Most Lehigh students walk out of The Goose with a sandwich. Brandon Smith ’05 walked out inspired.

“Tony [Silvoy] at The Goose was a huge hospitality influence on me,” Smith says, citing the owner and manager of Goosey Gander Deli. He also gained insights from Dick Barrows, former head chef at Bethlehem’s Starfish Brasserie, where Smith worked while he was a student. “I had my first craft beer at Starfish,” he says.

Along with partners Mike Reilly and Scot Kaufman, Smith started Dewey Beer Co., a passion project that has grown to three locations and distribution of their craft beer in six states. Their flagship location in Dewey Beach, Delaware — just 200 steps from the beach — was named the number one brew pub in America by USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Awards in March.

Early Inspiration at Lehigh

Smith followed his older brother, Travis ’02, to Lehigh, where he played soccer. Majoring in political science, he didn’t foresee a future career brewing beer, but he learned lessons that have served him well in business. 

Brandon smiles wearing his soccer uniform while standing next to his brother, Troy, smiling and wearing a Lehigh t shirt.
Travis Smith '02 and Brandon Smith ’05

“Professor Richard Matthews in the political science department was a huge influence. There were absolutely incredible thinkers [on the faculty] that challenged you to think outside what you see in front of you,” Smith recalls. He credits the ability to think about new possibilities as key in helping him to find his own path to success.

As he prepared to graduate, Smith watched classmates don business suits for job interviews while he anticipated a summer lifeguarding at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. There, he met his wife, Holly, started a short-lived coffee business, and managed a farmers’ market. As the craft beer craze took off, he and his partners began home brewing while acquiring valuable experience working at restaurants. Although they never aspired to be restaurateurs, having both brewing and restaurant know-how proved advantageous when opening their brew pub in 2015.

“We just wanted to be a brewery. But the location that we were able to get started in would not allow a standalone brewery. So we became a brew pub, and it’s definitely been a blessing,” Smith says.

In addition to the hop-forward ales and fruited sours on the Dewey Beer menu, visitors can choose classic pub fare with appetizers such as jumbo wings, salads, popular sandwiches like burgers and cheesesteaks, and an array of entrees that include shore favorites like the catch of the day, seafood gumbo, and several Asian fusion entrées.

Spreading Beer Love

Smith, Reilly, and Kaufman brought their brews to a wider audience with the opening of Dewey Beer’s 10,000-square-foot production facility in 2022. Located in Harbeson, Delaware, 12 miles from the original location, the location also features Pizza Machine, where visitors can grab a pie to go with their beer. While the original brew pub serves beer mainstays plus what Smith calls “fun and experimental one-offs” brewed just that season, the production facility focuses on five or six year-round beers with an occasional specialty brew.

Modern pizzeria interior with  large oven labeled "Pizza Machine," a case for hot food on counter, hanging lights, and a clock.

The opening of the distribution facility marked a significant expansion of their business because it allowed sales of Dewey Beer in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, and Washington, D.C.

Each state has its own laws governing beer sales, necessitating legal expertise for each new location. “I was trying to count how many lawyers we had at one point, because you had to have one that was specific to each state,” Smith recalls.

Going West

In January 2024, Dewey Beer went all the way to the Rockies to open a taproom and brewhouse in the River North Arts District in downtown Denver. The opportunity to be in one of the country’s most active beer markets arose when Denver’s Mockery Brewery decided to close in 2023.

“And we do love going to play in Colorado,” Smith says, alluding to the times he’s gone there for outdoor pursuits. His goal is to complete two of the 100-mile ultra marathons annually. He’s run 10 of the races since he started in 2020 — five at the 100-mile distance.

Smith and his two partners started out working every job in the brew pub. They have since transitioned to a more supervisory role — a change that Smith welcomes because the schedule allows him to pick up his daughters, Meryl, 10, and Sunny, 8, from school and to attend their activities. His focus remains on developing new and delicious things to drink while growing the Dewey Beer brand.

A row of four beer taps with one being pulled to fill tall glass with yellow beer.

“We are just three beer guys that love this product and want to be able to share it with old friends and new friends,” Smith says. The result is a menu of popular craft beers, with IPAs like Swishy Pants and Single for the Summer and fruit beers like Strawberry Pretzel Salad and Pineapple Grapefruit Orange Marmalade.

“What I think we do well is our attention to quality and our attention to what modern palates want or are interested in. We generally make a beer that we would want to drink, which was always a guiding star for us,” Smith says. “But we're not afraid to go outside our comfort zone to make something that people tell us they want, and then being able to make that product well. It is what we pride ourselves on.”

Four glasses of beer of different heights and colors ranging from red to yellow.

In This Image: Brews from left to right: Strawberry Pretzel Salad, Swishy Pants, Oktoberfest, Thrills

A cheeseburger with purple onion and lettuce placed next to sweet potato fries on a wooden cutting board.

In This Image: Pizza Machine's House Burger

A hand holding a pizza slicer cuts through a peperoni pizza.

In This Image: Pizza Machine's Planet Pepperoni pizza

A spinach salad with sliced strawberries, tomatoes, and dried cranberries.

In This Image: Pizza Machine's Seasonal House Salad