On Wednesday 3/26/14 we made our way through the slushy streets to Milford for an afternoon visit to Mispillion River Brewing. The brewery is the creation of Eric Williams, whose vision came to fruition with the help and support of his wife, Megan, and two other couples, Don and Marti Brooks & Scott and Tammy Perlot. Eric, who had been homebrewing for years, was unfulfilled with his corporate job and confessed to his wife that he wanted to open a brewery. Following years of planning they got into the building this past May, brought Brewmaster Jared Barnes – with previous brewing experience at Southern Tier Brewing Co – into the fold in August, and held their grand opening in November with eight beers on tap. The potentially risky decision to open a brewery was immediately rewarded when about 400 people showed up for the opening night, with a repeat showing the following night. One of the first things Jared did when hired was tell Eric that they needed to purchase a one barrel pilot system. It wasn’t in the original budget but they made it happen and Eric credits that step with helping get the brewery opened a few months early. The other brewer, Ryan Maloney, hit it off with Eric at a local homebrewer’s meeting and started off as a volunteer. After many months of unparalleled dedication, Ryan earned his spot on the team.
Utilizing that pilot system, Jared and Ryan have been hard at work coming out with creative new beers on a regular basis. In fact, by the time of our interview they had already brewed 50 distinct beers since opening, many of which are tasting room exclusives. The 15 bbl production equipment is utilized to produce their beers for distribution in Delaware. Currently Mispillion River has four year-round offerings: Greenway IPA, Praetor Imperial Porter, Double Chin Double IPA, and Beach Bum Joe Belgian Pale Ale. There were 10 total beers on tap that day so, in addition to the year-rounds, we were excited to sample: Te Pia, a Latin American-style lager hopped with Australian and New Zealand hops; Gateway Drug Kolsch; Citron Belgian Farmhouse Saison; Gnarleywine, a wheat wine aged on American oak; and Glendora Oatmeal Coffee Stout. Up next on the docket at the time of our visit were high ABV brews, Belgian Trpel and a Doppelbock, which they plan to bottle in wax sealed bombers.
They also already have plans for twelve seasonal brews to be released monthly. Those not mentioned previously include: Extravagance Chocolate Cherry Imperial Stout, Z.J. Imperial IPA, Big Earl Black Rye IPA, Das Popo Hefeweizen, Orange Drank Berlinerweiss, Oktoberfest German Marzen, Miss Betty Sweet Potato Spiced Ale, Chipped Tooth English Imperial Stout, and Walloon Dubbel. The Single Hop Series is, as it sounds, an opportunity to let one hop shine through in a pale ale with a new release once every 2 or 3 months. To this point, Mosaic and Australian Summer have been released and next up will either be El Dorado or a recently discovered species from New Mexico, Humulus Lupulus Neomexicanus, unique in that it grows multiple flowers off of one stem. The Once and Done Series beers are executed on the aforementioned 1 bbl system and will be available upon visits to the tasting room. The brews are fermented utilizing 4 fermenters and 1 bright tank in coolers with Ranco temperature controls.
Jared shared that he would like to get some 7 bbl fermenters so that he can split up batches and subject them to different treatments. As you can see, the brewers have an ambitious schedule of brews and plenty to keep visitors guessing and coming back for more. Eric and Jared described their approach as calculated randomness with the goal of brewing the best beer they can in as many styles as possible and, hopefully, gaining recognition from their peers for making great beers. In fact, the young brewery has already done just that and was honored with a silver medal at this year’s World Beer Cup in the American-Belgo-Style Ale category for their Beach Bum Joe. With this variety of methods of production, the guys also hope to expand the number of on-site taps from 10 to 16. The brewery has plans to be canning sometime this spring, starting off with the assistance of a mobile canning unit, and would also like to implement a barrel aging program in the near future. At this time, Mispillion River beers can be found in Delaware only as they have yet to experience the beach season and need to be prepared for the seasonal boom at bars on the Delaware shore.
The busy Milford brewery has already hosted their successful grand opening, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and a Reddit beer share party, in addition to their regular taproom hours (Thurs 4-10pm, Fri 1-11pm, Sat 4-11pm, and Sun 12-6pm) which feature food trucks every weekend and often support local musicians. They are currently working with the local government on licensing to operate a patio space for patrons to enjoy on days with beautiful weather. An Indiegogo campaign was previously launched where they placed 4 fermenters up to purchase for dedication. Local police officers bought one of the fermenters in honor of a fellow officer who was killed a few years back. The brewery was inspired by this and is planning to produce a kolsch and a mint stout, a combination of flavors of which the fallen officer was fond, that will be bottled and auctioned off in a fundraiser. Another event, this time for a fallen soldier from the area, will be hosted this upcoming fall to raise money for a local organization run by a medical examiner at Dover Air Force Base called Dead Man’s Hand. Thank you very much to Eric, Jared, and Ryan for sharing the Mispillion River Brewing story and for being such awesome hosts!
Author: Brandon Wurtz