The evening of Thursday 3/27 consisted of a visit to the first brewpub chain of our American Tour. Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant currently has 10 locations spread throughout Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania with an eleventh site projected to open this November in Ardmore, PA. The brewpub gets its name from a Revolutionary War battlefield in DE and was founded by longtime homebrewers, Kevin Finn and Mark Eddleson, in partnership with experienced restaurateur Kevin Davies. Iron Hill is different from some of the other regional brewpub chains in that each location has their own brewing staff making beers on site. Due to this, each location is able to enter competitions individually and Iron Hill brewers have consistently taken home World Beer Cup awards as well as GABF medals every year they have been in operation. We selected to stop through the original location in Newark, which opened November 14th 1996 and is located just down the street from the University of Delaware, where we were excited to share a few beers and chat with Head Brewer, Justin Sproul.
After caving for the first time and spending the night in a hotel because of a pretty heavy snow storm, we made our way to Stewart’s Brewing Company in Bear, DE on Thursday, 3/27/2014. The first thing we did when we walked in was order a flight of their beers, then head brewer Ric Hoffman sat with us while we indulged. Afterwards, he showed us around and went over everything that makes the brewery unique.
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.
Our first visit in the first state was to the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, DE as well as Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, DE on Tuesday, 3/25/2014. Considered to be a regional craft brewery, this rapidly expanding business is ranked as the 13th largest craft brewery in the United States and 20th largest overall based on findings from the Brewers Association. We were lucky enough to jump on a small tour of the production facility with just four other people as Kristie Lankford gave us a personal, detailed look into what makes Dogfish Head unique.