Featured in Foothill Magazine

Sit, stay and drink at Dueling Dogs Brewing Co.

By: Tessa Marguerite, Reporter/Page Designer
-A +A

After years of preparation and groundwork, the dogs are finally ready to duel.

Dueling Dogs Brewing Company is Lincoln’s newest brewery, meadery, cidery and farm stand, owned and operated by longtime Lincoln residents Earl and Adriana Stephens. Earl grew up in Placer County and attended Glen Edwards Middle School, Lincoln High and Sierra College before continuing his education in Southern California. He returned to Lincoln as an engineer. Earl’s wife, Adriana, grew up in San Jose and moved to Placer County several years ago.

Before their son Matteo was born, the couple decided they wanted to raise him in an agricultural environment. “I realized that you cannot make enough money off most 10-acre plots to do anything with and I had to figure out how to do it,” said Earl.

The solution came in the form of mandarins and hops.

So in addition to being an engineer, farmer and father, Earl added the title “brew master” to his name when he decided to build his own brewery from the ground up. Adriana became head of business operations and mead maiden with a baby on her hip. Matteo is now 4 years old and already boasting to his friends about “his” brewery.

“It’s been a true family adventure,” said Earl, who designed, engineered and built almost everything on the property. Adriana’s brother-in-law does all of the graphic design, and Earl’s daughter does the web development for their website. The “dungeon,” where all the beer and mead is made and stored, was built partially underground to keep it cooler inside which will reduce energy cost and use.

Earl uses a seven-barrel system to brew the beer and keeps batches of mead and braggots in small, 30-gallon barrels. Each brew calls for approximately 700 to 1,200 pounds of grain to create the unique, locally sourced libations.

With its grand opening at the end of May, Dueling Dogs introduced three beers, one mead, one spiced apple cider and two braggots (A braggot is a type of sweet mead made with honey and barley malt). Paw Pills is a classic pilsner and Hoppy Tails is an earthy IPA. Mandarin Madness is a light, citrus beer similar to a Blue Moon, and the Mandarin Session Mead is sweet and lightly carbonated. The two braggots offered are a honey pilsner called Diggin’ the Braggot and a honey IPA called Braggot On. The Stephens also hinted at seasonal flavors like a mandarin chocolate porter around Christmastime.

Earl and Adriana both said the experience of creating this rustic and relaxing place has been enjoyable, but acquiring all the appropriate permits and meeting regulations took longer than expected. “We went from growing mandarins to making an all encompassing operation,” said Adriana. In addition to traversing through the bureaucratic jungle, one year into the project Earl was diagnosed with cancer. Undaunted, the Stephens’ continued working on the brewery while treating the cancer with homeopathic medicine and a ketogenic diet. Earl has now been in remission for almost four years and has maintained a healthy diet and optimistic attitude. Perhaps all the difficulties that arose during the beginning stages of this venture have made the culmination of this “craft” project even “hoppier.”

The laid-back atmosphere and rural country setting surrounding Dueling Dogs is family-, kid- and pet-friendly. Visitors can throw rocks in the pond or buy their dog a beer (yes, this brewery serves a specialty, bottled beer for dogs). Earl’s thoughtful designs even include outlets below the redwood bar top for phone batteries that have been drained after taking too many photos of the lush green grasses and mandarin trees surrounding the property. There is indoor and outdoor seating, and picnickers are welcome to bring their own spread or buy some Placer-grown produce from the farm stand inside the tasting room. All the mandarins, pistachios, pumpkins and herbs are grown on farms within a five-mile radius. Adriana said she hopes this will be a fitting space for local growers to sell their ripened fruits and veggies.

For those looking for an innovative craft brewery off the mainstream beer path, take an afternoon escape into the countryside and let the scent of mandarins carry you to Dueling Dogs Brewery.