Locally made beers, wine and spirits have become another draw for coastal tourists

By Pam George  |  Photograph by Carolyn Watson
From the September 2014 issue

libationvacationnassauvineyards Libation Vacation - Delaware Beach LifeKelly Grovola and her family come to the beach from Hockessin for sun, fun — and suds. They always stop at the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton or the Dogfish brewpub in Rehoboth Beach. When Dogfish Head holds events such the annual Analog-a-Go-Go (a salute to vinyl records), Grovola heads south just for that. Sitting on the sand becomes secondary.

She’s not alone. “Our trips to the beach are often scheduled and planned around events happening at the breweries, such as a special beer release or ticketed events,” says Lindsey Timberman of Wilmington, who with Eric Roberts writes a blog on delawarehopscene.com. When it comes to eye-opening ales by the sea, the duo have a lot to type about.

According to Eric Williams, co-owner of Mispillion River Brewing, which opened in 2013 in Milford, the beach craft brew scene has “taken off.” In addition to his operation and Dogfish Head, Sussex County is home to 16 Mile Brewing Co. in Georgetown, which opened in 2009.

This winter, if all goes as planned, Michael Reilly, Brandon Smith and Clinton Bunting will open a new brewpub called Dewey Beer Co. in the old home of Theo’s Family Restaurant in Dewey Beach.

Just a short drive away, hopheads can try Burley Oak in Berlin, Md., Evolution Craft Brewery in Salisbury, Md., Fordham & Dominion Brewing Co. in Dover and 3rd Wave Brewing Co. in Delmar. 

Once a season, Kathy and Jim Berg of Wilmington make a tour of several of these breweries. “Sometimes it may only be for the day, but sometimes we make a weekend out of it,” Kathy says.

Beer isn’t the only homegrown libation bringing visitors to the beach. Nassau Valley Vineyards in the Lewes area opened in 1993, followed by Fenwick Wine Cellars in 2010. Delaware Distilling Co. on Route 1 in Midway began making vodka, gin, rum and whiskey in 2012. (Dogfish Head, which long ago extended its brand into vodka, rum and gin, is expanding its distillery this year, said founder Sam Calagione.)

While craft beer, wine and spirits are popular across the country, the craft movement has a particular stronghold in resort areas. That’s because they infuse a destination with — literally — local flavor, says Linda Parkowski, director of tourism for the state of Delaware.

“They also raise the profile of the town where they’re based,” she adds. “Obviously, Dogfish Head has helped put Rehoboth and Milton on the map, and Fenwick Wine Cellars has familiarized visitors with Selbyville.”

Reilly, of the Dewey Beer Co., wants to do the same for Dewey. “Every great town deserves a great brewery, and we want to be that brewery,” he says.

When it comes to opening a brewery, winery or distillery at the beach, there are clearly a lot of advantages, namely thirsty tourists. But there are also challenges.

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