

Finally, they decide the time to act is now, so they look around for a place to start their own microbrewery and choose Downingtown.

Sound familiar?

No, it’s not Victory Brewing, which was started in 1996 by longtime friends Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski.

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This time, the dream-becoming-reality is the work of Dylan Meanix and Kevin McGovern, who are starting East Branch Brewing Co. in a portion of the former Minquas Fire Co./Molly Maguire’s building in the 200 block of East Lancaster Avenue.

“Everything about this project has fallen into place perfectly,” Meanix said. “The stars have aligned – the timing, the location, our previous employment ... We were ready to do something.

“This was a pipe dream when we were 21,” Meanix said.

Now 38, McGovern and Meanix met the first day they started at Downingtown Senior High School – when there was only one – and became fast friends.

After school, McGovern became a mechanic working at a Downingtown shop while Meanix started his own landscaping company.

For the last 10 years, McGovern has worked at Victory Brewing, leaving his position as a senior brewer recently to start East Branch (named for the East Branch of the Brandywine River, the source of Downingtown’s water).

Meanix, meanwhile, ran his own landscaping business, which he recently sold to his brother to focus on the new business.

“We’re really looking forward to it, although we’re not going to see our families as much, starting a business almost in our 40s,” Meanix said.

Workers from McGettigan LLC of Downingtown were on hand last week outfitting the brewery with large stainless steel vats for the brewing process.

After the brewing process, the liquid is referred to as “wort,” and is cooled and transferred into vessels called fermenters, where yeast is added and the fermentation process takes place, McGovern explained.

“We currently have four of these vessels, two that can be filled with one batch each, and two that can accommodate two batches each,” the brewer said. “After the fermentation is complete, the beer can be transferred to vessels known as ‘bright tanks,’ where it is carbonated and awaits either kegging, or being served directly to the taps from the tanks.”

East Branch is leasing the back of the first floor of the former Molly Maguire’s, which closed in November 2014 after a brief time in business.

The borough is pleased to see the building being used again, said Steven J. Plaugher, Downingtown’s Main Street Manager.

“We are very excited to have East Branch Brewing Company opening in a portion of the former Molly Maguire’s building,” Plaugher said. “The property has been vacant for quite some time, so this should be a nice boost for the east end of town. Sean McGettigan and his family who purchased the property, also own Station Taproom. They are truly invested in our community and share our vision for a revitalized and vibrant business district.”

The partners hope to open in the late summer, selling pints, growlers and crowlers - large cans. There is a small area for a tasting room and they plan to have food trucks on hand at first to provide food. They also hope visitors will be able to sip their brews on an outside patio near the front of the building.

In about a year, the partners said, they plan to open a casual dining restaurant with an emphasis on barbecue on the second floor of the building and have rooftop seating.

McGovern and Meanix are aware they are entering a crowded field but said they’ve received encouragement from other microbrewers in the area to pursue their dream.

“There are so many variables when you’re making beer,” Meanix said. “We’re all on the same team. Lots of brewers have helped us. Victory’s been great.”

“Every body wants to make good beer, so everybody wins,” McGovern added.

They plan to open with some standard micro-brewery styles such as pale ales, IPAs, saisons, kolsch and add in lagers and pilsners as the operation gets running. McGovern is also a fan of lower alcohol content English style Milds and Bitters.

“We’ll have something for everyone,” he said.

– To contact Business Editor Brian McCullough, call 610-235-2655 or send an email to bmccullough@dailylocal.com