Chuck Nunan started his vineyard after having a bad glass of wine in a beautiful garden. Eric Williams started his brewery during a midlife crisis, and the Pizzadili brothers planted their grapes to make dad happy. No matter their stories, they are now part of the big vat of breweries, vineyards and distilleries that make Kent County a craft beverage bonanza.
There are six stops on the Kent County Tourism Good Libations Tour, and seven on the state’s Beer, Wine & Spirits Trail.
“Delaware’s more than $3 billion tourism industry is a key driver of the state’s economy, and our thriving craft beverage industry is an important element of that,” says Gov. John Carney. The state’s smartphone app Delaware on Tap provides directions and information for people seeking craft beverages in the First State. Kent County brewers, vintners and distillers are ready and waiting.
“The whole state has become a destination. That’s pretty awesome for our industry,” says Eric Williams, owner of Mispillion River Brewing in Milford. Williams woke up on his 40th birthday and told his wife he wanted to quit his job and start a brewery. Being either visionary or super-indulgent, his wife agreed and brews such as Not Today Satan IPA, Nor’Easter and Space Otter were born. The Mispillion brew list is always changing, so Williams suggests checking out the website for updates. The beer descriptions are worth the read. “Being a little goofy helps,” he says.
The Mispillion brew list is always changing.//photo by Joe Del Tufo
For maximum touring in minimum space, Smyrna is quite a drink destination with two breweries and a distillery in town. Even people who don’t think of themselves as spirit lovers might want to take a stop at Painted Stave Distilling on Commerce Street. Housed in the old Smyrna movie theater, it still has the theater feel with murals, wall sconces and a giant projector in place.
Eric Williams woke up on his 40th birthday and
“We definitely ended up with a cool space,” says Mike Rasmussen, who founded the distillery with his friend Ron Gomes in 2012. The scrapple vodka—yes, the pork scrap meat product scrapple—is worth a try if for no other reason than it’s a conversation starter later.
Smyrna’s Blue Earl Brewing, the seventh microbrewery in Delaware, offers $10 tours—with a sample glass—every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Brew names there include Trouble in Mind bock and Top of the World stout.
On the highway is Brick Works Brewing & Eats, where they say they make everything from scratch “from plate to glass.”
If wine is more your taste, then head out of Smyrna.
Nunan, owner of Harvest Ridge Winery and Rebel Seed Cidery in Marydel, started the vineyard after visiting one in South Carolina where the setting was lovely, but the wine was awful. Nunan, a basement vintner at the time, decided he could do better, and has proven it. Nunan says his vineyard is midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, creating a warmer, longer growing season and more fragrant grapes. The local conditions result in a more fragrant wine.
“This is my passion,” he says.
At many tastings he hands people a peanut butter cup candy, then gives them a drink of his Blue Hen Blue.
“Takes you right back to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, doesn’t it?” he asks.
Southeast of Harvest Ridge is the Pizzadili Vineyard and Winery in Felton. The Pizzadili brothers, Tony and Pete, planted their first grapes in 1993 to realize a dream of their father’s to own a vineyard. Now with more than 12 grape varieties, Pizzadili makes wines from dry red to sweet white, with an occasional pumpkin wine thrown in seasonally. The vineyard also boasts banquet facilities for rent as well as for events like its Oktoberfest Italian Style.
Still looking for more? The one-stop tasting shop for local liquid refreshment shows up in October with the 10th annual Beer, Wine & Spirits Festival in Dover. Follow along at debeerwinespirits.com for more information.
Kent County locations featured on Delaware on Tap, the state’s beer, wine and spirits app and passport:
For more information, go to visitdelaware.com/beer-wine-spirits-trail.
The Kent County Tourism Corp.’s Good Libations Tour can be found at visitdelawarevillages.com.