Delaware Beers and Label Art To Keep an Eye Out For

I try to keep up on the new label art that comes out of Delaware breweries (and sometimes local favorites outside Delaware) but I’ve never done a post like this before.

You see, not only are bottle/can labels available, but keg labels as well. Now, I don’t normally share these because there’s rarely anything to them, usually just a ring shaped label with some words and a box checked indicating what beer is inside.

But I thought for the fun off it, I’d share some of these recent keg labels along with some new label art that will soon be arriving at your favorite brewery/liquor store. In fact, you might have seen a few of these already as I’ve been hording some of these for quite some time.

First, let’s spread some love to the non-beer folks by starting with a beautiful array of label art for wines and meads from the folks over at Brimming Horn Meadery.


Next up is a couple of labels from Painted Stave Distilling, the corn whiskey with the mesquite and apple wood smoked malts sounds interesting.



Time for some beer, first up, Mispillion River with a keg label for Dank Lord IPA (I told you these keg labels usually weren’t all that exciting) followed by their new label art for Weiss City, a Berliner Weisse brewed with mangoes and oranges.


MR Weiss City

Next, let’s look at a couple of things from Dogfish Head, keg labels for Firefly Ale (which should be no stranger to DFH fans), Unencumbered Antelope (saison brewed with cantaloupe and cucumber), In Your Mace (which DFH describes as “a coffee milk stout brewed with cinnamon verum chips from the Zanzibar Islands, mace spice, milk sugars, coffee, chicory and most importantly … chili oils, the active ingredient in Mace Brand (yep, the pepper spray).”), and new label art for the tasting room exclusive Viniferous, another attempt to win over the wine/beer hybrid fans. The beer is hopped with Hallertau Blanc, Huell Melon, and El Dorado while containing fermented Riesling and Viognier grape must.


DFH Viniferous

And finally, a few keg labels from 3rd Wave Brewing, Surf School, a New England Style IPA and Juice Box a Berliner Weisse.

3rd Wave Keg labels

New Castle BBQ Competition Winners plus a Discussion with Competition Organizer Sandy Fulton

A few weeks back Tracey and I attended the first annual New Castle BBQ competition back dropped by the Delaware River in Historic New Castle’s Battery park. We were looking forward to this edvent because we hadn’t attended a BBQ competition in awhile and with the event being right down the road from us we wouldn’t tie up a large part of our day with travel.

It was a nice sunny day as we strolled through the park watching kids play on the swings and interact with the animals at the petting zoo. The band’s music (sorry don’t know which of the bands was playing when we arrived) echoed across the park giving the event a nice outdoor festival feel.

BBQ competitions can be a mixed bag. By the time the crowd starts to roll in the teams have already put in a long night prepping their food for the afternoon judging. So patrons hoping to talk to competition teams about their rigs or their philosophies on Que, might be disappointed to see many of the teams closing down or just not being very interactive.

But if you stroll around enough, you can usually find one or two people who will talk to you and if nothing else, I enjoy looking at the different smokers with the smell of hickory and other woods wafting in the air. It always makes me want to get back to my deck and light a fire of my own.

On the drink side we were pleased (although I thought it a bit funny) to see Kent County representing big at the event, first with Ron and Rob from Blue Earl Brewing at the beer tent and then later with Painted Stave who made me an Old Fashion while Ron informed me that they were using syrup made with a rub mix from the vendor’s tent next to them – the fine folks of Dizzy Pig (picked up a few rub samples from them). Bourbon is more Tracey’s thing than it is mine but with a subtle hint of smoke and a touch of heat it was pretty tasty. Tracey gave it a thumbs up.

For the most part I thought the event went pretty well. They had a good crowd for a first time event and people seemed to be enjoying themselves for the most part. The layout could have been a little better and a second entrance near the bandstand was sorely needed for those who wanted to quickly go out into the park area. Still, if nothing else a nice day outside with smoke in the air.

But all new events are prone to growing pains and sadly, this one was no exception.

Advertising and social media content for the event contained the following statement or a variation thereof, “Come sample Competition Team BBQ!  Ever wonder how good that tastes?  For a “Buck a Bone” you can sample some great BBQ from our competition teams!”

Sounds great doesn’t it? Well we thought so as well, however having covered the now mourned Hogs and Hops event, I wasn’t sure if it was truly as easy as that. You see the first year the Hogs and Hops event was held at the FoDo Brewery it included a “people’s choice” judging. We ate quite a bit of BBQ that day.

But the next year it moved to the Fairgrounds at Harrington, received KCBS sanction and the people’s choice went away. Whether it was a case of ‘we now can’t’ or ‘we shouldn’t have in the first place’, I’m not sure. Mark Hoffman wrote to me in an email that he hoped to bring back the sampling the following year, unfortunately the Fairgrounds started their own BBQ competition, essentially locking up sponsors that had help Mark years before and his event (which benefited Dover First Responders) died.

So with that in mind we went in with healthy skepticism, and that skepticism it turned out was not unwarranted. We only found one tent selling samples for a $1, and they sold out just as Tracey walked up to the tent.

From a few conversations we had with the people around us, and the complaints that quickly began to be registered on the event’s Facebook page (which I’m sad to say I initially added to), there seemed to be much confusion, and great disappointment over the buck-a-bone offer. Competitors and BBQ enthusiasts jumped into the conversation which seemed to point the finger more towards the organizers from the venue more than the teams and the KCBS themselves. Statements were being made and countered until at the end, no purpose was really being served.

So for my own education (after calming down and realizing I wasn’t being value adding) I reached out to event organizer Sandy Fulton whose experience and reputation as a BBQ competition organizer has earned her the nickname The Porkanizer.

My first question was simple, is the buck-a-bone sampling common in BBQ competitions or did New Castle offer something they couldn’t ultimately guarantee?

“No it wasn’t New Castle’s idea it is done at several contests,” Sandy told me in an email conversation. “We only had four teams sign up to do it.  Tried very hard to get more, but being a first year event, and not sure of attendance it can be risky.”

There’s the thing, the teams are not required to do the buck-a-bone offer and in most cases it comes down to a matter of cost. “The meat is expensive and these competitors have already paid $250 entry fee and then probably close to $500 if not more on the meat they are being judge on for cash prizes,” Sandy continued, “They compete in pulled pork, chicken, ribs and brisket.  They purchase and cook more than they turn in because they pick the best of it for turn in to the judges. So you have entry fee, meat cost, transportation cost and in some cases you’re going to have hotel costs. So competing is expensive and they concentrate solely on the cooking and timing for these meats. They want to win.”

Taking all that into consideration it’s easy to see why teams might be hesitant in joining the buck-a-bone not knowing the attendance or their likelihood of getting their money back on the food cooked for the crowd, “So not knowing the attendance of a first year event, cost of being there and number on teams will determine if they can and want to do Buck a Bone. That’s why only 4 did it. If they have the event [again next year] I am sure more will [do it] because of the public’s interest and they feel they won’t be losing money.”

Another issue is that once the teams have decided they won’t be doing buck-a-bone, they’re unable to change their minds. There are strict regulations regarding what BBQ teams are and are not allowed to do at competitions, and they all surround public health.

“[The teams cannot give out samples] because of Board of Health Regulations,” Sandy informed me. Anytime a BBQ team wishes to feed the public they must be inspected by the Board of Health which does not automatically happen, “…as a competitor they do not [need to be inspected] because only Certified KCBS judges are judging their food.”

But once competitors have decided that they will serve the public, either using a buck-a-bone or similar offer all their pit areas must be inspected by the Board of Health as the organization does not allow for ‘blanket’ approval for the entire event.

So just when does this happen?

“First the competitor fills out the Board of Health form, some counties charge. The day of the event, prior to gates being opened the inspectors will come inspect their area to make sure they have met all their guidelines.”

While many may have been disappointed by the situation, it seems that it could be attributed to the aforementioned growing pains associated with a new event, and Sandy seemed to agree, “It is all a learning experience. Some first year events are not as well attended as this was. Perhaps next year if they have it they will try again.”

With this information I reached out to Michael J Quaranta who I assume was involved in the venue side of the event to get his perspective but sadly he did not return my message. However he did post this on the Facebook event page (which is why I assume he’s involved with the venue side):

Folks…I take responsibility for this and learned not to promote the “buck a bone” idea ever again unless I have half the competition teams agreeing beforehand to sell. Many make that decision too close to the actual event date and by then, media and our own promotion is in full swing and expectations are set. The $5 charitable donations covered the costs of putting on the event, including the 10k in team prize money, three very good bands, stage, tent rentals, and so on. We learned a lot. I also believe our three food vendors, Locale Post, Phillipine BBQ, and Haas, all with very good food and reputations, did an outstanding job. The beer was also quite good and fairly priced for a 16oz pour. I appreciate the feedback and suggestions.

So hopefully next year the event will return and these kinks will be ironed out. But let’s  not forget that this was a competition! So congratulations to the winners and to all those who competed, we hope to see you again next year!


Grand Champion: 3 EYZ BBQ

Reserve Champion: SAUCE THIS BBQ


1          3 EYZ BBQ                               697.120
2          SAUCE THIS BBQ                 681.6572
3          PIGHEADED BBQ                681.0628


1          3 EYZ BBQ                              174.2628
2          BANG BANG BBQ                 173.1200
3          WEEKEND SMOKERS        170.3660

Pork Ribs

1          3 EYZ BBQ                             178.8572
2          PIGHEADED BBQ               171.4172
3          LITTLE LUKE’S BBQ          170.3088


1          3 EYZ BBQ                              178.8572
2          PIGHEADED BBQ                172.0000
3          Knee Deep BBQ                     171.4172


1          SAUCE THIS BBQ                 180.0000
2          BIG D’S BBQ                           176.5600
3          BANG BANG BBQ                 169.7028

Amateur Chicken

1          Chock Full of BBQ                 169.1200
2          SOUTH BOWIE SMOKE     169.1200
3          Bubba Joe’s Que                    168.5600

Amateur Ribs

1          Welch Mountain BBQ            166.3200
2          SOUTH BOWIE SMOKE      161.1544
3          M & M Barbeque                    160.5372


1          SOUTH BOWIE SMOKE      330.2744
2          Bubba Joe’s Que                     328.5144
3          Welch Mountain BBQ           327.4512


The Local Tap – The Historic Odessa Brewfest 2014

Odessa 2“Build it and they will come.”

If Hollywood ever decided to remake that timeless classic in another vein, I would suggest, “pour it and they will come”, and switch the focus of the film from baseball to a brew festival.

OK, not really, but there is a good amount of truth to my flippant statement.  Over the past several years, brew festivals have been on the rise in our area.  I happened to be cleaning my kitchen a while back and in the corner of a shelf that collects everything I don’t know what to do with at the time, I found evidence to support this; tasting glasses from Kennett Winterfest (only 2 years old) and Wilmingtion Beerfest (only 1 year).   On top of that I learned last week that the Historic towns of New Castle and Delaware City will soon be hosting their second annual “River Towns Ride & Festival“, a co-city event and recreational bike ride which is hosting a beer festival in BOTH towns.

The proliferation of these festivals stems in part from event organizers recognizing that at this particular moment, having (or adding) a beer festival to your event is not only a great way to raise money (most beer festivals are associated with non-profit charity or historical organizations), but also a great way to get people to come out and experience first hand what your local area has to offer.

Points that were not lost on event co-organizer Jeremy Hughes when he and his team began the ground work for the Historic Odessa Brewfest as early as August of last year. “The town of Odessa is beautiful, full of amazing 18th century architect but amazingly unknown to many Delawareans, even ones only 20 minutes away”, he relayed to me.  “So, to attract more people to the town and to help raise money for the Historic Odessa Foundation we wanted to create an event that would do just that.”

But as Jeremy went on to say, even from that early start they wanted their event to be about more than just beer, “We wanted to create a beer festival that would separate itself from other beer festivals.  After attending quite a few of them myself, as well as many other types of festivals and events, I found that a beer festival can’t just be about beer.”

True, and many of them aren’t.  For instance, quality food has become a big part of what makes a great beer festival tick, and Jeremy knew he had an distinct advantage in that regard. “Cantwell’s Tavern provided the food utilizing local purveyors and farms like they always do to make sure the patrons were served high quality eats.”  Indeed, Chef Dan Sheridan started the Tavern’s farm-to-table philosophy from the minute it opened.  And with Cantwell’s located right across the street from the festival grounds and being one of the Historic Houses of Odessa, it was a natural choice. And it doesn’t hurt that your restaurant group owns its own food truck, the Roaming Raven, to help get all that great food out to the people.

(As always click on a photo in each gallery to open that gallery up full sized.)

Of course, the source of the food wasn’t the only advantage Jeremy had, “…we already knew the setting and landscape alone would set us apart.”  Indeed, the event was held at the Historic Homes of Odessa, on a field that surrounds their 1790 barn that on this particular day housed some awesome wines (that for some reason we didn’t get inside to try.  What we’re we doing all day?), along with Fromage a Cheese Boutique who were serving awesome cheese plates (which Tracey enjoyed greatly), as well as serving as a perfect backdrop for historic brewing educator Rich Wagner.

Despite this being their  first year, Odessa hit everything on spot, most likely due to Jeremy’s investigations into other events.  The volunteers were quick and friendly as the gates opened to let the crowd in.  I was a little worried about parking, but when we arrived for the VIP session we had no problem finding a spot close to the entrance.  There was plenty of water to be found in iced buckets around the grounds. The layout was great, and the bands was rocking.  All that was needed was a crowd of beer lovers.  And we and 1400 other festival lovers were happy to oblige.

We were lucky enough to be joined by Dogs of Beer co-founder Chuck and his wife Kat (aka, the Beer Goddess) for the day, which always makes a beer event that much more fun. Of course once we got inside we quickly surveyed the field to make note of where every one was.  Two of my favorite Delaware beers, Twin Lake’s Oktoberfest and Fordham’s Rosie Parks Oyster Stout, had recently been re-released so I was hoping that they’d made their way to the festival.  The beer gods were indeed smiling that day, as I was quick to get a taste of Rosie Parks as soon as we walked into the event, and indeed found Oktoberfest a few minutes later.

I finally got a chance to try 3rd Wave Brewing’s Bombora Double IPA (could be one of my new favorite Delaware beers) while talking with owner Lori Clough about the (enviable) problem of juggling multiple events – 3rd Wave was at five different events that day.  We soon bumped into Ron from Painted Stave Distillery as he was whipping up a batch of lemon drops using their Silver Screen vodka.  Usually I don’t hit the hard stuff that early, but Ron was pretty persuasive (he told me alcohol was going to go to waste if I didn’t drink it. What?  Ron wouldn’t lie to me!).  I also tried their Time Warp Espresso Vodka which normally isn’t my thing, but it’s named Time Warp – so how could I resist! And as always it’s great to see the DOPS team as they make any event better.

As a beer blogger, one of the great things about festivals is speaking to the people in the industry about what they’re doing now, and more importantly what they may be doing in the future. And to that end it was very nice to see Ron Price and his team from Warlock Brewing, the ink barely dry on his newly signed 5 year lease, and talk to him about his plans for his Smyrna based brewery. And when the subject of “their next beer to be canned” came up at the Mispillion tent, there was quite a lot of support for porter. Just sayin’.

But the wave of the future is that brew festivals are not made of beer alone.  A sentiment that Jeremy was quick to echo, “Whatever an event’s main theme is, whether a music festival, beer festival, wine festival, etc., you will always know that there will be a lot of music, beer or wine at said festival. What separates these events from others is all of the other “stuff” that the patrons can enjoy and experience.  It’s all about the experience.”

“…To make sure the festival goers weren’t just surrounded by beer, we made sure to bring in some local distilleries, seeing as craft distillers are now becoming just as popular as craft breweries.   We invited Fromage (a local cheese boutique from Middletown) and, Guy and Lady Barrel Cigar (a hand rolled cigar company out of Dover) that enforced the ‘Local Craft’ atmosphere we were looking for, and finally we topped it off with Paul Schiffelbein, a local [artisan] of handmade wooden cutting boards from Chesapeake City, MD.”

It’s a nice model – great location, great beers/wines/spirits, great local food, and talented local artisans.  It’s  a model that has served The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival greatly for many years, and one that future event holders should take note of.

The music for the event was supplied by local favorites Spokey Speaky and Philbilly, whose reggae and country vibes (respectively) supplied an awesome backdrop to the event. When Tracey had had enough beer fun, she claimed a table and sang along.

So what was the verdict? “I believe we had over 1400 attendees, over 45 breweries and over 50 vendors in general”, Jeremy said.  “In the end, it was exactly what we wanted and I think all of the festival goers experienced exactly what we wanted them too – a fun, ‘comfortable’, local Brew Fest.”

Jim Sturdivant (of www.4×, the company behind the marketing and the Brewbracket contest) agreed, “Based on feedback at the festival and on Facebook, the event has been perceived very positively. People had a great time and are already looking forward to next year.”

When I asked Jeremy what the future holds, he indicated that they’d already started planning for 2015, “The date has been set for next year, the Saturday after Labor day which is the 12th of September.” Which means…

Until next year, Odessa!
See you next year, Odessa!

The Odessa Brewfest is a fund-raising event for the Historic Odessa Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the legacy of the Historic Houses of Odessa for future generations, through commitment to the preservation of Odessa’s unique historic, architectural, and cultural heritage.”

Jeremy Hughes and Jim Sturdivant would like to thank everyone who helped make the first annual Historic Odessa Brewfest a success, including but not limited to:

Marc Ashby (Director of Operations of Ashby Hospitality Group and business partner).
Debbie Buckson (Historic Odessa Foundation).
Jen Cabell (Historic Odessa foundation).
All the breweries, wineries and distilleries that attended.
Cantwell’s Tavern.
The Roaming Raven.
Fromage cheese boutique.
Guy and Lady Barrel Cigar.
Paul Schiffelbein.
The bands Spokey Speak and Philbilly.
Rich Wagner.
And last but not least, “… the volunteers, … and all the beer lovers who came out for a beautiful day in Odessa!”

The author would like to thank Jeremy Hughes and Jim Sturdivant for taking some of their valuable time to talk with me.

Local Delaware Brewers Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Unless you’re totally off any form of social media, or you live under a rock (hmmm, I guess now a days they’re pretty much the same thing, huh?) you’ve no doubt seen people you know, and many that you don’t, pouring buckets of ice water over their heads.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been pouring all over every social media outlet there is.  The stunt isn’t new by any means as pro golfers have been doing it for years to raise money for their favorite charities.  But when golf pro Chris Kennedy challenged his cousin Jeanette Senerchia (whose husband suffers from ALS), the whole thing just took off after Senerchia accepted the challenge and nominated some of her friends.

How successful has it been?  Well according to the most recent ALS Association press release donations as of today are up to $41.8 million, compared to $2.1 million during the same period last year (July 29 to August 21), while new donor numbers are above 739,000.

The challenge is running through just about every segment of the population from athletes, actors, politicians, and performers.  And it should be no surprise that many in the craft beer (as well as spirits and wine) world have accepted the challenge as well.  Here’s a quick run down of some of the more recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge acceptors from Delaware:

Owner Al Stewart of Stewarts Brewing takes the challenge in his glass walled brew room while people in the dinning room cheer him on:

Klaus from 16 Mile Brewing proves that sometimes it’s better to be on the other side of the bucket:

3rd Wave Owner Lori Clough gets iced by Head Brewer John Panasiewicz. Who’s never thought of pouring a bucket of ice water over your boss’ head?

Painted Stave Distillery goes tall with their Ice Bucket Challenge while nominating fellow Good Libations Tour members Harvest Ridge Winery, Mispillion River Brewing and FoDo (Fordam/Dominion):

The folks from Harvest Ridge accept Painted Stave’s challenge:

The guys from Fordam/Dominion also accept:

As does Mispillion River, putting their own little slant on the challenge:

Of course, many people challenged DFH, so finally owner Sam Caligione proved he’s just one of the guys like everyone one else and accepted the challenge. Well, as much of “one of the guys” you can be when you can get Nascar driver Jeff Gordon to do the honors (warning, audio is loud):

To donate to the ALS Association click here.

Established in 1985, The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front.  By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.

As the preeminent ALS organization, The Association leads the way in research, care services, public education, and public policy — giving help and hope to those facing the disease.  The Association’s nationwide network of chapters provides comprehensive patient services and support to the ALS community. The mission of The ALS Association is to lead the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy, while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.

Delaware State gets into the Spirit with Legacy Distilling

[Author’s Note: Legacy Distilling will open for business under the name Painted Stave Distilling]

For most people in Delaware, April 26th came and went with little notice or fanfare.  That however, was not the case for Ron Gomes and Mike Rasmussen.  For them, April 26th was a very important date because the Delaware House of Representatives was voting on Senate Bill # 180 w/SA 1 which if passed, would make the owning and operation of stand alone distilleries legal  for the first time in the state of Delaware.  That was very important to Ron and Mike, because as co-owners of Legacy Distilling, they wanted to be the first to take advantage of this new law.

Having met in 2011, Ron and Mike quickly developed a bond over their love for quality spirits they had experienced such as Ransom’s Old Tom Gin, Bluecoat Gin, whiskey from Tuthilltown and brandies from Clear Creek; as well as other distilleries such as Smooth Ambler, Coursair, Fingerlakes Distilling, Harvest and others.  It wasn’t long after that the seeds for Legacy Distilling were planted.

But while the passing of Senate Bill #180 was a first, large hurtle, others were to follow.  Even before the Governor put his signature on the new law, they were looking around for suitable locations, finally settling on Smyrna.  Ron and Mike met before the town council to answer concerns raised by locals as well as to apply for waivers as a new business.  Able to adequately respond to everyone’s concerns the council vote unanimously to approve.

Although the signed law allows a distillery to produce up to 750,000 gallons a year, Mike conceded in a recent email conversation that their short term goal is a little smaller.  “Our goals are to make and sell about 3,000 cases (12 x 750ml bottles) by year two, 4,000 by year three and 5,000 by year 5,” he said.  “The distillery will have a total capacity of about 10,000 cases, running 2 shifts a day, 5 days a week.”

Their initial offerings will be gin and vodka, with barrel aged whiskey and brandy coming later, available at both the distillery location and local liquor stores.  But Mike was quick to point out that there is more to spirits than just the norm.  “There are some interesting products, like hopped and smoked whiskey that we really like too.  In general there are lots of interesting ways you can make spirits, either through unique recipes, aging techniques, and/or blending and flavoring that we plan to experiment with,” he stated.  They also have plans to do small experimental batches of different seasonal offerings that will have very limited distribution -possibly available only at the distillery.

All of their products will be produced with an eye towards local sourcing, “Our goal is to source as much of our raw materials as possible from local farms.  We have spoken with a few farms about availability and feel that we will be able to find most of our grains (wheat, corn, rye and barley) as well as other flavorings that we can use in crafting unique spirits.”  Mike hopes that the sourcing can go both ways, and that the same local farmers will be able to take their spent grain and use it as compost or livestock feed.

While local sourcing is great for the community farms that surround Smyrna, Mike does admit that it hampers their ability to make one potential product.  “Rum would be hard to do based on our priority for using local raw materials,” he stated when I asked him about my favorite distilled liquor.  “But we have a couple ideas that we are investigating so we are not going to rule it out.”

Mike Rasmussen at the Legacy tent at Hogs and Hops (Photo from Legacy Distilling Facebook Page)

Besides their association with local farmers, Ron and Mike are actively looking at other ways to support the local community that has accepted them into their fold.  “We want our distillery to be an open place.  We plan to host regular tours and tastings, as well as eventually open for bottling parties, distilling workshops, special events, etc.  We also want to do whatever we can to showcase local artisans, so we hope to have space where we can help promote local artists and sell local goods that are in line with our core beliefs.”  But it doesn’t just stop there.  “Another thing Ron and I are both passionate about is science and science education,” he continued.  “Because of that, we plan on donating a portion of our profits to promote science education.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Ron and Mike at the recent Hogs and Hops event at Fordham and their passion really shows.  I look forward to watching them get their dream off the ground, and thank Mike for giving me some of his valuable time.  You can find the Legacy Distilling tent at Sheridan’s Pub for their Halfway To St. Patrick’s Day block-party on September 22, and The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival on October 21.

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