Straight from the Source: On the Road in Delaware

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Even a column intended to celebrate beers of the Midwest region only available at the brewery has to go on vacation occasionally. So when looking for a seminar to advance my scholarship for the day job, I found one in Lewes, Delaware. The name sounded familiar and, sure enough, it was right down the road from Dogfish Head, the creative brewery whose beer hasn’t been available in Minnesota for many years. So the airline tickets were purchased and the family dragged on yet another history and beer quest questionably sold as a vacation.

Dogfish Head’s original brewpub location is not just a pilgrimage shrine for beer geeks. It’s in the popular Atlantic resort town of Rehoboth Beach. You should expect the restaurant to be crowded every night of the week during the summer season, to park several blocks away, and to wait 45 minutes for a table. Luckily, they will send you a text message when your table is ready, which gives you time to walk down to the beach and back.

Once finally seated, look at the chalkboard and try to make a decision. How about one of the archaeological beers, like Etrusca or Midas Touch? Well, you can get those in bottles—in fact right outside at the attached retail store. Instead, how about trying the couple of beers on the list that are brewpub-only specials. 75 Minute IPA on cask is a wonderful pint—both malt forward and hop forward in perfect balance with a bit of maple syrup. It’s available in bottles, too, but it’s just not the same.

But for something never bottled and only brewed on the original brewpub system, we turn now to Choc Lobster. This is a recipe that even a brewery dedicated to “off-centered ales” calls “weird” on its website. It starts as a robust porter, but then adds live lobsters to the boil. Well, they had to boil them for the kitchen anyway, so why not throw them in the brew kettle? They then add six pounds of dark cocoa power to the whirlpool and a basil tea. It ends up tasting like a chocolate-y porter with a bit of herb flavor and a distinct salty character. I finished my 12 oz pour, but that was all I really needed. Back to the cask 75 Minute.

Most craft beer lovers, myself included, would like to have Dogfish Head available locally. But one of the things that makes the current craft beer movement special is the return of the idea of true local beer, something you can’t just get anywhere. We encountered other regional treasures, like Firkin Fridays at Oriole Park and the Iron Hill Brewery in Wilmington, Delaware, which sold a very nice classic rauchbier weighing in at a sessionable 3.8% ABV. Discoveries like this make travel rewarding. Choc Lobster will never be bottled, and since it is not sold in growlers, the only way you will be able to sample this unique beer is Straight from the Source.

 
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