Her late father, David McNeill, bought a license in 1978 and opened the original Towamencin Beverage on Sumneytown Pike at Green Lane Road in Towamencin Township. In the 1980s, he opened Tiger's Deli and expanded the beer distributor to its present day location. Towamencin Beverage was established on the same property where Crystal's grandfather originally opened a general store, and then an Exxon gas station and garage.
Now, Crystal McNeill has followed her father's and grandfather's footsteps and, on Oct. 2, opened her growler shop and craft bottle shop called CJ's Doghouse in the site of the original beer distributor. It celebrates its grand opening this Saturday.
CJ's Doghouse fills niche for certain beer connoisseurs in the North Penn and Bucks County area; the nearest one to Towamencin is in Ardmore.
"With the craft beer industry, with the ridiculous rate that it is, I wanted to find way to sell craft beer," McNeill said. "It all started with a plan about two years ago."
McNeill's business is simple, and even caters to a certain niche: Craft beer lovers can come in and craft their own six-packs from a selection of 462 individual labels of beer.
They can also take home a growler (that's a 64-ounce jug) of something on tap: There are always 12 rotating drafts at CJ's Doghouse. Ask for the four-glass flight.
"It's about having something you haven't had," she said. "It's for people to come in, have a hot dog, and try a beer. They can craft a six-pack or have a growler off the draft.
Each beer is individually labeled, and McNeill encourages picking one out, popping it open and grabbing a seat around the custom-made barrel-bottom round wood tables.
"Most of the cases of beer in here are between $40 to $200. Nobody is buying a $200 case unless they try it," McNeill said. "This way, you can buy a bottle for $10 or $14 or $2."
Growlers go for a first-time charge of $7 for the jug, and then anywhere between $9 to $35 for one of the 12 drafts.
"We fill other peoples' growlers too, as long as they are clean," McNeill said.
The average IPA on draft runs between $14 and $18, she said. For example, Daisy Cutter Pale Ale is priced at $15 and Weyerbacher at $20.
CJ's Doghouse also boasts a unique growler dispenser system, one of four to have it in the state: Two growler stations with each one wired as such that the turning of one of six knobs dispenses the corresponding brew.
CJ's Doghouse is limited in its domestics.
"There's only two shelfs of Bud, Bud Light and Coors Light," McNeill said.
And just because a craft beer isn't in the house now, it doesn't mean it will be in there next week, she said.
"I will not necessarily get a case and put the same thing in the same slot," she said. "There are so many Double IPAs and so many IPAs. I'm doing what I want to do. There's always a rotating variety."
The ones that everybody really wants kind of stick around, she said.
"If you're looking for a beer and if it's something ... at Towamencin Beverage, I'll tell the customer to go over there. The more specialty stuff I can get in for you," McNeill said.
Open already a month and McNeill knows word is spreading about her new business.
"Everybody really likes it. They walk in and like the whole look. It's been good," she said. "People are talking about it: 'Go check it out. There's tons of craft.' That's what we want."
McNeill already has some new ideas brewing for CJ's Doghouse, such as the introduction of brats to the burners. It's strictly hot dogs now.
Live music could also be a possibility, but she has to work with her space. McNeill said she could see something like that working on a Thursday or Saturday night.
Right now, Friday nights are usually packed at CJ's Doghouse. Saturday afternoons are just as popular with beer drinkers.
"Every day it gets a bit better, a bit easier," McNeill said.
Lansdale's Nate Aderman, who also put in more than 100 hours of manpower finishing and making the barrel-bottom wood tables (and is at present sculpting a 150-foot Jesus Christ statue), said CJ's Doghouse is a spot to stop at night, right after work, and get a six-pack, and then a case next door, and maybe a cheesesteak at Pudge's, located on the other side of CJ's.
"I just think it's nice having a wide variety of individually-priced beer. You'd have to buy a case if you wanted to try some of these beers, and you can't find it at any other pub," Aderman said.
CJ's Doghouse is closed Sunday and Monday. It is open until 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and until 9:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
Here is what's currently on tap at CJ's Doghouse, as of Nov. 9:
- Spring House Brewing Co. Braaaiins! Pumpkin Ale
- Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale
- Stoudt's Pumpkin Ale
- Dock Street Pumpkin Ale
- Brooklyn Cuvee La Boite Belgian Strong Pale Ale
- Long Trail Imperial Pumpkin Ale
- Long Trail Lemon Pepper Kolsch
- Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA
- Oskar Blues Deviant Dale IPA
- Cigar City Dry-Hopped on the High Seas Caribbean-Style IPA
- Fuller's Black Cab Stout
- Goose Island Matilda Lambic