The doors of Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats (or as most of us know it as, the Dogfish Brewpub) opened in 1995. Twenty-two years later, on Sunday, May 7th, the taps poured one last pint and the kitchen cooked up one last DogPile and one more tasty off-centered pizza.
We've walked through the front (or side) door of the brewpub more times that I'll ever be able to count. It's easily been dozens upon dozens upon dozens of times. We've had beach date nights, rang in a couple of New Year's there, toasted birthdays, new jobs and Tuesdays. Because, Tuesday. We've seen local and national music acts when the tables have all been cleared out downstairs, recovered from 75 miles of Bike to the Bay year after year, and sat under the sunshine and hop vines on the old deck. We've been Mug Club members for as long as we've known each other and attended as many beer dinners as our bellies would allow.
From the brewpub exclusives to my all-time favorite spirit distilled at the brewpub, peanut butter vodka, our memories are plentiful from our many visits to the Brewpub. I've driven down to the beach for the release of everything from their first foray into gluten free beer, Tweason Ale, and we've made journeys down Route 1 South to grab the latest release of 120 Minute, a bottle (or three of) Bitches Brew, Faithfull Ale and one of our all-time favorites, Hellhound, or just to grab a flight or a pint (or snifter) of something rare on tap. It always helps when you can take advantage of a unique beer that just happens to be poured not too many blocks from the beach. And that's always a good thing, no matter what time of year it is!
Opened originally with a small scale brewing system in 1995, the brewery would eventually outgrow the system, but that brewing system has always held a sacred place in our heart as it's the birthing grounds for small batch brewing or Brewpub Exclusives. Brewpub exclusives may end up only being one-offs, or end up having a bit of a cult following like Choc Lobster. We had a pour from the first batch of Choc Lobster at a Chocolate Beer Dinner in February 2012 (it was served with white chocolate lobster slider and dark chocolate lobster bisque, in case you were wondering).
Sam had a vision that started several years before the Brewpub opened. After graduating with a degree in English, Sam worked in restaurants and bars throughout New York City. One in particular, Nacho Mama’s Burritos, was owned by one of the first restaurateurs in New York City to seek out not only the unique imported beers from around the world, but also beers made at small American microbreweries. This is right around the time the microbrews, as they were referred to back in the day, were starting to really gain favor. Sam's love of beer peeked his curiosity in wanting to learn more about it, including home brewing, which he soon tested out himself. Through good batches, and not-so-good batches, it became pretty clear what direction Sam's life was leading him down.
As Sam started to move towards opening a brewery, he knew that Delaware was one of only a handful of states at that time that didn’t already have a brewery. He took that one step further in making his brewery a brewpub, and eventually a distillery.
During this time Sam started doing more research into the unknown of the brewing industry, and what it would take to start a brewery of his own. While doing his research, he found there were two kinds of small breweries: a microbrewery, where beer is brewed and packaged into kegs or bottles, and then sent out the door to be sold in bars and stores; or a brewpub, where beer is brewed within a restaurant and sold on tap within the restaurant itself. The concept of a brewpub would reduce the risk of failure because there was always potential for revenue from both the brewery and the restaurant, sealing the deal to open a brewpub.
We visited Lewes Historical Society's 2015 Exhibit, Brewing in Delaware & 20 Off-Centered Years of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Here are a few pictures from the exhibit.
As the planning progressed, things really seemed to fall into place. This came to a quick halt when Sam found out brewing was actually illegal in the State of Delaware, as Delaware law prohibited breweries from opening in the state. To overcome this obstacle, Sam met with several of Delaware’s Senators and Members of the House to discuss to repeal of this law. While doing this, the people he reached out to informed him that others had tried to overturn the laws, but the legislation never actually made it to the floor to be voted on. In 1995, Sam and his attorney saw the bill they worked so tirelessly on pass with in (with a majority) in the Senate.
Dogfish Head Brewpub, located at 320 Rehoboth Avenue in downtown Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, opened its’ doors three days after this legislation was passed. Now here we are, twenty two years later, after originally starting out as the countries smallest brewery, the Brewpub and brewery became one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the United States, forcing a move of the brewing facilities to their current location (and several times expanded since then) in Milton during the summer of 2002.
Though the taps are dry and the kitchen is closed, the doors of the o.g. brewpub are now open through the summer as a place to purchase Dogfish Head merchandise and fill crowlers and growlers. Once the summer comes to an end, and the building finds its final resting place, so many off-centered and great memories will go with it.
On May 19th the newly constructed, $4 million new Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats, will open its doors to the public. We're getting a sneak peak tonight with fellow Mug Clubbers since we can't make a press event later this week, and we can't wait. We've been watching the building rise on Rehoboth Avenue and eagerly watched various posting on social media.
To a new era of Dogfish history: cheers to the old brewpub and to the new. May we make just as many amazing lifelong memories at your new home, Dogfish Head!