Delaware. Or as some people like to joke, DelaWHERE? My own little 2,490 square mile slice of craft beer USA that a lot of people just can’t seem to figure out. A bizarre contour that allows me to visit three other states (NJ, MD, PA) by traveling only 20 minutes from where I live, but yet I could get to Max’s Taphouse in Baltimore to enjoy a DFH beer quicker than I could drive down to the brewpub in Rehobeth to drink one (and depending on traffic, some days I could make Blind Tiger in NYC faster as well). The state that brought you George Thorogood, Dallas Green, “Sugar Ray” Leonard, Valerie Bertinelli, our current Vice-President Joe Biden (I leave you to decide if you should be thanking us for that), and more Du Ponts than you can fling a Teflon frying pan at.
I would tell people all the time that from a craft beer perspective, Delaware was a pretty great place to live. Washington, Baltimore and NYC with all their breweries and craft beer bars are only day trips away. Pennsylvania has a nice collection of brewers dotted over its south-east corner, all within a short distance. But within the last 15 or so years, Delaware has been slowly building into to craft beer force of its own. We now claim home to industry giant Dogfish Head, to Argilla Brewing, which head brewer Steve Powell started in a family pizza business with a 1.5 barrel system – to everything in between.
Oh, we’ve stumbled along the way. Marty Haugh worked hard to get the laws changed in Delaware so that he could open up the state’s first microbrewery Rockford Brewing, only to see the business not take hold, and sadly eventually close. Brandywine Brewing flourished for awhile, even opening a second location in the heart of Wilmington only to eventually fall by the way side. Downtown Brewing came and went.
But as the resurgence of craft beer began, establishments did start to take a major foot hold. Stewarts Brewing survived and still enjoys a healthy business today, recently celebrating their 18th birthday. Iron Hill started what would soon become a 9 location mini-chain in Newark. Old Dominion and Fordham joined forces to become a major brewing entity in Dover. Twin Lakes, Evolution and 16-Mile all opened and remain active. And when Evolution stepped over the state line into Maryland, 3rd Wave filled the void it created, literally moving into Evolution’s old building. And right now, Mispillion River and Smokestack Lightening are working hard at their start-up breweries.
Yes, I think from a craft beer perspective Delaware is a pretty nice place to live. So when Bryan over at This Is Why I’m Drunk asked me to participate in his Six-Pack Project, I gladly accepted. The format is very simple. I’m tasked with creating a “Delaware Craft Beer” six-pack. The beers should best represent Delaware brewing and her culture. I can only select shelf product – meaning no keg-only beers. The shelf product can be any form or size I wish. Current seasonals are OK, but in general they’re discouraged. Sound easy? Let’s find out.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking “well of course he’s going to include DFH”. Guilty, although I’m going with this beer for a reason. Delaware is know as the “First State”, and Delawareans hold that description very dearly. It was the first state to ratify the United States Constitution (which is where the nickname comes from), it was the first state to fly the Stars and Strips, held the first beauty contest, introduced the first Christmas Seals, passed the first Coastal Zone Act and (to my knowledge) the first state to tell another state to go F*@& itself (sorry PA, nothing but love for you).
So with that in mind, any discussion of Delaware beer should include Shelter Pale Ale, as it was the first beer brewed by Sam Calagione at his Rehoboth Beach brewpub. But sadly, DFH apparently not longer bottles Shelter Pale Ale, which is fine because I want to talk about 90 Minute IPA anyway. Although it seems a little backwards, 90M IPA proceeded it’s thirty minute shorter brother 60M IPA onto the market by two years, making it the first (there’s that word again) in what would be DFH’s continuously hopped series. The concept that started it was simple, continually introduce hops throughout the 90 minute boil. Oh, and just to keep the theme going, have it clock in at 90 IBUs and 9.0%ABV. The fact that this beer has a mixture of hops continuously added to it for 90 minutes (plus dry hopping) would make one think that this thing is just hop water. Don’t buy it. Not for a second. It is…ah, I don’t want to say it…hop forward, with notes of citrus and resin in the nose and flavor. But there’s enough malt to balance everything out, and dangerously hide the 9% ABV. I’ve always thought the continuously hopped beers had a smoothness to them. A mouth feel on the palette that borders on creamy. There’s a slight hop prick (which is about four notches below a burn) in the cheeks and a crisp, lingering finish. An IPA lovers IPA .
SECOND – RESPONDERS ALE, 16-MILE BREWERY
One of the beliefs the Brewer’s Association has about craft breweries is that “Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism, and sponsorship of events.”
In this regard Delaware Craft Breweries (along with beer bars) excel.
– Fordam/Old Dominion partner every year for Hogs and Hops which last year raised $15,000 for the local FOP’s emergency relief fund.
– Argilla Brewing partnered with BELVEDERE FIRE CO during their Fall Festival to help raise funds for the local fire company.
– Twin Lakes host The Wilmington Burger Battle which benefits the Emmanuel Dining Room a local program that feeds the needy.
– Two Stones Pub hosts the “Giving on Tap” which benefits the local Meals on Wheels program.
In that tradition I offer you Responders Ale. Brewed by 16-Mile Brewery (which gets its name because it’s Georgetown location is 16 miles from anywhere in the county it resides in) an English styled ale with a touch of wheat that is clean and drinkable, with notes of hay and citrus. I’m not going to lie, this beer isn’t going to blow you away with it’s light biscuit/cracker base and mild, but balance hops, but it’s nicely constructed, and has a very pleasant aftertaste. In the spirit of the BA’s statement, $3 from every case and $5 from every keg of Responders Ale is donated to the National Fallen Fire Fighers Foundation.
With the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball team, The University of Delaware football team, and two major NASCAR events; Delawareans are no strangers to tailgating. And although we may not be spoken in the same breath as Kansas City, Memphis, etc; we’re no slouches when it comes to the backyard cookout or barbecue either.
But as everyone knows, when you get your friends together for some grill/cookout type food, you should have a good beer to go with it. Enter Greenville Pale Ale. The beer, brewed with American 2-row along with cascade hops presents itself as a pretty straight forward pale ale, but has a slight spiciness that I think makes it an awesome food beer, whether you’re serving hotdogs, burgers, crabs, shrimp, or pulled pork. It’s probably not going to go toe-to-toe with huge, deep BBQ sauces, but really, does it need to? Sometimes you just need something to cleanse your palette with before your next bite of ribs or BBQ chicken. I’ll admit, I’ve been drinking the crap out of this beer all summer. Twin Lakes was also nice enough to package Greenville in the tailgate friendly can. Bottle snob? Get over it.
Ok, so I’m going to cross into Bryan’s “it’s OK, but I really wish you wouldn’t” territory. But I think with good reason. It’s summer as I write this, and in Delaware summer for many people means one thing – beaches. Every weekend all summer long, thousands of people brave the congestion that is “beach traffic” to claim their own small spot on our sandy shores – whether it’s in Rehoboth, Bethany, Dewey or Lewes. Many go for the sunshine and salt water, many go for the night life, and some just go for the Grotto Pizza (where Tracey slaved her summer, college youth away), Thrashers Fries and Snyders Candy.
And of course, everyone needs a good beach beer. Why not Old Dominion Brewing’s Beach House Golden Pilsner? A Bohemian style Pilsner, brewed with Tettanger, Perle, and Saaz hops, this beer has an awesome crispness in the back that is really the highlight. The nose is subdued, with a slight touch of grassy hops and what comes across to me as honey. The malt is there, light, almost bready. Plainly said, this is a rock solid pilsner, and is a perfect beer for washing the beach heat out of your mouth. It probably would also go well with a slice of Grotto’s pizza.
If Stouts represented the Baldwin family of actors, than the oyster stouts would be the youngest (the first record of oysters used in the brewing a stout was until 1929) brother Stephen. Good, serviceable, and for some reason someone that no one thinks of until they see him and go, “oh yeah”. Many people cringe at this style and really shouldn’t. When done properly oyster stouts are smoother, less dry than their well known brothers and are just a pleasure to drink. And Fordham’s is done properly.
Rosie Parks (which is named after a legendary skipjack that once dredged for oysters on the Chesapeake Bay) is built on a grain bill of CaraMunich, Wheat, Chocolate, and Roast; and hopped with Bravo and Glacier. Rosie is pure smooth drinking from front to back, with light chocolate and (even lighter) roasted notes, along with that kiss of mineral that comes from the added oyster shells. The finish is clean and not bitter (24 IBUs) and the after taste is simply a slight roastiness. This is one of my favorite styles of beer and I happen to know that it’s also a favorite of Michael Stiglitz, owner of Two Stones Pub. So I think that puts me in good company. The skipjack Rosie Parks is currently being renovated by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
And that leaves me with one more. Oh yeah, I could give you another DFH beer, but let’s be honest, if you ever get to my little state they will probably be on your list anyway (and to that end I recommend Theobroma, Hellhound on My Ale, Chateau Jiahu, and any of the continuously hopped beers, especially 120-Minute if you can find it). So instead I’m going to suggest a beer that you might actually walk past, but definitely should not.
A while back, Old Dominion released a beer called GiGi’s Farmhouse Ale. The beer was only distributed in 22oz bottles and as a nod of these size bottles being known as “bomber bottles”, OD’s label artwork payed homage to the old pin-up woman and bomber-nose paintings of World War Two. Soon, Double D IPA and Morning Glory (an espresso stout) joined the line up. The beers were so well received that OD released Double D and Morning Glory in 12oz six-packs, and later bottled GiGi’s in 12oz bottles to include it with the other two as part of a “Pin-up 12-pack”. GiGi’s will be replaced in September with Candi, a Belgian Tripel.
Double D IPA is built on Pale, Munich and Chocolate Malts, and hopped with Zythos, Crystal, Citra and Bravo. The beer has a light floral/grapefruit nose. The taste is well balanced, with the hops slightly out front, but it’s probably close enough to be a photo finish. The hops are again grapefruity, a touch of rind, and some pine that builds up after a bit. The 90 IBUs gives you a light kiss at the end, but nothing harsh, or creepy. Double D manages to hide it’s 10% ABV pretty well. So mark her “D” for dangerous.
Double D is solidly constructed and a damn fine IPA. If you get a chance to pass through our state, don’t miss the chance to pick her and her sisters up. You’ll be glad you did.
I’d like to thank Bryan for asking me to be a participant in his Six-Pack Project. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing what everyone else has written about their respective states. If you’re new to my blog, I hope you stick around. I will be focusing on Dogfish Head beers all through August. If not, thanks for stopping by anyway, and I encourage you to check out the rest of this month’s Six-Pack contributors:
- Pennsylvania (focusing on Western PA) by Bill over at Pittsburgh Beer Snob
- Michigan by Mark Graves, a guest blogger on This Is Why I’m Drunk
- Illinois with Jeremy focusing on Chicago over at SubBeerBia
- Belgium 101 by Christopher over at the awesome I Think About Beer
- Massachusetts by Honest Pint’s Heather Vandenengel
As well as those who have contributed to the project already:
- California by Max at The Beginner’s Brew
- Colorado by Eric from Sheppy’s Blog
- Illinois by Grant of Hop Brained (focus on Chicago)
- Kentucky by Tom and Carla of Hoperatives
- Maryland by Oliver of Literature and Libation and Douglas of Baltimore Bistros and Beer
- Montana by Ryan of Montana Beer Finder
- New Jersey by Ryan from Mould’s Beer Blog
- New York by Lacey of Once Upon A Stein
- North Carolina by Bryan from This Is Why I’m Drunk (and where to buy your NC beer)
- Ohio by Tom from Queen City Drinks
- Pennsylvania by Justin from Justin’s Brew Review
- South Carolina by Nick from Drink. Blog. Repeat.
- Virginia/DC by Scott from Beerbecue
Time for another beer.