From Dad Vail Pale Ale to ‘The Dime,’ Double Nickel Takes First Steps as a Brewpub


The Pennsauken taproom spent the past year fitting out a kitchen space built around a dome oven and a fresh pizza menu, while continuing partnerships like its beers for the Camden County parks system.

By Matt Skoufalos | May 8, 2024

Dylan Sweeney (left) and Dylan Sambalino at ‘The Dime’ at Double Nickel. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Informally, it’s known as “The Dime,” the logical nickname for Double Nickel Brewing Company to give an eat-in kitchen more than a year in development at its Pennsauken headquarters.

But as the brewery approaches its ninth year in business, and starts the clock on its first year as a brewpub, the latest evolution of its design reflects, in some ways, the various changes the New Jersey craft beer industry has undergone in that time.

From its beginnings as a production brewery in a former fitness center, Double Nickel has grown into a destination space for private parties, live entertainment, outdoor gathering, and special events.

Improvements have come slowly over the years, from the garage doors, branded grain silo, and tritone paint job, to the mezzanine lounge, back patio, and game-room back warehouse, which hosts a weekly cornhole league and includes amusements from console gaming to shuffleboard.

Many of the things that made the brewery a gathering place — food trucks in the parking lot, collaborative fundraisers for pet adoptions and other charities, local musicians performing live — were curtailed by special ruling of the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) as the state craft beer and restaurant industries embarked on a bitter turf war.

Shutdowns and capacity gathering limits under the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced further creative responses, like erecting a pallet-wood fence with string lights and beach grass landscaping to activate the onsite outdoor space.

Double Nickel Brew Pub in Pennsauken. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Finally, its transition from Double Nickel Brewing Company to Double Nickel Brewpub enables the business to retain its canned and kegged distribution relationships while facilitating food service, an expanded beverage menu, and operational possibilities that did not exist in its prior regulatory framework.

“This allows us to offer more to our guests, and offer a better experience,” Double Nickel Cofounder and Head of Sales Brian Needham said.

“A lot of brewpubs are kind of a restaurant that happens to make beer,” Needham said. “We want to be a brewery that happens to have some food available to you.

“We can now have some non-beer options — a small list of nice wines, and a small list of cocktails that we can keep tight, and change seasonally — and we will phase that in over time,” he said.

Chefs Dylan Sambalino and Dylan Sweeney, who are overseeing the kitchen at The Dime, are starting with a small menu built around a hybrid Neapolitan-style pizza, stretched in gourmet directions. On a 24-to-48-hour proof, the dough holds its shape with the slightest crack upon folding after coming out of a Fiero Forni Pavesi Joy wood-burning oven at 700 degrees.

“In the Jersey area, they’re very much used to their deck-oven pizzas,” Sweeney said. “We’ve had to work the dough as we’ve bulked it up, and it’s become our own.”

Pizzas are built around Grande mozzarella and Locatelli Pecorino Romano, Jersey Fresh tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Toppings include mushrooms, garlic crema, pepperoni, mild Italian sausage, and house-made, chili-infused honey.

Some of the dough is intentionally over-proven, and becomes garlic knots, soaked with parmesan and olive oil, or the house-made hot honey. The menu also includes snacks, like marinated olives and lemon-pepper-dusted mixed nuts.

Clockwise, from left: ‘The Dime’ pizzas, garlic knots, mixed nuts, and cured olives. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“As time goes on, the menu will expand,” Sweeney said. “And as we go, we can get weirder and weirder. We haven’t even turned the fryers on.”

For the two friends, whose culinary experience includes fine dining environments on two coasts, the opportunity to be working side by side in their own endeavor is a delight. But more than that, they’re optimistic that the business itself is powered by the right people.

“From the brewers, to the front of the house, to Brian, everyone wants to see the place succeed,” Sweeney said. “It’s not just a job. There’s a lot of passion in the room. It’s a good time.”

“A lot of breweries sell a lot of really good beer and get their hearts broken because people leave to get food, or because they can’t sell food, or they see people leave because they don’t want to only drink beer,” Sambalino said.

“We want to make the atmosphere better without changing the vibe of the building,” he said. “We have the ability to take it further than just pizza because we have the experience to take it further than pizza.”

Camden County Commissioner Melinda Kane and Brian Needham of Double Nickel. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

On Wednesday, Camden County Commissioner Melinda Kane stopped into Double Nickel to preview its latest beer: Dad Vail Pale Ale, a 5.8-percent, easy-drinking summer beer that will debut for guests at the regatta this weekend.

Double Nickel is also partnering with the county to provide a custom brew, Camden County Rocks, that will be available for sale at its summer concert series.

Last year, its Cooper River 100 brew celebrated the centennial anniversary of the county parks systems.

Collaborations like these, and the ease with which Double Nickel can facilitate them, aren’t just good marketing for its brand, but also help the county to showcase small businesses as a component of recreation and tourism.

Visitors coming to the Dad Vail, or to a show in the county park system, might be inclined to venture into the surrounding communities to get a taste of local culture, even if it’s only advertised on the side of a can, Kane said.

“The economic effect [of the Dad Vail regatta] is enormous, but the effect of the parks system being such a vibrant park of Camden County is enormous,” the commissioner said.

“To see what we have to offer, what’s it’s like to live here — hotels, restaurants, other shopping venues — people who go to support the participants support what’s happening in their own backyards.”

Camden County Communications Director Dan Keashen described Double Nickel as “a tremendous community partner,” from its participation in local events, to its charitable fundraising efforts, to helping create a regional destination for visitors from both sides of the Delaware.

“They’ve always answered the bell,” Keashen said. “They’ve been amenable to every idea we’ve ever had, and they’ve worked with us across the board. When we talk about corporate generosity, they walk the walk, and don’t just talk the talk.

Camden County Commissioner Jeff Nash tours Double Nickel Beer Co. in 2023. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“On top of that, they’ve been committed to also being that third place,” he said.

“They’re community-minded, not just from a production point of view, but from a site point of view,” Keashen said.

“Brian and his team have opened their space up for just about anything.

“They’ve just been a real model of a small-to-mid-range business that is committed to the space they operate in and the people they serve,” he said.

As much as Double Nickel may continue to evolve as a brewpub and community destination, Needham said it’s important to the business founders that it retains a lot of its original identity as a welcoming environment for guests of all kinds. Even as it adds the elements of a restaurant, it will work to retain its feel as a brewery.

“This current project with the kitchen, we don’t want the vibe of the brewery to change,” he said. “We think that’s one of the things people love about coming here. It’s laid-back and very family-friendly.

“So far, it’s been nothing but good feedback,” Needham said; “people who are happy to finally have a beer and some food.”

Double Nickel Brewpub plans to celebrate its food service component with a grand opening in early June. Follow the business for details.

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