River-ward guy brews Do Good beer
True to the brewery name, a percentage of every Do Good ale sale goes to local charities.
TOM SHERIDAN'S parents separated when he was a child, so he grew up with a dual citizenship in the river wards - splitting every week between his mom in Kensington and his dad in Port Richmond.
So last year, when Sheridan had his Do Good Brewing epiphany while eating tomato pie and drinking his homemade beer at Tacconelli's Pizzeria, in Port Richmond, he wasn't shocked to realize that his life's dream was rooted in his childhood streets.
"My whole business plan was to be a neighborhood kid with a neighborhood brewery, selling only to neighborhood bars, and donating a percentage of the sales to neighborhood charities," said Sheridan, 26.
The Do Good Brewing Co., on Amber Street near Westmoreland, in Port Richmond, produces small batches of cream ale that is on tap from Cheers Cafe around the corner to the Kensington Pub, the Bridesburg Pub and neighborhood bars throughout the river wards.
Robert McMaster, owner of the Bridesburg Pub, said he put Do Good United Ale, the brewery's only beer, on tap last summer because he knew Sheridan's dad and because Sheridan is a local guy.
"This is an old-school shot-and-a-beer bar," McMaster said. "Jacquin's vodka and Schmidt's beer - that's how old-school this is. My bar is people 35 and older, so it's hard for us to change anything because everyone is set in their ways. For them to drink a craft beer is shocking to me."
McMaster's regulars are draining a keg of Do Good United Ale every week. The beer and its brewer are winning over old-timers so fast that Sheridan's two-man operation struggles to keep up with the river wards' demand.
"We like what he's doing in the neighborhood, bringing a local beer right into the heart of Bridesburg," McMaster said. "There's a lot of bars in Bridesburg, Port Richmond, Fishtown - tight neighborhoods where they'll give him the benefit of the doubt."
Sheridan knows that getting his kegs of cream ale into neighborhood taps is more a matter of his bloodlines than the "pure blood orange" he proclaims he infuses into every pour.
"All the kids in the neighborhood went to the same grade school, St. Joan of Arc, and then every boy from that grade school, every single one of us, went to North Catholic," Sheridan said.
"The reason why the neighborhood's so tight is that you hung out with the same faces for 18 years."
North Catholic is gone, he said, but its river-wards roots remain the bonds among himself, bar owners and bar patrons.
"When my family came here from southern Italy, right below Rome," Sheridan said, "my mom, my grandmother and my uncle all lived on the same block of Ontario Street near Emerald, in Kensington.
"My mother had five brothers," he said. "Every one of them went to North Catholic. My cousins all went to North Catholic. The North Catholic bloodline from every family in Port Richmond and Kensington runs deep."
Sheridan wore his North Catholic gym shirt or cap to every meeting with a local bar owner.
"Out of the 20 bars we're currently in, not one owner tasted the beer before we brought the keg in," Sheridan said.
"I was from the neighborhood so it was just, 'Yeah, Tom, we'll give you a shot.' That kind of trust transaction can only happen in a river-ward neighborhood. If I tried to bring that strategy down to 2nd and Market, I'd get laughed out of there."
A few chugs for charity
True to the brewery name, a percentage of every Do Good ale sale goes to local charities. Last week, Sheridan poured his ale at a toy drive for neighborhood kids held at the original Chickie's & Pete's, in Mayfair.
Sheridan's United Ale focus is providing food, clothing and holiday gifts to children in need.
He plans to add new Do Good brews - oatmeal stout, apple cider, ginger - in 2015, and new charities, but he'll remain a river-wards guy forever, living in Port Richmond with his wife, Vanessa, and their children, Tommy, 9, and Olivia, 1.
"When I was a young teenager, an old man who lived across the street from my mother's house in Kensington passed away," Sheridan said. "Vanessa's family moved in, two doors down from my friend Billy.
"I got back from a Port Richmond soccer tournament late one night and I went across the street to sit on Vanessa's step. Billy said, 'You should get her number.' Instead, I said my number real loud. Vanessa laughed and said, 'Can you repeat that? I didn't get it.' That's how we got together."
Years ago, Sheridan found out just how big a Philly guy he is when his childhood friend Joey moved to Newtown in Bucks County, and Sheridan visited for a sleepover.
"After 24 hours in Newtown, I got homesick and I was screaming to go back to Philly," Sheridan said, laughing.
"It's too quiet," he said. "I don't like the sound of crickets."