Brew View Update: Royal Docks Brewing Company

I first met John and Adriana Bikis in January at their home. Sitting across from them in the dining room, we sampled experimental brews, chatted about the region of London that served as the creative catalyst for the brewery and discussed the strategic crossroads in which they found themselves. To be a brewery, or to be a brewpub? That was the question.

I first met John and Adriana Bikis in January. Sitting across from them in their dining room, we sampled experimental brews, chatted about the region of London that served as the creative catalyst for the brewery and discussed the strategic crossroads in which they found themselves. To be a brewery, or to be a brewpub? That was the question.

Fast-forward to September and deliberations have ceased. I find myself again sitting across from the Bikises, along with brewmaster David Sutula, in their newly opened brewpub. It’s been mere weeks since the grand opening that (literally) rocked the entire Nobles Pond Plaza. And while the trio sold an incredible 7,000 pints that first weekend (they had to close unexpectedly the Tuesday after the opening to restock the brewery), traffic shows no signs of slowing down.

“Every day, with just one exception, has been better than expected. Better than we hoped,” said Sutula.

The vision John Bikis described to me earlier this year has come to fruition and then some: On my visit, the large garage door out front has been thrown open to welcome guests into the space. After ordering your beer and food from knowledgeable bar staff, you can select a seat in the dining room or head back out to the cozy patio. Chilly in the crisp fall weather? The staff will bring you a blanket while you snuggle around the fire pit.

But enough about the trimmings; let’s talk about the beer. The best-selling brew is currently the Roundabout (38 IBU, 6.5% ABV), a nice, easy drinking red ale. The ever-popular 67 Alaska and the Docklands Porter have been selling so well that both were out during my visit.

My favorite sample this time was the London Signature, with its delightfully smoky finish, but there were several standouts during my visit (see sidebar). Without a doubt, the most interesting of the tastings was the cask ale, an unfiltered beer without nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure—the way pubs serve it in Great Britain. Royal Docks is the only local brewer where you can get your hands on it. The casks are limited editions of about 60 pints apiece, often a specialty version of a beer in the brewer’s cold taps.

This is a perfect example of my favorite thing about Royal Docks, not just the couple’s spirit of entrepreneurship, but the spirit of experimentation. The brewery’s output is on the smaller side, but that makes them more nimble in their offerings, allowing customers to come to expect—and fall in love with—new brews each visit. And speaking of experimentation, they’ve struck the right balance on the menu. From the Oh My Cod beer-battered fish and chips, and the rich, bleu cheese artisan flatbread, beautifully presented with a side of herbed oil, to a simple bowl of Castelvetrano olives, you’ll keep your stomach from rumbling without competing with beer. But the star of my visit was the Royal scotch egg flatbread: garlic alfredo spread, sausage, boiled eggs and cheese, prepared in such a way that the crust is both crisp and doughy at once.

The menu was inspired by dishes that the Bikises have discovered on their travels, along with input and creative finagling from resident chef Heather Reahm. The couple is quick to say they’re a brewery, not a restaurant, but between the solid lineup of craft brews for every taste and the menu of small plates and shareables, people are talking and the chatter points to success.

When asked about the future, the couple speaks of the debut of their curated selection of craft cocktails and wine, of some additional handcrafted improvements to the spartan but homey space; the brewmaster talks about future brews, including the much buzzed about Yuletide ale and its rum cake vibe, but all in all, they prefer to relish in the right now.

“Success is people looking at this place and knowing that I worked for the last eight months to take it from a gravel-bottom building to a beautiful finished space. Success right now is people coming in again and again, and again and again, to grab a pint,” said John Bikis. “There is something about seeing your dream come true, owning your own business, that makes you so proud.”

7162 Fulton Dr., Jackson Twp.
royaldocksbrewing.com
330-353-9103

ON TAP AT ROYAL DOCKS
Docklands Porter: There’s a reason they were sold out on my last visit. The porter features roasted and chocolate notes and is a favorite of mine to warm up with in this chilly weather.
50 IBU | 7.2% ABV

London Signature: An amber beer made with barley and hops from England, featuring light, toasted malt notes and a Fuggle hop background.
40 IBU | 6% ABV

Equinox Spiced Ale: They high-fire the kettles to caramelize the wort when brewing the pumpkin ale for added sweetness to support the spice. The pumpkins are sourced locally, but the spices—cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg—hail from every corner of the British Empire.
21 IBU | 6.3% ABV