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Phat Fish Brewery promises beer and family fun

Phat Fish Brewery owner Kelli Scharf stands with the newly arrived showcase brewing tanks. With construction nearly finished, the family restaurant and brewery is on schedule for a May opening. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Phat Fish Brewery is coming this May.

The new restaurant on Villard Street promises original brew and family fun.

It is a dream come true for owner Kelli Scharf and her husband Tony Scharf.

Originally from Montana, the Scharfs came to Dickinson for his job with ConocoPhillips.

"We've always known we wanted to do something, own our own business, have our own piece of history somewhere," Kelli Scharf said.

Scharf prepared by attending a brewing school and even a pizza school. She is working with a brewery consultant, as well.

"I reached out and found some people who could help me and determine if this is something Dickinson wanted and needed," she said. "It's just trying to offer something to Dickinson that it doesn't have."

The name comes from Scharf's son who loves fishing. He originally wanted to call it "Big Fish" but revised it days later.

"He said, mom, what about fat fish?" she said. "We were like, okay, but with the Ph, though. We've got to use the Ph!"

Phat Fish Brewery plans to offer a variety of original flavors, Scharf said.

"We have two brewers who are going to be helping us," she said. "We want to make sure we have the lighter, refreshing beers that almost anybody can enjoy, and get those really tasty dark stouts. The IPAs are really popular right now."

Scharf is also considering distribution in the future.

"I would love to see this become something that's all over the northwest," she said. "We have a lot of our own favorites from back home, so we definitely want to be able to hit that market and do the same thing."

The restaurant, at the building's forefront, once a North Dakota Department of Transportation site, will be a large, open space.

It will be divided by an original glass garage door that will allow patrons to view the brewery and its showcase brewing tanks.

"We're trying to keep as much of the patina as we can that came from 1909, when this side of the building was created," Scharf said. "Really trying to keep a lot of the exposed brick and do the clean up and make it look nice, but keep the originality of Dickinson here."

A kids area is planned, and an area for adults to play games.

"You don't have to be 21 to be able to come in and have a pizza and a soda," Scharf said. "We're going to be doing our own custom root beer and cream soda. We'll have root beer floats and smores pizzas."

Phat Fish will also boast an outdoor patio for summer dining, and planned for the back is a quonset for gatherings and weddings.

The endeavor has been a challenging one, Scharf said.

"When I put my mind to something and I know it's a good idea, I do the research and make sure it's going to work, and that's what took us so long to come out with this," she said. "I really wanted to make sure this was going to be 100 percent go before I really pushed it out to the community."

The response already has been positive, Scharf said.

"It's really nice to have a community that supports us not because we're from here, but because they truly support new things," she said. "It's truly become home for us and our family, and that's what we love."

Scharf anticipates the restaurant and brewery being ready for a May opening.

"Everything is moving along really well," she said. "The goal is still May to be fully open."

For more information, visit their website at www.phatfishbrewing.com.

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