Would it surprise you to learn that Delaware has the same terroir as Bordeaux in France? Wine connoisseurs have found that the area around the Delaware Bay and River has many commonalities between the Gironde River in Bordeaux, including the soil make up and Atlantic climates. This makes Delaware and the Chesapeake comparable to the Right Bank of Bordeaux. These factors are turning the area around the Delaware Bay into an up-and-coming wine region, with two wineries in Southern Delaware, including Nassua Valley Vineyards and Fenwick Wine Cellars.

Delaware already has a good number of craft breweries and distilleries and there will even soon be a meadery opening near Milton. Southern Delaware Tourism has put together a Delaware Wine and Ale Trail, and visitors that stop at 8 out of the 12 locations will receive a free Wine and Ale Trail beer mug or wine glass. Since I was visiting Southern Delaware on a mother-daughter trip, we weren’t about to hit eight of these stops, but we did manage to visit three. Here are my recommendations for beer tasting in Delaware.

Beer Tasting in Delaware

Beer tasting in Delaware at Dogfish Head Brewery

Dogfish Head Brewery

As one of my husband’s favorite beers, Dogfish Head had to be at the top of our list and it should be at the top of yours too. The thoughtful and fun corporate culture permeates the place from the funky copper tree house outside to the irreverent tour guides and the Emerson quote painted on the exterior wall. Dogfish first started in 1995, and while it got its name from a place in Maine, it found its home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, close to the friends and family of founder Sam Calagione’s wife. You can still eat at the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth (we ate at the sister restaurant Chesapeake and Maine), but beer enthusiasts should head out to Milton for a tour of the brewery and bottling facility.

Dogfish Head Brewery Emerson quote

Free tours are offered daily and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so either get there early or plan on staying a while. Tours generally run every 45 minutes on Monday through Friday tours from 11:00am to 5:00pm, every half hour on Saturdays and every 45 minutes on Sundays from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. Tours run about an hour and closed-toe shoes and safety goggles are required (goggles are provided as well as used Crocs if you have sandals on.) While kids are welcome on tours, they make a point to say that their tours are PG-13. This is true with some slightly off-color jokes and adult humor, but nothing that crossed a line to inappropriate for my 12 year-old, who accompanied me on the tour.

Dogfish brewery tour

After first learning about the founding of Dogfish and their beer making process, you get a glimpse at their fermentation tanks and even get to see the Paraguayan Palo Santo wood tanks. This wood is so hard that bullets ricochet off of it and it took diamond-tipped saws to cut it down. Palo Santo wood has been used by South American wine makers, but Dogfish’s 10,000 gallon tanks are the largest wooden brewing vessels built in America since before Prohibition.

Dogfish tanks

The tour then heads out to the bottling and distribution center. You can really see what a large operation Dogfish has become with this facility that can fill 600 bottles per minute and bottle up to 500,000 beers in a day. Of course the best part comes at the end of the tour when you are issued a tasting card and allowed to pick up to four beers to taste. I’d recommend going for something that you can’t find so easily at home like the Bière de Provence, Festina Pêche, Chocolate Lobster, or the Namaste.

In addition to tours and tasting, you can find some beer-inspired grub from Bunyan’s Lunchbox, play some corn hole or bocce, and, of course, find some great souvenirs in the gift shop (my husband loves the shirt we bought him.) My only regret was that Glenn couldn’t come along, but it gives us another reason to go back. And, if you want to visit the brewery in a more unique way, check out the Pints and Paddles kayaking tour from Quest Kayak.

16 Mile Brewery

Not too far away in Georgetown, Delaware is a smaller craft brewery, 16 Mile Brewery, which focuses on English Ale. Tours here are a little less formal but they are just as eager to share their craft and production processes (minus a few company secrets of course.) The tasting room is open from 1-8pm on Monday-Thursday, 11am-8pm on Saturdays and Sundays 12-5pm. Free tours are available on Fridays and Saturdays at 12, 1, 2 and 3pm. No reservations are required but closed-toe shoes are also required. Tastings aren’t included but they are happy to provide a little taster so you can decide which pint to get before your tour.

16 mile brewery

There isn’t as much to offer kids here in terms of food or entertainment, but you are welcome to bring your own food and on the weekends, there may be a food truck outside. I definitely enjoyed the beers here, but it is more for beer lovers than for families.

Crooked Hammock Brewery

In Lewes, Delaware, you will find a newer entrant to Delaware’s craft beer scene at Crooked Hammock Brewery. This place reminded me of some of the cool beach bars down in Alabama. With an outdoor playground, hammocks (of course) and games, this place is most certainly family friendly. It is also extremely popular, so if you want a table outside, or even a spot in the parking lot, come early. If you can’t sit outside, don’t worry, the food is even more varied inside and the decor is classy beach bar.

Crooked Hammock Brewery in Lewes Delaware

They have about 8-10 brews on tap. The list changes frequently but includes ales, stouts, and IPAs. The food is a mix of southern, Chesapeake Bay seafood and classic pub fare with something for everyone.

So yes, there are plenty of reasons to visit Southern Delaware…the beaches, the sunsets, but also the beer (and wine, mead, spirits…). We will definitely be back and next time we are bringing a cooler to bring some of the specialty brews that we can’t get in Rhode Island home with us.

Do you have a favorite brewery in Delaware or elsewhere that you recommend visiting?

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Beer tasting in Delaware at Dogfish Head Brewery, 16 Mile Brewery and Crooked Hammock Brewing

Note: My trip was hosted by Southern Delaware Tourism. Our meal at Crooked Hammock was complimentary. All opinions are my own.

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