Dirtbag Ales provides community gathering place


Saturday, November 3, 2018

A small but growing community is brewing in a small warehouse in Hope Mills.

Nearly every night of the week, the parking lot of Dirtbag Ales is full with a close-knit group that flocks to the site for yoga classes, home-brewing classes, artist galleries and a relaxing evening for the whole family.

The variety of beer choices is noticeable and delicious. Porters, a Saison/Farmhouse ale, IPA-Belgian, Marzen and the Brown ale made with Wet Hops, WHale. Three staples and then a rotating selection of seasonal selections are on tap, and their colorful names are written in chalk above the bar.

Tito, the brewmaster and mastermind behind Dirtbag Ales, guides a quick tour through his facility. The local community inspires much of what they do. The hops for the WHale were procured by a local farmer. The horticulturalist from the nearby Cape Fear Botanical Garden brought the rosemary to add to Tito’s collection of unique ingredients. Most of his creations came from experiments in his garage and copious amounts of reading.

While serving in the military, Tito and his fellow soldiers, Eric and Batch, brewed new beers in their spare time. After so many people praised the beer, they decided to strike out and start Dirtbag Ales. Tito made the leap. He signed out of the Army on a Friday and was selling his draft beer on Monday.

At first, they contract-brewed out of Railhouse Brewery in Aberdeen. It did not take long for the demand to grow too much for that tentative setup. That is when they found the warehouse behind a mechanic shop and a gas station in Hope Mills.

Using a CEED (Center for Economic, Empowerment and Development) loan from the Fayetteville Economic Development Council, they set up shop. Originally, the taproom was a small affair and the rest of the space was dedicated to the 15-barrel system.

Shortly after word got out, they needed a larger taproom. Knocking down a wall and building a bar opened up the brewing space to patrons. The brewing stops in the early afternoon and the space is re-purposed from brewery to taproom. All the tables and stools are rolled out and the brewing supplies are pushed away.

Amid the tumult of an average night, Tito explains his philosophy: “Starts with an idea of fun flavors and then discover how to make it happen,” he says while delivering a final blow to his opponents.

Tito is a self-professed foodie.

“Make great food, great beer and hang out with the people you love,” he says.