Stories

The Artistry of Beer Making

Posted by: Mellany Artmstrong

“Making great beer, to me, is like making great art,” said Rosemarie Certo ’78, owner of Dock Street Brewing Company in Philadelphia.

Certo, who once developed photos as a freelance corporate industrial photographer after earning her degree from Moore, now develops ales, porters and IPAs in the brew pub at 50th and Baltimore streets.

“As a photographer, I would always set up the people and the environment and move people around,” said Certo. “What do I want to say with this photograph? It’s the same process that we do when we’re creating a beer. What kind of beer do I want? Do I want a hoppy beer? A malty beer?”

DEVELOPING HER SKILLS

Certo came to Moore after earning a literature degree from Penn State and working as a teacher for a couple of years.

“I was trying to figure out how to make a living,” she said. “I decided teaching was not for me.”

She found Moore to be a supportive environment where she could grow as a person and an artist.

“The student body was very intelligent,” she said. “We were just talking philosophy all the time, the philosophy of what we were trying to make. I think that that also played a major part for what I would later use to structure a beer.”

Certo, who immigrated to the United States from Sicily when she was 10, came from an entrepreneurial family who made olive oil and wine.

“I wouldn’t get out of the vat where we were stomping grapes,” she recalled.

USING HER HANDS AND TASTE BUDS

After graduation, she built her successful photography business and enjoyed homebrewing with her second husband in their house at 26th and Parrish streets in Philadelphia. Friends helped them taste-test (“Some of it was really horrible, rot-gut stuff”) and encouraged the couple to start a beer company. Dock Street was born in 1985. Certo gave up the photography business.

Dock Street was one of the first post-prohibition craft breweries in the country, according to its website, and Philadelphia’s first all-grain brew pub. Certo has been sole owner since 2002, having bought the company back after it was sold in 2000. It’s one of the few women-owned breweries in the U.S.

There is an art to crafting something others will enjoy, she said.

“It is a creativity, and it’s like, and when you taste it and you try to analyze every single aspect from body to color to, you’re basically trying to create a perfect beer,” she said. “Whether it’s a perfect photograph, a perfect beer, a perfect painting, a perfect paragraph, it’s all about the same thing. It’s about trying to make something, to structure it so that the perfection is there.”

She credits Moore with making her a strong, confident, sophisticated and well-rounded person.

“I loved being at Moore College of Art,” she said. “It’s one of the most meaningful development of my character and age. It was just a wonderful time.”

Read more about Certo’s new endeavor, The Cannery, here.