If you give four different people the same budget and basic plan, and ask them to throw a party you will most likely get everything from a true yawnfest, to a party that you and your friends will be telling stories about for years. The truth is, there’s an art to throwing a party. It calls for the ability to pull together the correct balance of the basic elements that all parties require.
A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of attending a party thrown by Kent County Tourism with the basic plan of celebrating their theme of “Drink Local, Eat Local, Buy Local”. With the basic plan in place, it was up to folks like Kent County & Greater Dover Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Cindy Smalls to pull together these proper elements to make sure that the party would be one that people would be talking about for quite some time.
The first thing you need is a venue, and the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival has a great one. Located on the 10 acre Delaware Agricultural Museum and 19th Century Village, the festival has a great backdrop of historic buildings and period farm equipment. The festival itself was behind the main building, while most of the parking was handled out front.
The second element, food, can not be over stressed. You need to have a nice selection of main entrees, snacks and desserts to keep your guests engaged and to help balance out the available alcohol (more on that in a bit). The DBaWF brought in a nice variety of foods, starting with main dishes from the likes the Pizza Wagon, with their signature brick oven pizzas; to Abbott’s with their German inspired menu. Snacks were covered by Smyrna Breads and Cabot Creamery with a selection of breads and cheeses. And for those guests who wished something on the sweet side, there was Icing on the Cake, which brought in a collection of cupcakes, four of which where made with beer from Delaware breweries (Dogfish Head, 16 Mile, Old Dominion and Fordham) and one from out-of-state favorite Yard’s. I tried to get a picture of the one Tracey bought, but to be honest, it didn’t last long. Chops Grille, Maple Dale Country Club, and McGlynn’s Pub & Restaurant were also on hand to make sure the guests were well feed.
It’s the third element, drinks, that many people fail at, not offering enough variety for their guests. But the DWaBF had that covered by bringing in local breweries and wineries from all over (and a couple from outside) the state of Delaware. The breweries ran the gambit from long time favorites Dogfish Head and Fordham/Old Dominion; to new comers Argilla Brewing and 3rd Wave Brewing. Breweries 16 Mile, Twin Lakes Brewery, and Yards brewing rounded out the field.
The wineries included Fenwick Wine Cellars, Harvest Ridge Winery, Nassau Valley Vineyards, Pizzadili Winery & Vineyards, Great Shoals Winery, and Unplugged & Uncorked — Sonata Wines.
Once all the elements are together, there’s nothing to do but invite all the people and hope they have a great time. And we did. Our advanced sale $25 dollar ticket came with ten tickets each which allowed you to have a single taste of one of the many beers, wines and ciders being poured. Or you could do what I saw one lady do at the 16 Mile Brewery truck, you could look at the gentleman pouring and say, “I have 9 tickets, I want 9 tastes of that (points to tap) in this (points to mug she was holding)!” You have to love someone who knows what they want. If you wanted a bit more than a taste, full pours of anything at the festival were just $5.
Tracey and I used our tickets to try some of the local wines, especially the sparkling ciders at Great Shoals Winery, including Black Twig, a European style sparkling cider that’s made from apples at the Delaware T.S Smith farm. This wasn’t what I expected, and to be honest I think I need a little more than a taste to really figure it out. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but not the type of cider I’m used to having. Maybe that’s an indictment on the type of ciders I’ve been drinking.
I used a couple of my full pour tickets over at 3rd Wave Brewing who, as the new brewery to open up in Delaware, had decided to attend the Festival only a few days earlier. I tried their Porter which I found nice and their IPA which was also solid. I also got to meet 3rd Wave co-owner Lori Clough for the first time and talk about what she has in mind for the future (a Dunkle Weisse, nice), as well the fact that her and brewer John Panaziewicz thought the first batch of Porter was a little thinner than they wanted. I found Lori to have some very strong opinions about the beer they want to produce and indeed, about the brewing industry in general. I can’t wait to see what else her and her team have in store for the Delaware craft beer scene.
Of course meeting people you don’t know at a party is a lot of fun, but it’s also nice to bump into a few people that you do know. We not only got to hang out for a bit with the guys from Argilla Brewing (and wish Pete a Happy Birthday), but we also got to say hello again to Ron and Mike of Legacy Distilling who we haven’t seen since Hogs and Hops. Mike told me things are going really well with their new location and that things should really be coming together around April. We also got to say hello to some Two Stones Pub regulars as well as a few regular readers of ‘The Dogs of Beer’. Then of course there was the chance to hang out for the day with a few fellow Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers members. Always a good time.
The Festival also had a lot of fun things to keep people occupied. From live seminars with experts in the field of wine and beer brewing, as well as over a dozen local artesians that were displaying their crafts. For those with a little competitive nature, there was the Cornhole Tournament with the Diamond State Cornhole Association (played within the lovely white picket fence on the Museum grounds), as well as a keg tossing contest. Plus the amazing sounds of Paul Cullen & Friends.
All in all, The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival threw an awesome party. All the elements were indeed in place, and they couldn’t have asked for a nicer day. I talked with Cindy afterward and she wanted to make sure that thanks were given to “the Festival Sponsors: Delaware Wine & Ale Trail, IFS Insurance (Brewery & Winery Insurers of Wilmington), The Right Bottle, How Do You Brew, i.g. Burton Mercedes/BMW, Harvest Ridge Winery. The DE Agricultural Museum & Village for the venue. All our wineries, breweries, distillery and our food purveyors and artists and artisans & musicians. All the ticket-buyers, volunteers, Board of Directors and staff, plus all the media coverage, bloggers, videographers, photographers, etc.”
She also said, “We love our new logo, created by Brad Tillinghast of Wilmington.” As well as stating that next year they may have to set up a “bloggers headquarters”. Color me intrigued.
See you next year.