The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival Returns to its Old Digs in 2018 with a New Energy and a New Name

This October 2018 will see the annual Delaware Wine and Beer Festival return to its original location at the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover, Delaware. The museum (located at 866 N. Dupont Highway, Dover, DE) hosted the event for several years before moving to the State Fair Grounds in Harrington where it has been held for the past two years.

But that’s not the only change, the festival has adopted the new name “The Delaware Beer, Wine, and Spirits Festival” to recognize the many Delaware spirit manufactures that often participate in the event.

The basic info can be found on the Visit Delaware Webpage, and Cullen Robinson from Out and About Magazine has informed me that the official website will go live sometime tomorrow, July 26th. Tickets will go on sale August 13th with both VIP (reserved parking, early entrance) and General Admission options. The event will be held from 11am-4pm, on October 13th.

Cullen has informed me that the event is returning with “new partnerships and new energy”. Let’s just hope they can avoid the problems at the Museum that caused the event to move to Harrington in the first place.

More info to come.

A Discussion with New Event Manger John Doerfler About the 2016 Delaware Wine and Beer Festival

DWaBF2014A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking to John Doerfler, Sales and Event Manger for Kent County Tourism and the new person behind the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival.

I wanted to talk to John to ask about any potential changes there may be coming for this year’s festival in light of some of the issues that plagued last year’s event. For those who didn’t go to last years or didn’t hear any of the rumblings, I’ll try to sum it up briefly.

It was crowded.

Oh Lordy, was it crowded.

By the time we returned to the main festival after visiting the homebrew competition we found the place had turned into a collection of queued people waiting in one line or another. Lines at the vendor tents were easily 30-40 people deep, even deeper at the port-a-potties. The main path through the event was so crowded that it was hard to tell if you were standing in a vendor line, or standing in the line to get passed the vendor lines and some of those vendors would end up running out of beer early into the festival.

We left early. Our friend (who had bought a VIP ticket) never got a beer from a vendor having only tasted the beers during the homebrew judging.

I was disappointed because in the past, The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival had been my favorite yearly event, an awesome collection of everything in the beverage scene in the state of Delaware. Some time later I hoped that my disappointment was confined solely to me and my group, and I hoped everyone else who had attended found the festival enjoyable and fun.

That was not the case.

The Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers Facebook page event for the festival had over 3200-people who had clicked that they were going to the event. People were posting comments about how much they looked forward to going and were eagerly tagging their friends to spread the word. Immediately after the event however, the tone on the thread changed. It seems that we were not the only ones disappointed by the event.

And boy did they let us know.

DWABF Comments

From the looks of things, the next festival would have its work cut out for it trying to address the issues that had been raised and so with that thought in mind, I contacted John to talk about that very thing.

However, the phone call I went into thinking of strictly as an interview turned out to be more of a discussion. Plans for this year’s festival were still being ironed out, and John was very interested in hearing what criticisms myself and others had about last year’s event to see if they were in line with some of the feedback he had heard.

As such I won’t write a detailed recap of our discussion, I will instead hit some of the highlights to explain the reasoning behind the announced changes.

VENUE: As stated in Thursday’s release, the event is being moved away from the Delaware Agricultural Museum. Moving the festival to the Harrington Fairgrounds immediately relieves several of the problems from last year. The larger venue allows the festival to be more spread out and thus eliminate the congestion, plus make space for more toilets.

John stated another advantage to the move, “We have access to a couple of big buildings allowing us to have some of the vendors inside and if the weather is bad we could move the whole festival indoors.”

VIP DIFFERENTIAL: Of all the big issues I thought last year’s event suffered from, I thought this was a pretty important one. When I stated that some folks didn’t see the value in the VIP ticket compared to the general admission ticket I had to admit that I agreed with them.

John definitely could see their point, and we did discuss some options but Thursday’s release made no mention of VIP tickets. When I inquired as to why, Marketing and Communication’s Manager, Justine Zimney was quick to respond, “As of right now, we are still working on details such as the VIP tickets and the homebrew competition. The press release sent out this morning was to highlight the new venue as well as early bird tickets.. which is the first time we are doing a special early bird ticket price! Once more information is released then we will have an additional press release.

If you haven’t seen the information yet, the festival is offering general admission tickets from now until July 8th, for only $25. After July 8th, advance admission will be $35, and day-of-event tickets will be $40. Your ticket will get  you entrance into the festival and you can sample any beers, wines or spirits, as well as purchase a full pour (full glass of beer, wine or a cocktail).

RUNNING OUT OF BEER: While many festivals rely on brewers to donate their beer, that’s not been the case with the DWaBF. When I asked if it was true that the festival buys all the beer from the vendors, John confirmed that that was indeed the case. “For other festivals I could offer them exposure in return for a brewery’s beer, but these vendors already have that. They’ve worked hard on their product. Why shouldn’t they get paid for it?”

So how do you make sure you’re buying enough. This is where John’s previous experience with festivals at Dover Downs and as a onetime caterer comes in handy. “There are ways to calculate this kind of stuff. I never ran out of anything when I catered.”

Still, will this guarantee that some breweries won’t still run out. No, because sometimes breweries can only give so much. I happen to know that part of the reason Argilla left early last year was because their annual Fall Festival was the following weekend and Steve only had so many kegs he could release to Delaware’s event.

Likewise, Big Oyster had just started up their small production brewery and was also probably limited to the number of kegs they could contribute.

That being said, John’s goal is to have as much beer (and wine, mead, spirits) available for festival goers throughout the entire event.

LONG LINES: Although John acknowledges that some waiting in line is a benefit to help control over consumption, he was quick to point out that he felt that waiting 25-30 minutes in line for a sample was unacceptable. John would like to see three to four smaller lines at each tent instead of one long one. “If we could set it up where the breweries have more taps and we have more volunteers to help them pour, then the line problem becomes more manageable”.

And as far as people standing in line waiting to get into the festival? “We have access to the latest technology to get people into  the festival as fast as possible”, John said.

I was very encouraged about this year’s festival after my discussion with John. I found him eager to discuss how the festival might be improved and he took none of the issues from last year’s patrons lightly or offhandedly. In fact, on several occasions when I brought up an issue he would quickly agree that there should be a better alternative which lead me to believe that he had already given the matter some consideration.

I think this can be best illustrated by a point towards the end of our discussion when I brought up the fact that many people were disappointed in the use of plastic cups. I didn’t even get to finish my statement.

“Yeah, we won’t be doing that. They’re gone.”

As always I’d like to thank both John Doerfler and Justine Zimney for taking some of their valuable time to talk to me.

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Event Details: (Facebook, Website, Tickets)

  • Saturday, October 15, 2016, 12 noon – 5 p.m.
  • Delaware State Fairgrounds
  • 18500 S. DuPont Highway, Harrington, Delaware

The festival includes live music, performers, games, and access to a select number of local eateries featuring gourmet foods and Delaware delicacies.  We will offer a merchandise store and a wine store with discounted prices on bottles or cases of Delaware-made wines.

This autumn festival will have you experiencing some of the First State’s finest culinary landscape. A food unique to Delaware called “scrapple,” a pork-based meal known to be Delaware’s most icon dish, is a fan favorite for many. Guests can look forward to a variety of Delaware delicacies such as seafood and barbecue dishes. Food trucks from local culinary artists will also be set up with delicious and convenient items for all to enjoy

You must be 21 to attend.

Please note:  There are no refunds for this event, and it will be held rain or shine.

Delaware Homebrewing Champion Russell Kalbach Defends His Crown This Saturday At The 5th Delaware Wine And Beer Festival

DWaBF2014I’ve made no apologies about my fondness for the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival (DWBF) since I first attended back in 2012.  As I alluded to in my Odessa Brewfest post, the DWBF functions under an enviable model that many festivals would love to emulate.

First, hosted at the spacious and beautiful Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village the event sports a backdrop that is more rustic than many other festivals out there.  Also, event organizer Cindy Small and her excellent team from VisitDover.com, have done more than just pull together your cookie-cutter style festival that you see springing up all over the area lately.  No, the DWBF has narrowed the focus of their festival to everything that is great about the state of Delaware.

Not only does the festival bring together almost all of the breweries and wineries that operate within Delaware State lines, but as their motto “Drink Local, Eat Local, Buy Local” suggests, the DWBF will have food provided by over a dozen of the finest restaurants and eateries in the state.  Add on top of that some of the best Delaware artisans, and you have an amazing compilation of everything good in Delaware.

Yep, Delaware at its finest.  Take for example last year, when homebrewers came from all areas of the state to see if their beer was good enough to earn them the title ofDelaware Homebrew Champion in the DWBF’s first BCJP judged Delaware Homebrew Championship.  And after all the beer had been tasted, and the smoke cleared, one homebrewer emerged victorious – Russell Kalbach from….. Upper Darby, PA?  Really? Did we fact check that?

CHECKS OUT

Ah! OK, that’s fine. Although the DWBF primarly focuses on Delaware, it’s not unusual to find a little out-of-state sprinkled in.  Two years ago, they brought in PA favorites Yards Brewing, and last year a favorite of mine from MD, Tall Tales Brewing was pouring beers.

So its no surprise that the festival would welcome out-of-state brewers interested in seeing if they could make claim to Delaware’s homebrewing title.  Take Joseph Kahn for instance.  Joseph came all the way up from Washington DC and was rewarded when his porter, I Hardly Knew Her won in the Specialty category. But rest assured, Delaware was greatly represented in the winner’s circle.

Lewes brewer Conner Brown’s brown ale was good enough to win the America Ale category, while Matthew Wood of Felton took the American IPA category with his entry, Hop Smack. Chris Kozinki from Wilmington brought down some northern Delaware flavor with his Peach Saison which took first in the Delaware Grown Fruit Beer category. But it was Russell’s French Ale category winning Saison, that the judges liked the best.

“That was the first time I had brewed that particular beer,” Russell told me in an email conversation. “As a gift, my girlfriend has custom bottlecaps made for me, one of which was the image of the French street sign for a motorcycle. So I set out to create a traditional French beer.”

So what was his approach to his championship winning beer? “I create and write all of my own recipes, so I researched traditional French beers and settled on a saison. I was very happy with how it came out, so I decided to enter it in this competition.”

When the conversation turned to previous competition experience, Russell was pretty candid, “This was the first championship I had won. Though I have been brewing for several years, I very rarely enter competitions. I believe this was only my second or third competition. I mostly brew beer to learn, enjoy, and share with friends.”

Pointing out however that he still had a good familiarity with homebrew competitions through interactions with members of his homebrew club despite his actually lack of experience; when asked about the difference between DWBF’s competition and others he responded, “[The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival Homebrew Competition] is different in the fact that there is a people’s choice component, followed by a certified judging component. Most are one or the other. This presents the challenge of brewing a beer that is a crowd pleaser, but also technically sound to meet the criteria of style that will be used in the certified judging.”

Of course, once you’ve brewed a championship winning beer there’s no need to tinker with it anymore, right?  Not according to Russell, “Since then, I’ve brewed it a second time using hops grown in France, which are hard to find. I think that batch came out even better.”

Unfortunately, people who have purchased VIP tickets for this Saturday’s festival will not get a chance to try the improved version, “I have entered the competition again, and I will be at the festival all day. I entered the Delaware-Grown Fruit Beer category. I brewed a Berliner Weisse with a massive quantity of raspberries from Delaware. Berliner Weisse is a traditional German sour ale, very light in body and alcohol. The raspberries provide a great colour and a compliment to the tart taste.”

So with all his preparation and hard work, is there anything else that Russell thinks would make this year’s entry stand out amongst his competitors? “It’s a great beer to drink on a warm day, so I’m praying for nice weather.”

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Nice…is relative.

He’ll also have to hope that his beer is better than those of the 44 other entries to this year’s competition, which Cindy Small says is a sharp increase from last year.

The DWBF and the Delaware Homebrew Championship will be held this Saturday, October 11th and the beer categories being judged are American Ale, Belgian/French Ale, Delaware Grown Fruit beer, IPA, and Specialty categories.  Along with the certified judging, VIP ticket holders are invited to the homebrew competition area (located on the south side of the museum) to participate in the people’s choice judging. Winners will be announced at 4pm.

This year’s championship competition prizes total more than $2000, including a “brewternship” with Delaware breweries Fordham and Dominion.

Good luck to everyone who has entered and we’ll see ya’ on Saturday!

[As always the author would like to thank Cindy Small and Charles Gray for their valuable time in helping me write this post.  I would also like to thank Russell Kalbach for taking his time to do the interview.  Good luck on Saturday, Russell!”]

Find out more about Delaware’s Capital Region/Greater Dover/Kent County Tourism, Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Find out more about the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival.

Patrick
The Final Sip: While at the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival make it a point to talk to the many volunteers that are pouring.  You never know who you may run into.  Lindsey and Eric from Delaware Hop Scene are frequent volunteers and as this photo shows, Delaware Cider Blogger and founder of the #ciderchat on Twitter, Patrick Huff, was busy at the Great Shoals Winery tent last year.

 

How to Throw a Party – The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival

The new logo, created by Brad Tillinghast

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.

DCBaWL member Dana’s Mini-Cooper.  If you’ve never had to park on the front lawn at a party, then you haven’t been to the right parties.
The picturesque pond.
Festival attendees enjoy a beautiful fall day.

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.

The guys at The Pizza Wagon

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.

The servers at Old Dominion/Fordham serve the festival crowd.
Twin Lakes pouring a beer.

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 Legacy Distilling tent

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.

A display of one of the many artisans that were in attendance.
A woman looks at some jewelry at one of the artisan tables.

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.

Four Must Visit Tents at The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival

This Sunday marks the third annual Delaware Wine and Beer Festival, and they’ve managed to put together an amazing collection of breweries, wineries and food venues that highlight their theme, “Drink Local, Eat Local, Buy Local”.  The five hour event gives attendees plenty of time to stop at every tent and with tickets for 10 free tastes everyone should have the opportunity to try the beer and wines that intrest them.  That being said, I thought I’d give a run down of four tents I’ll be making sure I spend a little extra time at.

3rd Wave Brewing

When Evolution Brewing moved from Delmar Delaware across the state line into Maryland, they left both a figurative and literal hole in the Delaware craft beer scene.  Lori Clough and Suellen Vickers didn’t let that hole sit for very long, as they acquired the facility and set up 3rd Wave Brewing.  They then hired head brewer John Panasiewicz from Iron Hill Brewery and got busy making beer.  They officially opened for business on August 29th to an enthusiastic welcome from the surrounding community and have started to make their presence know in the craft beer arena.  I think it’s fitting that the newest Delaware brewery makes its debut appearance at the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival.

Legacy Distilling

I first got introduced to what will become Delaware’s first stand alone distillery at Fordham Brewing’s Hogs and Hops event in August.  Ron Gomes and Mike Rasmussen started to form the ground work for their company as soon as Delaware passed the law that allowed distilleries.  Since then, they’ve found a home in Smyrna, Delaware and have been working on finalizing a location.  Mike and Ron won’t be pouring samples on Sunday, but they will be happy to answer any questions about what to expect in the future from this exciting new venture.  They’ll also be having a free raffle to give away a prize package including a future tour of their facility, a bottle of their spirits and other great items.

Great Shoals Winery

Although this award winning producer of sparkling style wines operates out of Princess Anne, MD, they have a very strong tie to the state of Delaware.  When the winery was looking for an apple variety to use for a new addition to their sparkling cider line, they were happily surprised to discover that the Smith family farm in Bridgeville, DE was not only growing first class cider apples, but among the varieties they were growing was one that Great Shoals was very interested in – the Black Twig.  The result of this discovery is T.S. Smith’s Black Twig Hard Apple, a European style dry sparkling cider.  We can’t wait to try this award winning cider which has been officially recognized as “Delaware’s First Hard Cider”. (Also keep an eye out for their multi-award winning Spencerville Red Hard Apple Cider.)

GABF Award Winners

Yeah OK, I’m cheating here.  Hopefully this weekend will give you a great opportunity to try two recent (just last week as a matter of fact) Great American Beer Fest medal winners.  First, Old Dominion Brewery will hopefully be pouring their Oktoberfest which won a bronze medal in the German-Style Marzen catagory.  Second, out-of-state favorites Yard’s Brewing will hopefully be bringing their bronze medal winning ESB.  I have no idea which beers these breweries WILL be pouring on Sunday, but I’m hoping to get a chance try these two again.

Of course these are just a few of the great breweries and wineries that will be in attendance at the DWaBF.  Make sure you stop at the other great tents of Argilla Brewing Company, 16 Mile Brewery, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Fenwick Wine Cellars, Harvest Ridge Winery, Nassau Valley Vineyards, Pizzadili Winery & Vineyards, Twin Lakes Brewery, and Unplugged & Uncorked — Sonata Wines.

And don’t forget the food!  Abbott’s Grill, Milford, Chops Grille, Maple Dale Country Club, McGlynn’s Pub & Restaurant and The Pizza Wagon will be on hand to make sure you don’t get too hungry during the afternoon.

Have a great time at the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival!  See you there!