Tucked away on quiet West Pine Street in Farmville, The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery and its small staff work long hours to ship quality dark beers and serve as a reminder that hard work does indeed pay off.
“We had our best month ever in April,” said Brewmaster Paul Phillippon, who in another life, taught philosophy at Eastern Michigan University. He worked in breweries along the way and learned the craft that resulted in his family of dark beers.
Shoppers can find his Duck-Rabbit beers locally at Harris Teeter, Lowe’s Food and Fresh Market–part of a long list of distribution points. “We grew our distribution slowly and methodically, and started distributing in Virginia and Pennsylvania at the end of April. That was big for us,” Phillipon reported.
His lineup of beers includes The Duck-Rabbit Amber Ale, a medium bodied beer with a lovely tawny copper or bronze color; The Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale is an American brown ale brewed with loads of hops from start to finish (it’s hoppy and beautifully bitter) and The Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout, a traditional full-bodied stout brewed with lactose (milk sugar).
There is a bit of folklore surrounding his company logo, which is an adaptation of an illustration in Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein, a throwback to Phillippon’s days in academia. Depending on how you look at it, you can see either a duck or a rabbit.
Phillippon said he chose dark beers because they offered him a chance to produce a high-quality, distinctive product. He said a dark beer is best served at 50 degrees, not ice cold. This preserves the taste and aroma. “We all know the aroma is very important to taste,” he explained.
What the secret to brewing a quality dark beer? “It’s trial and error, knowing the ingredients you want to use, choosing them carefully. After all, it wasn’t like I was new to brewing,” he said, adding he starting working in breweries in 1987. He made his first sale of the Duck-Rabbit line in 2004.
Duck-Rabbit combines barley from North Dakota and Canada with hops from the Yakama Valley in Washington. Although very little of his secret recipe includes products from North Carolina, he knows there is a possibility hops may be grown locally and hopes that happens.
Phillippon reflected back when he worked alone to perfect his product and find somewhere to sell it. “It was just me. I had to get the quality right before I could really begin distribution. When I got the quality where I wanted it, I started looking for a distributor.” He eventually signed with Tryon Distributing in North Carolina.
“Now I have distributors calling me everyday,” he said.