Dogfish Inn Offers Whimsy while Wetting your Whistle

The 16-room motel in Lewes is worth a weekend.

 Dogfish Inn 105 Savannah Road, Lewes, 644-8292,

“Welcome to Lewes. Mother Nature, let’s do this.” The words—painted in Dogfish Head’s proprietary, hiccup-like font—sprawl above the fireplace in the lobby of Dogfish Inn, which opened this past summer.

The craft brewery’s latest endeavor is located in the former Vesuvio Motel at the corner of Savannah and Gills Neck roads. Purchasing the property was no sudden whim for Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Brewery’s founder. He’d been considering a Dogfish Inn for years, partly because of the number of out-of-towners who come to the area just to tour the Milton brewery. 

About 10 years ago, he collaborated with the Inn at Canal Square in Lewes to create the Brew Master’s Suite, a Dogfish-themed guestroom.

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“While we’re proud of how that worked out, it wasn’t scalable—so we stopped doing that when we opened our own inn so that all of our guests are equally VIP,” Calagione says.

Calagione, who with his family lives a few blocks from downtown Lewes, was well acquainted with Vesuvio, a classic two-story motel with a balcony along the top level. Dogfish Head purchased the inn and a separate building—which now houses the lobby and a second floor suite (the Sweet!)—for $1.6 million. Then Dogfish Head spent about that much again to renovate it.

The 16-room motel still has the same footprint, but it’s hardly the same property. “We kept the external walls of both structures but basically replaced everything else,” Calagione says. Dogfish enlisted the support of Brooklyn-based Studio Tack to renovate the property. 

The two-story motel structure is an example of mid-century style. The decor, however, takes a contemporary approach that’s infused with Scandinavian practicality and a sense of Asian minimalism.

White walls and light wood floors and furniture give guestrooms a crisp, fresh feel. Beds rest on platforms, some of which have a wide lip that doubles as end tables. (Watch your shins.) Instead of a space-hogging closet, there is a nifty, exposed hanger system by L.A.-based Jacqueline Sharp. 

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Deep wall-mounted sinks are retro chic. Along with Dogfish Head shampoo and soap, toiletries by Malin + Goetz are lined up on a wood shelf. Folding beach chairs with green-and-white woven straps and beach bags hang on dowels by the
front door.

At the bottom of the 100-percent down-fill comforters, guests will find a neatly folded, Dogfish Head-green wool blanket, created by Woolrich. The company has collaborated with Dogfish Head on projects since 2012, when Dogfish Head papered the Milton tasting room in Woolrich’s signature buffalo check. 

There are plenty of local touches. Lewes artist Steve Rogers created a different painting of the Overfalls—Lewes’ landmark lightship—for each room. In one, the scarlet boat is upended like the sinking Titanic. One can only imagine the distress the depiction might cause Lewes’ Old Guard.

“We are fortunate that our guests share our off-centered sense of humor,” Calagione says.

In the lobby, locally roasted chicory coffee, made with dark brewer’s barley for sweetness, is available to guests. “It’s delish,” says Calagione, who has been brewing Chicory Stout since 1995. On a recent visit, the coffee counter also held a dispenser of water infused with fresh basil and peaches.

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Along with offering beverages, the lobby has a retail section, including a capsule collection of branded items made by Woolrich, and a seating area in front of a fireplace. 

The lobby is also home to the “Vesuvio” library, shelves of books topped by a sign from the old motel. Calagione, who has a bachelor’s degree in English, chose City Lights Books in San Francisco to curate the collection. Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, the independent bookstore is a literary landmark. It’s also across the street from Vesuvio Café, where Jack Kerouac hung out.

The link appeals to Calagione. The library is no take-one-leave-one operation. Guests check out books much as they would at a real library.  

This small inn clearly delivers a big bang. But you won’t find Dogfish Head beer in this ale-inspired accommodation. Calagione wants guests to support the local establishments. 

Indeed, it’s hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t have a Dogfish Head shark standing on a tap. At this point, there are no packages linking the inn, the brewery and the Rehoboth brewpub, but “your room key does get you some special attention at the Rehoboth pub and Milton locations—and a few other businesses,” Calagione says. 


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