A love affair has blossomed between local microbreweries and craft beer aficionados
In 2013, when Eric Williams and his partners opened Mispillion River Brewing in Milford, Williams pictured himself “owning a great brewery, making all this beer and having a lot of fun.” All of that came true, but so did a sober reality: “It’s a really hard business to be in,” he admits. “We’re putting out a good product, but now there’s a lot of competition with some really good Delaware beers.”
In the past year, Big Oyster Brewing (inside Fins Ale House & Raw Bar) near Midway, Crooked Hammock Brewery outside Lewes and Dewey Beer Co. in Dewey Beach all opened. Revelation Craft Brewing Company unveiled a tasting room in West Rehoboth in July. Next year, the company hopes to put a brewpub on the site of a historic Belltown church on Route 9.
These newbies joined 16 Mile Brewery Company in Georgetown and regional competitors such as 3rd Wave Brewing Co. in Delmar, Burley Oak Brewing Company in Berlin, Md., and Evolution Craft Brewing Co. in Salisbury, Md. And then, of course, there is Milton-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, which started it all in 1995.
The good news is that a cluster of breweries makes the beach resort area a destination for aficionados. The bad news is that opening a brewery or brewpub here still requires determination, perseverance, sacrifice and the ability to stand out from local, regional and national competition.
The Alfresco Factor
Owners and patrons alike have a strong appetite for outdoor dining at coastal restaurants
From the July 2016 issue
In 1974, the Back Porch Cafe opened in a former hotel with a backyard. Fresh from a tour of Europe, where people dine alfresco in all kinds of weather, owners Victor Pisapia, Libby Fisher and Fisher’s husband, Ted, envisioned dining under the stars at their restaurant. They built a deck on the ground and a second-level deck with a stair access. Guests were initially perplexed. Why would they want to forsake air conditioning to eat with the bugs? Over the years, however, the alfresco dining option has “put us on the map,” says Keith Fitzgerald, who now owns the restaurant with Marilyn Spitz. The 70 seats outside are in high demand.
Alfresco dining has become a popular addition to any restaurant’s services. “People love the fresh air and the relaxed atmosphere,” says Meg Hudson, owner of Lula Brazil in Rehoboth Beach. Not surprisingly, outdoor space for dining is a competitive advantage at the beach. Located within the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn, 99 Sea Level has outdoor seats with views of the boardwalk and ocean. “Since opening last July, the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Donna Serafini, director of operations. “Hearing the ocean, feeling the warm summer breeze while eating good food is very rare.”
But offering outdoor dining has its challenges, namely the dismal weather that plagued the coast this past spring. Managers need to juggle reservations so they’re not caught with 70 diners in a squall. They must also make smart staffing decisions.
Caution: Heavy Traﬃc Ahead
With more and more cars in coastal Sussex, it’s no small challenge to keep them moving
From the July 2016 issue
One afternoon last summer, Lewes resident Nadine Wick was driving into town on Savannah Road. She was able to move along at the speed limit, but cars headed out of town were facing a different situation. They were just creeping along, in a stop-and-go line that stretched from Five Points to Shields Elementary School, about 1.7 miles.
“That just blew my mind,” Wick says. “That kind of thing should never happen.”
Wick is a member of the executive board of Lewes Partnership for Managing Growth, which aims to preserve the bayside town’s beauty, prosperity and quality of life, as well as the roads that lead to its historic center. In the group’s recent objection to a proposed shopping center at the intersection of Gills Neck Road and Kings Highway, it asserted that increased traffic would be one of several problems created by the project.
“Traffic on the eastern side of Sussex County is a mess,” Wick says. “We have developed and developed with no thought of infrastructure. And we continue to build! Traffic is going to get so bad that people won’t want to live here or visit here. That’s on its way — no question.”