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Delaware Wine and Ale Trail

Hit the trail to discover the First State’s 12 brewing and winemaking sites, from Wilmington to Delmar.

New Castle County
1 Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant | Wilmington
2 Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant | Newark
3 Stewart’s Brewing Company | Bear
 

Kent County
4 Fordham Brewing Company | Dover
5 Old Dominion Brewing Co. | Dover
6 Pizzadili Vineyard & Winery | Felton
 

Sussex County
7 Dogfish Head Craft Brewery | Milton
8 16 Mile Brewing Company | Georgetown
9 Nassau Valley Vineyards | Lewes
10 Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats | Rehoboth Beach
11 Fenwick Wine Cellars | West Fenwick
12 Evolution Craft Brewing | Delmar
 

 

Sam Calagione is top dog at Dogfish Head Brewery. Photograph by Kevin FlemingTomorrow Sam Calagione is leaving on a plane due for New Zealand.

“We’re going down there to get some crazy tree tomatoes and use them to make beer,” he says.

In the few weeks prior, Calagione had flown from Peru to Egypt hunting down ancient beer recipes like a sudsy Indiana Jones for “Brewed,” a TV show he’s hosting for the Discovery Channel, set to begin airing in January.

In between, he’s been meeting with a group of men that includes chef Mario Batali and craft brewers from Italy to finalize the opening of Eataly, a 36,500-square-foot beer, food and retail nirvana in New York City. With a copper-clad rooftop brewing system, Sam and the brewers will create artisanal, Old World Italian craft beers to pair with the myriad dining options around Eataly.

Such is the life and times of Calagione and his greatest creation, Dogfish Head Brewery —Delaware’s biggest national hit in ages. Though he trots the globe in “Brewed,” much of the show takes place in Milton and Rehoboth Beach, home to Dogfish Head’s headquarter brewery and brewpub. “We’ve shot some at Cape Henlopen State Park, downtown Lewes, a little bit around Rehoboth,” Calagione says. “It’s really about everyone at Dogfish, all the really exotic beers we make, the projects and collaborations we do.”

Clearly the folks at Discovery Channel see something in Dogfish Head they think the rest of the nation should see. Considering 700 to 900 visitors tour the Milton brewery every week, the producers might be onto something.

Dogfish Head is the biggest craft brewery in the Mid-Atlantic (7,000 to 8,000 cases of beer produced weekly), and its Milton facilities—stuffed with gargantuan wooden brewing tanks and decorated out front with a 25,000-square-foot Steampunk Tree House—is a bona fide attraction.

State tourism officials have noticed, and created the Delaware Wine and Ale Trail, a marketing tool meant to guide tourists to the 12 brewing and winemaking sites across the state.

“I think there are great beers being made throughout Delaware,” Calagione says. “I think it’s going to be a great magnet to bring tourists to the state. Ours is a disproportionately strong brewing state.”

The hope, according to state tourism director Linda Parkowski, is that tourists will prolong their visits in Delaware, taking advantage of easy routes between trail sites, local hotels, restaurants and shops.

It’s a formula that has worked for other regions, including the Brandywine Wine Trail in southeastern Pennsylvania, which joins eight wineries with annual events like the Harvest Festival.

Herein, a complete guide to the trail: the sights, the sounds and smells of Delaware craft beer and wine producers.
 

Happy sipping.

 

16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown offers weekly owner’s tours on Fridays.16 Mile Brewing Company
413 S. Bedford St., Georgetown, 253-8816
www.16milebrewery.com

Though they pack their bold beers into big, 22-ounce aluminum bottles, Brett McCrea and Chad Campbell of 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown represent the state’s most micro microbrewery.

Launched in 2009, the two-man, 15-barrel, 4,000-square-foot operation produces brawny bottles of cold, amber malty beers, like the flagship Amber Sun Ale, citrusy Old Court Ale and mellow Blues’ Golden Ale. All are at your local liquor outlet or on tap at Harry’s Seafood Grill and Chelsea Tavern in Wilmington and in Rehoboth, at the Purple Parrot and Arena’s Deli. It’s also offered at Aqua Sol at the Summit North Marina.

The pair brew from a historic low-rise that’s big on energy efficiency. A low-pressure stream boiler limits energy expenditure, a fact McCrea and Campbell will be more than glad to expand on during one of their weekly owner’s tours Fridays at 4 p.m.
 

 

Tours of Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton are extremely popular.Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales
6 Cannery Village Center, Milton, 684-1000

Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2739
www.dogfish.com 

How can one of the biggest and most well-known craft brewers on the East Coast still be so zany? Thank the Rehoboth Beach brewpub, whose customers serve as guinea pigs for Dogfish’s experimental, 10-keg batches of ale. “We don’t do focus groups,” says owner Sam Calagione. “Anybody can come in and tell us it sucks. That’s the kind of information that leads to us bottling. And that’s how we can be risky and experimental.”

For those who tour the Milton brewery, be sure to sign up at www.dogfish.com. (Tours do sell out.) Once inside, you’ll witness all of the unique and proprietary components Dogfish has brought to the brewing world, including one of the largest wooden brewing vessels in America (it’s made out of oak and palosanto wood) and the continual-hopping machine that gives DFH’s famous 90- and 120-minute IPAs an extra kick.

Dogfish Head beers can be found practically anywhere. This fall, be on the lookout for Bitches Brew, a hybrid of imperial stout and honey beer that commemorates the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’ seminal album—all with the blessing of Davis’ estate and Sony Records.
 

 

A tour of Evolution Craft Brewing Company in Delmar will take you through the entire brewing process—from grain to glass. Photograph by Brandon Myer/Brightside PhotographyEvolution Craft Brewing Co.
501 N. Bi-State Blvd., Delmar, 907-0377
www.evolutioncraftbrewing.com

As one of the fastest-growing microbreweries in the region, Evolution has seen its product expand across Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and, recently, Virginia. But it’s stopping there.

“We just want to remain a regional brewery to maintain the quality,” says co-founder Tom Knorr.

Tours of Evolution’s 3,500-square-foot brewery take advantage of its small stature, giving visitors “a good grip on how beer is made. It’s easy to get the whole picture,” Knorr says. “We take them through the whole process from grain to glass.”

Tours without reservations are available on Saturdays at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and the tasting room is open from Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. You can sample the seasonal Jacques-au-Lantern, a Belgian-style ale made from local pumpkins, and the Lot No. 3, an “aggressively hopped” American IPA.
 

 

Fenwick Wine Cellars
38016 Fenwick Shoals Blvd.
West Fenwick Island, 436-1500
www.fenwickwinecellars.com

Fenwick Wine Cellars is Delaware’s newest winery, having pushed its first grape seeds into the ground last May. But in short time, Adrian Mobilia’s farm winery has garnered some strong praise. Fenwick Wine Cellars’ Chardonnay took home silver, and its Fredonia won double-gold at the Florida International Wine Competition this year. Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Vignoles, Cabernet Franc and Catawba all medaled at the Finger Lakes Wine Festival.

Just a few months into the biz, Fenwick is in the process of assembling its own production equipment, so there is no facility to visit just yet. But the Tuscan-tinged wine shop has won over oenophiles from around the region. Picture burnt-orange walls and acid-stained floors, and many shelves of Fenwick’s 16 wines, which are all ripe for the tasting. It’s also where you’ll find Fenwick Cellars’ ambrosia, a unique red engineered by oenology researchers from Penn State and Cornell University. The Noiret varietal is a rich red with notes of green pepper and raspberries. The shop is open daily, which is a plus, but call ahead if you’re taking a large group. Your diligence will be rewarded with cheese trays.
 

 

Fordham Brewery brewmaster Walter Trifari (right) shows U.S. Senator Tom Carper the ropes.Fordham Brewing Company-Old Dominion Brewing Co.
1284 McD Drive, Dover, 678-4810
www.fordhambrewing.com
www.olddominion.com 

Fordham and Old Dominion are two breweries that moved to Delaware from other states, only to wind up together in the same brewery. Annapolis-based Fordham, and Washington, D.C.-based Old Dominion split production time at Coastal Brewing in Dover. They also share brewmaster Walter Trifari, who’s been with Fordham since 2003. He’ll show you around the mash tanks and kettles that produce signature beers such as Fordham’s Copperhead Ale and Old Dominion’s Hop Mountain Pale Ale. “He gives great tours,” says Coastal CEO Garry Williams. “And he’ll discuss what Walter calls the magic. When fermentation takes place. It’s really a mix of art and science.”

Eight or nine beers are usually on tap during tours, and that includes the high-end root beer and ginger ales Old Dominion makes. The root beer is made according to authentic American recipes on file at the Library of Congress.
 

 

Iron Hill Brewery’s famous lineup.Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant
147 E. Main St., Newark, 266-9000
710 Justison St., Wilmington, 472-2739
www.ironhillbrewery.com

As another Oktoberfest season comes and goes, Iron Hill Brewery is still expanding as fast as its medal count. And as fans of any of its eight locations know, it’s time to revel in big, strong Iron Hill beers like Pumpkinfest and Bourbon Russian Imperial Stout.

Get a look at the bourbon-barrel aging process (with whole vanilla beans) at any location, from pretty much any employee on hand. “Anytime you’re in the restaurant, if the brewer is in and the brewery is functioning, he’ll show you around,” says co-founder Mark Edelson. “If not, a manager or any of the employees could. Everybody in contact with customers is highly educated about our styles. That’s one of the hallmarks of what we do.”

Another Iron Hill hallmark is its long list of mug-ready beers, from seasonals like Winter Witbier to signature brews like Ironbound Ale and Pig Iron Porter. “Of course there’s always a sampler,” Edelson says, “one of every beer we have on tap.” Save room for some shrimp lejon pizza.
 

 

In 1993, Nassau Valley Vineyards became the first winery to open in Delaware. It continues to be a popular attraction. Photograph by Keith Mosher/kamPhotographyNassau Valley Vineyards
32165 Winery Way, Lewes, 645-9463
www.nassauvalley.com

There might never have been a Delaware Wine and Ale Trail without Nassau Valley Vineyards. “In order for there to be a trail to follow, someone had to blaze that trail,” says Nassau founder Peggy Raley, who opened Nassau in 1993 with her father. She lobbied the state legislature to make it legal to open the first winery in Delaware.

Today Nassau Valley boasts a self-guided tour that the American Wine Society dubbed one of the most unique in America. Tours of the winery include a trek through the five-gallery wine museum. Tastings, like tours, are free. Try medal-winners like Nassau’s Indian River Red, a dry, barrel-aged blend, its heralded Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, or a 100 percent fermented fruit wine.

Pack a picnic and spend the day at Nassau, and be sure to check out the on-site art gallery, featuring works by regional and national artists. Pick up Nassau Valley wines at retail outlets throughout Delaware.
 

 

A tour of Pizzadili Vineyard  in Felton offers gazebos, ponds and pavilions, as well as 12 Delaware-grown grape varieties.Pizzadili Winery
1671 Peach Basket Road, Felton
284-9463, www.pizzadiliwinery.com

There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than at Pizzadili, touring the wide-open, verdant farmland and all the various gazebos and ponds and pavilions that beg exploring.

Owners Tony and Pete Pizzadili love to talk wine, and will go over each of their 12 Delaware-grown grape varieties, including the popular sweet wines, like the white Delaware, and the red Wives’ Table Wine. Pay $5 for a Pizzadili Winery wine glass and sample a half-dozen of Pizzadili’s prized wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Merlot and the family’s famous fruit wines. The winery is open every day of the week from noon to 5 p.m. and is only closed for major holidays. But call ahead if you want the tour.

 

Stewart’s Brewing Co.
219 Governors Place, Bear, 836-2739
www.stewartsbrewingcompany.com

As New Castle County’s first brewpub, Stewart’s has many loyal regulars, thanks to its bar munchies and potent seasonal beers such as the World Beer Cup medaling Stumblin’ Monk Abbey Trippel.

But newbies are more than welcome to get a look at how Stewart’s makes its magic with its in-house, seven-barrel system, visible from the bar through a glass enclosure. Brewers use an open-tank fermenting process to make house draughts such as the popular Irish Red Ale, but utilize specially engineered covers in order to make Belgian-style beers and the gold-medal-winning Kölsch. Join the mug club, take in oyster night and some live music, and you’ll be a Stewart’s regular in no time. 

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