Coastal Sussex County is home to Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, which opened in Rehoboth in 1995, and a plethora of other local breweries, wineries and distilleries. While you’re in town, here are a few to try.
The granddaddy of the craft beer movement in Delaware is Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, which has expanded multiple times over the years. Sam Calagione started with a small brewpub in Rehoboth Beach. Now brewery operations are headquartered in Milton. Hopheads flock here to tour the brewery, sample beers in the tasting room and play corn hole and bocce. Between the large tasting room, the gift shop and the games, you could easily spend several hours here. Grab something to eat at Bunyon’s Lunchbox—which does indeed resemble a giant lunchbox. The food truck sells chowder, pickles and sausages infused with beer. Dogfish Head also has a distillery.
Dogfish Head was the state’s first craft brewery. Peggy Raley-Ward broke new ground in 1987 when she opened Nassau Valley Vineyards, the state’s first commercial vineyard. A Sussex County native, with family roots that go back two centuries, Raley-Ward opened to the public in 1993. By 2016, Nassau Valley had earned more than 400 medals and presented wines to the U.S. ambassador to France. The winery is located just off Route 1 but in a pastoral setting that’s popular for weddings and other events.
On your way into downtown Lewes, take a detour on New Road, and visit Beach Time Distilling, which offers “leisurely refined” spirits. (The owners don’t rush the natural fermentation process, which leads to a smooth tasting result.)
Located south of downtown Lewes, Crooked Hammock Brewery has only grown more popular since it opened in late 2015. People love the beer, but in warm weather, they also come for the beer garden, which has a playground, tables, a stage for live entertainment and games. The menu outside is limited to items such as burgers and bratwurst. For more selections, dine inside. (The sides of the restaurant roll open to the beer garden so that you can keep an eye on the action.) Beer names often have a local slant. For instance, the Shoobie, a blond ale, salutes late 19th-century tourists who traveled by train with a shoebox lunch.
Back on Route 1, Fins Big Oyster Brewery is next to Fins Ale House & Raw Bar between Lewes and Rehoboth. You can enjoy the beers in the ale house or visit Fins Fish House & Raw Bar in Rehoboth Beach. A brewpub is in the works. The brewery was a natural addition for a hospitality group with an oyster house. After a hard day’s work, dockworkers of old asked each other to go for an “oyster stout,” which back then meant oysters and a beer.
Sneak in a back way to Rehoboth on Hebron Road for a stop at the newest addition to the scene, Revelation Craft Brewing Company. It might be small, but the beers are mighty. Take a seat at the bar, which is covered with pages from a book on Delaware brewing. You can learn a thing or two while you try a flight. 302-212-5674
Located on Rehoboth Avenue in the downtown district, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats remains a mecca for craft beer lovers. It’s so popular, in fact, that it remained open even as it underwent massive renovations and new construction. It’s also a renowned live music venue. Check out Chesapeake & Maine next door, the brewpub’s sister restaurant.
Back on Coastal Highway, you’ll find another relatively new addition. Dewey Beer Company puts the brewery and bar on one side of the building and the dining room on the other. Communal tables have a view of the brewing system. The beach is only a short walk from this brewpub, which means you can savor suds and surf.
For more information about Delaware’s wine, ales and spirits, visit the Delaware Office of Tourism website for a self-guided trail with 20 stops. Download the passport at visitdelaware.com/bwst, visit 10 or more stops and note the code on the passport to earn a prize. While the gift is welcome, the real reward is sampling the wares and hearing the colorful stories behind theses businesses.