The best parts of Brew happened on accident.
On a morning walk by the former coffee shop on the corner of East 11th Street and Jersey Ridge Road in Davenport, Bill Sheeder casually asked the owner if he might sell the space someday.
They made a handshake deal that night. Sheeder went home to inform his then-girlfriend, Stephanie Sellers, they had bought a cafe. Brew opened in October 2014.
“It was this hugely spontaneous thing, and probably scared Steph a lot,” Sheeder said. “We didn’t set out to do it, but we dreamed of it in the back of our minds."
Brew serves most things that the name suggests — craft beer, wine, specialty coffees. There's more to the name, too.
“In this larger sense, brew means to create and make and that’s the type of people we are,” Sheeder said. “We like to push the boundaries a little bit and make things.”
That goes for the new restaurant he and Sellers have on tap, called Baked Beer and Bread Co.
“We want to make places that are different and that don’t exist yet,” he said. “We’re asking, ‘What kind of place would we want to go hang out at?’”
For Sheeder, who has owned various businesses in the past, Brew has become a prime example of that.
The bar space only has room for small kegs, so the beer menu rotates almost weekly. With a dozen people inside, the space feels cozy and full.
"It's a small little place, but it has a big vibe," Sheeder said. “That’s what creates the social feeling, and we can only wish that it was planned that way.”
Shareable plates flood the menu, with options such as crustinis, mini-sandwiches, nachos, pretzels and flatbreads. A new, more summery, menu starts up this week.
With nearly equal emphasis on coffee and alcohol, customers aren’t limited to day or night experiences. Customers might spend an afternoon sipping on a latte while working on their laptops, or toss back a round of IPAs later on.
"It doesn't seem like we're doing anything all that special until people realize they've been sitting and talking for two hours without looking at their phone," he said. "You don’t realize it, but you can create an atmosphere by doing subtle things.”
Those subtleties include the outdoor patio and string lights, the small-ish menu, the cloth napkins, the quality list of wine and beer and coffees, the horseshoe rack on the inside and the brick interior.
Whether or not the beverage is warm, Brew's key word doesn't change: Chill.
"Coffee is a big deal, craft beer is a big deal," he said. "And both of them are good for chilling and hanging out — it's the best of both worlds."
They host events a few times per month, like wine and food pairings, brewery battles and live music. Sheeder expects a concert set for September to draw several thousands of people.
“Of the two of us, I feel like I’m trying to add and add until it becomes too much,” he said. “And then I remember simple is good, and we should dumb it down.”
Simplicity is certainly part of the plan for the new restaurant.
"One of our goals is to bring people here, because the East Village feels like something that's out of the way sometimes," he said. "We want to be a destination spot that people can venture out here and stay — I think that's the dream."