Jeremy Freeze, Gourmet Everyday Photographer & Contributor
For years, Dogfish Head has been one of those breweries that consistently puts out fantastic beer, and admittedly in Florida, we don’t get enough of it. When we hear that our local liquor store has a few bottles of “120” in we rush down and buy our allotment. So obviously when I stumbled upon a news story about Dogfish Head owning an inn, I decided it had to be a pilgrimage.
I informed my wife that the only thing I wanted as a gift for my 40th birthday was a trip to Delaware to visit the brewery and the inn and in her true fashion, immediately began researching and planning the perfect birthday trip.
Aside from the slight inconvenience of flying into Baltimore rather than an airport in Delaware, getting to and from the Lewes area was relatively easy. Our first stop on the way to the Dogfish Inn was to stop in Rehoboth and visit Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats. Now, I have to admit the food was good, but in my excitement over seeing so much DogFish Head beer and décor, I neglected to take photographs of what either of us ate. The best I can say is the ambiance is like many brew pubs today, full of great conversation and plenty of other craft beer enthusiasts. However, the fact that you could take home a 32 oz growler of 120 Minute IPA still leaves me breathless.
Next, it was onto the DogFish Inn which was a simple 10 to 15 minute drive from Brewings & Eats, and wow, what a place the inn is! The staff was exceptionally friendly and the rooms were incredible. For the price, I was amazed at what we got. A you enter the room, there are two pint glasses and an empty growler waiting for you as gifts. Additionally, since the beach is just a short trek away, you’re provided with beach chairs and a really cool metal cooler. All of which I’ll mention are available for purchase as well, but the coolest thing about the inn was the fire pit. The staff keep a fire going at all times, and we made some good memories sitting around that fire pit.
And here’s where the only hiccup in our trip came in. The inn offers a van service to the brewery and back, with prior reservations, so you don’t have to worry about driving. Unfortunately, when we called we learned that the van was unavailable that weekend due to a corporate obligation. Well, that was a blessing in disguise. As it turns out, DogFish Head had a number of west coast distributors visiting that weekend and the van was being utilized for their stay at the inn also. On our first night, there in pulls the van around 10 o’clock, and we were joined at the fire pit by the distributors and Dogfish Head staff. From there, the conversations and libations went on for most of the night, and if you didn’t already know it, beer people are the nicest people. Even better was the coolers of Dogfish beer that we were invited to partake in. I can only hope to that lucky on our next trip.
So what about the brewery itself? Well, first I’ll say I was incredibly surprised by the size of the town. I expected a huge town; instead, it’s a small town with a huge brewery. Now, since we couldn’t get the van from the inn, we had booked the Grain to Glass tour, and boy, am I glad we did. It of course included a beer before we got started, and then, we spent two hours touring the brewery and seeing places the usual tour doesn’t go. The barrel aging room was probably the most spectacular part of the tour–besides the aging cage, but we’ll cover that later.
The story behind Palo Santo Morran beer is incredible. Imagine bringing wood in from South America specifically to build a gigantic barrel for aging beer. The wood comes from Paraguay, and Palo Santo literally means “holy tree”, which is fitting as this is one of the holiest of all beers. On a side note, Paraguay no longer exports this wood, so you’re not going to see someone come in behind Dogfish Head and copy it.
The aging cage is pretty cool for the simple fact that they’ve kept so much of their beer over the years and will open a bottle for sampling on the Grain to Glass tour. On our day, it was a bottle of Bitches Brew from 2012.
Aside from brewing beer, Dogfish Head also distills liquor–specifically, vodka, gin, rum, and Esprit Malade. With some creative finagling, the brewery has successfully integrated a fully functional distillery producing phenomenal spirits, which we were, of course, fortunate enough to sample.
The grand finale of the tour was a chance to climb up into the Steampunk Treehouse in front of the brewery. For a little history the tree house came from the Burning Man Festival and stands at 40′ tall, 40′ wide, weighs 8 tons, and was crafted in part from recycled and reclaimed materials.
For our last Dogfish Head evening, we decided to have dinner at Chesapeake & Maine, the breweries more upscale restaurant, where the menu focuses on regional favorites, and the seafood served is sourced fresh from the Maine & Chesapeake Bay regions. The menu is exciting and the place is beautiful. Our only drawback that night was the overly loud group of thirty something males who acted more like they were at a frat party than a beautiful restaurant. Oh well, that wasn’t the staffs fault.
Overall, the best way to describe Dogfish Head is that they do a little bit of everything and do everything well. So, if you find yourself in or near Delaware (let’s face it, it’s not a very big state), head over to Lewes, Rehoboth, and Milton and visit everything that Dogfish Head has to offer. You won’t be disappointed…we certainly weren’t!!