The second day of the trip was a big one for us. We were hitting our first ever breweries in Delaware. It was also the first time I’d ever been in the state and I couldn’t have been more excited. And before you ask if we went to Dogfish, the answer is yes. Both of them. In our (okay, my) pursuit of Sam.
Under gray drizzly skies, we drove two hours to Milton, DE — home to Dogfish Head’s production brewery. The location took us a bit by surprise. The building, including the treehouse out front, seemed oddly placed at the edge of a new subdivision called Cannery Village. Living nearby would be a beer lover’s dream, a non-beer lover not so much. However, I’m sure that Sam and company are conscientious neighbors.
The large tasting room was stocked full of merchandise, but not overly commercial. For being one of the big guys in the craft beer industry, it felt remarkably casual and the people were friendly. The best part was that they allowed us to taste beer without going on the tour.
The tasting room had four beers available: Urkontinent 8%, Black & Blue 10%, 90 Minute 9%, and Palo Santo Marron 12%. Not exactly starting our day off easy, but we knew what we were getting into.
No doubt you are familiar with the last three, so no use re-hashing those (though Chris would like to add that the brewery-fresh 90 Minute was the best he ever tasted). Instead, the Urkontinent, which had been released the day before, was just what you’d expect from DFH; a boldly-flavored beer with too many unusual ingredients to remember. This dark-colored Belgian-style Dubbel had a caramel sweetness that was balanced nicely with a roasty flavor. Perhaps these characteristics came, in part, from the only two ingredients I remember, California honey and Wattleseed from Australia. Whatever the other ingredients, I did manage to finish my generous sample of the complex brew and we even bought a bottle to bring home. My only disappointment was that we didn’t see Sam.
Our next stop, 16 Mile Brewing, was only 20 minutes away in Georgetown. The nearly three year-old brewery derives its name from the town’s location as being 16 miles from anywhere in Sussex County.
The tasting room had a large, dramatic sign out front, making it easy to locate. Opened just three months ago, the tasting room was somewhat stark inside, but a small fireplace on the far wall made it a bit cozier. We joined another couple at the bar to enjoy our sampler set.
They had a nice range of beers, from the crisp Blues’ Golden Ale to the Harvest Ale, a robust Southern English Brown. They also had a special Delaware Oyster Stout with a smoked roast flavor. The beers were all solid and much more manageable than our first stop. The Responders Ale, an American (Blonde) Session Ale comes in at 4% and their highest ABV ales (Amber Sun, Old Court dark pale ale, and Inlet IPA) top out at 6.1%.
The tap room doesn’t serve food, but a sandwich shop down road offers convenient delivery service. Chris had a pulled pork sandwich with his IPA, while I enjoyed a grilled ham and cheese on marbled rye with my Golden Ale. A very comfortable and tasty stop, 16 Mile Brewing hit the spot before moving on to our next brewery.
We were now off to our third brewery and third state of the day–Maryland–to Evolution Craft Brewing in Salisbury. The brewery had moved into the old ice factory just one week before our visit and all I can say is that it appeared massive! The tasting room, located on the right side of the building, was long and narrow and once inside the place didn’t feel so big.
The bar seats about a half-dozen and it was full when we arrived in the late afternoon. We took a seat at a bistro table near the window, which was fine because the bar was a little dark. Our five-beer sampler set included Primal Pale Ale, Exile ESB, Lucky 7 Porter, Lot No. 3 IPA, and the Spring Seasonal called Sprung. As usual, Chris favored the very West Coast tasting IPA, while I preferred the Pale Ale. Probably our least favorite was Sprung, a Golden Ale with honey, hibiscus, and chamomile.
The best part of the visit, however, was that we got to chat with Joe, the assistant brewer. He was a nice and generous guy who sent us away with a bottle of their 2011 Bourbon Barrel Dark Ale.
Since we had crossed into Maryland, Chris remembered that our friend Andie had mentioned another nearby brewery, Burley Oak in Berlin. As we headed off for Burley Oak Chris joked that he couldn’t take me to Germany, but he could still get me to Berlin. Of course nothing can top Germany in my book, but Burley Oak definitely didn’t disappoint.
We tried 11(!) beers at Burley. Seeing them all lined up in a row was like looking at a beer rainbow. From the Just The Tip Kölsch to the Black Cow milk stout on cask, I think every color on the spectrum was represented. But they weren’t just pretty to look at, they tasted great, too. Oddly enough, my top two were the ones mentioned above–complete opposites. Chris’ favorites included Gee Willy IPA and Pale Ryeder, a rye Pale Ale.
The atmosphere of the tasting room reminded me of a garage turned rec room, and I mean that in a good way. The brewery is visible through a large window behind the bar. It looked like a big barn in there with an exposed wooden ceiling and rafters. There was a dart board in the corner and locals talking at the other end of the bar. Our beertender, Zack was friendly, knowledgeable, and a complete beer geek, which made the visit memorable. We were so glad we stopped by!
We eventually made our way to Rehoboth Beach and upon Zack’s recommendation, started our evening with dinner at the Henlopen City Oyster House. He said they had the best seafood in Rehoboth and a great beer list. He was right on both counts.
I, of course, had to go east coast style and order Old Bay shrimp steamers. They were a bit messy, but oh, so good. The spiciness paired nicely with my Yard’s Saison. Chris was thrilled about his assortment of oysters, which he accompanied with a Victory Headwaters Pale Ale. That wasn’t all, however, and I went on to have the hazelnut encrusted golden tile and Chris the fried oyster dinner. Henlopen City Oyster House was a bit off the beaten path and we would have never gone there without Zack’s help. Thanks, Zack!
After a romantic walk “on the boards” (the boardwalk) we made our last stop of the night. We had started our day at Dogfish Head and planned to end it their original brewery: Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats.
When we arrived around 9pm the place was full but not too crowded. The one disappointment was that there was no room at the bar, so we sat at a table. The beer menu was of course, amazing and the beers big. We opted for the custom sampler, trying beers we hadn’t had before.
I was most excited about the Punjabi Export, a 6.5% export stout with Indian spices. The color was dark and rich and it had a strong chai aroma. In the end, it was a super bold beer that was too big for me. We finished the sample size but I’m not sure I could handle a pint of it. Chris was most overjoyed by Notorious H.O.P., a brewpub beer that reminded him a lot of Pliny the Elder.
As we drank our beers, Chris and I joked about Sam coming in, but in reality, I had already resigned myself to that fact that chances of seeing him were slim. (Actually, I’m a dork and was thinking that CBC was last week and not this week, so I figured he was already in San Diego.) But just when I had forgotten about it, he walked in. I’m actually not sure what he came to do. It seemed like he just walked from one end of the pub and back out again. Perhaps he popped in to do something quick. But how could Sam possibly show up and make it quick?
Some patrons were oblivious or at least locals who’d seen him a million times before. Others pointed and whispered. But there are always the bold beer geeks in the crowd and, as we have seen several times before with him, Sam couldn’t make a move without someone calling his name. He graciously shook hands, took pictures, and chatted with people who called him over.
We walked right by Sam as we left. He was in the midst of politely listening to a young woman talk to him about one thing or another, otherwise I would have said hello. We were still out on the sidewalk when he made his escape. He was definitely making a break for it and I didn’t dare stop him. After all, I’m a beer geek and a fan girl, not a stalker…