All words: Mitchell West, All photos: Morgan Hungerford West
When Dogfish Head opened in 1996 it was the first brewery in Delaware, and the smallest brewery in America. It’s grown to be one of the largest craft breweries in the country. Their motto, “off-centered ales for off-centered people,” is very apparent in their beers, which often use strange brewing methods and odd ingredients.
Dogfish Head is my favorite brewery. Their 90 Minute IPA was the first beer that made me want seek out others like it. Since then, I’ve been a craft beer geek. So, it makes sense that every time I travel to the beaches in Delaware I make a pilgrimage to Dogfish Head.
Dogfish Head first opened in Rehoboth Beach, DE as a brewpub. It’s a great place to visit, and the only place you can try their many “brewpub exclusive” beers. In the early 2000s they moved most of their beer production to a factory in Milton, DE. This trip, I went there and to their brand new Dogfish Inn.
The doors to the 16 room Inn opened to the public on July 1, and I went by for a quick tour a little less than 2 weeks after that. Dogfish Head has always branded themselves well, and I expected this to be no different, but I was blown away with how cool this place is.
Located in downtown Lewes, Delaware, in between the brewpub in Rehoboth and factory in Milton, the place is meticulously designed for beer lovers. There are picnic benches in the courtyard with metal trays in the middle to hold ice and beers, bottle openers and proper beer glassware everywhere, a Dogfish Head branded cornhole setup, and you can even enjoy your beers around a nightly bonfire. The one thing you can’t do is buy beer there. The reasoning behind which is that you’re meant to use the Inn as a home base while you visit the other two Dogfish Head locations. They even provide custom Apolis bag designed specifically to hold the 750ml bottles of beer you buy. A non-beer highlight is the Vesuvius Library, a collection of 50 great American novels in the lobby of the Inn, curated by the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. The name Vesuvius comes both from the café next to the California bookstore and the motel that sat on the same property as the Inn (which is also where the awesome sign came from). Another cool American collaboration is with Woolrich. They teamed up on gorgeous blankets in Dogfish green. They are in every room and for sale at the front desk.
After touring the Inn we headed to rural Milton, DE, home to the massive factory that produces every offering from the brewery. I’ve gone by several times over the last few years, but the last time I actually took the tour was in 2009. It’s grown by leaps and bounds since then. The tasting room is at least 3 times the size it once was, and there is now a completely new building dedicated solely to bottling beer. The size, technical sophistication, and beauty of this place is staggering. It is a very impressive operation, and one I would encourage any DC beer lover to take the trek to see. The bonus? You get to buy beer at factory prices – WITH NO SALES TAX!