We parked about five blocks away and took a leisurely walk down the boardwalk with Lucy in tow. Our first stop was a small brewery right on the boardwalk overlooking the Atlantic ocean, the dog-friendly Backshore. The first nano brewery in the area, Backshore opened in 2012 with a meager 6-tap draft line and a philosophy of constantly rotating those taps with new and interesting beer styles to keep folks coming back. Backshore's website features a brewery cam, where you can check out what's going on right at this very second if you feel so inclined. The place definitely has a beachy, retro vibe, which is embodied by its logo featuring a classic VW bus with a surfboard on top.
However, the brewery wasn't always known as Backshore. Actually, the name Backshore came as the result of a 2013 trademark infringement lawsuit that had threatened to put the brewery - then named Shorebilly - out of business. (The lawsuit is well-documented online if you feel like doing down that rabbit hole.)
Taylor mentioned they released an IPA called "The Professor" as a tribute to my recently fallen hero, Neil Peart. Sadly, it had just kicked a day or two prior. There was, however, another IPA in its place that sounded right up my alley. What better way is there to embrace the shorebilly mentality than with a dank-ass beer? Enter Dank You Very Much - an excessively dry-hopped IPA with copious amounts of ganga... um, I mean CTZ with some Julius hops on the side. So what is CTZ, exactly? Well, it's basically the combination of Columbus, Zeus and Tomahawk, three super high alpha hop varieties that exhibit dank, herbaceous characteristics. The resulting aroma is very reminiscent of marijuana. While I don't have much experience toking the reefer, I love me some dank nuggs. And let me tell you, this puppy ranked pretty high on the scale of dankitude and served as a great introduction to this little brewery.
I knew it was going to be difficult to top Dank You Very Much, but we decided to sample another beer. We settled on Armstrong, an English Strong Ale clocking in at 8.5%. It sort of fell in the realm of a wee heavy, although it wasn't quite as thick and malty. Not bad, but I was still deep in the dank tank so Brewslut and I shared one final pour of it before we hit the road.
While we were at Backshore, we had the pleasure of meeting Nate, one of the brewers, who also happens to be the doppleganger of Scott Ian from Anthrax. It turns out he's also a huge Rush fan and the guy who named the aforementioned "Professor" IPA. We got to talking and of course Solar Federation came up. It's always fun to geek out with fellow Rush fans, and there's not much else that excites me more than talking about my favorite band with like-minded people. Before we left, Nate disappeared for a few minutes and brought me a crowler of The Professor, which he was saving to drink at home. This was such an awesome gesture that it really made our experience at Backshore that much more special. Cheers Nate!
After an enjoyable visit to Backshore, we set our sights to nearby Berlin, MD, and Burley Oak, which has been on my long list of breweries to visit for quite some time. Over the past few years, every time I looked at its location on a map, I reacted as such: "Damn, that's far away, and there's no other breweries close by." Well, when I found out that Taylor lived about 20 minutes away and there were plenty of new breweries to check out, it sparked my decision to commit to a long weekend excursion. In other words, my longing to visit Burley Oak was the impetus of the trip. Needless to say, we'd be there for a while.
The name Burley Oak takes inspiration from its hometown of Berlin, traditional brewing methods, and the history of its brewhouse. Back in the late 1700s, the town of Berlin was part of the Burley Plantation, a 300-acre land grant pre-dating the town by more than 100 years. The town's name of Berlin is rumored to have its origins in the Burleigh Inn, a local tavern.
I was surprised to learn that the building in which the brewery resides dates back to the early 1900s and was previously occupied by a cooperage that constructed oak barrels to fill with local produce and seafood to ship off to Baltimore. Burley Oak prides itself on sustainable brewing practices and utilizing materials and craftsmen sourced locally. One such project that has manifested as a result of these practices is Burley Farming, whereby the brewery plants and harvests its own grain for the "Home Grown Ales" grain-to-glass beer series. Now that's pretty freakin' cool!
I kicked off our lengthy visit with a pour of Coffee N' Cream, a cream ale featuring Burley Oak's own house-made cold brew coffee. This definitely didn't suck, so it was a great first impression. However, I quickly realized I should have opted for a sampler flight, because the beer list was ri-God-damn-diculous! As predicted, the menu was heavy on the IPAs and sours, but many other styles were represented, including a hibiscus wheat, a porter, a pilsner, a red ale, and a pale ale. Although the Coffee N' Cream delivered, I was ready to get my J.R.E.A.M. on!
After my initial pint, I succumbed to a sampler flight. It had to be done. Here's the scoop on my flight, which consisted of six different beers:
- Free Nights and Weekends - IPA
- Search and Destroy - Triple IPA triple dry-hopped with Galaxy, Vic Secret, and Cashmere.
- Double Strawberry Rhubarb Pie J.R.E.A.M. - sour ale conditioned on hundreds of pounds of strawberries and rhubarb, then finished with signature pie spices. Juicy, tangy and delicious!
- Double Blackberry Cobbler J.R.E.A.M. - Imperial sour ale with lactose conditioned on lots of blackberry as well as cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla.
- Blueberry French Toast J.R.E.A.M. - Sour ale with lactose conditioned on blueberry, maple syrup, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
- Jacques Goseteau - Gose with Atlantic Ocean sea salt conditioned on pineapple, passionfruit, and pink guava.
|Geddy Lee, best bass player EVER. Come on!|
Taylor said I couldn't leave without trying Lost IPA , which is Burley Oak's flagship year-round beer. This IPA is intensely hopped with Amarillo, Mosaic and Simcoe, which produced lots of citrus and mango flavors. But I definitely left in a state of utter "jreaminess"!
After a memorable visit to Burley Oak, it was time to head back to Dewey Beach. Our next stop, 38° 75° Brewing, is situated in the adjacent Gary's Dewey Beach Grill. Established in 1991, Gary’s has been a favorite of locals for its food and casual, laid-back atmosphere. There wasn't much going on when we arrived. A few patrons were strewn about the small place, and I don't think anyone - save for maybe one guy - was at the bar.
|Sock monkey photo bomb!|
Next, I continued my exploration of the excellent Secret Machine series. This time, it was the "Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry" variant. This was bursting with a blend of earthy berry tartness and sweetness, but fell short of the Thrills in which I'd just partaken. Peaches for the win!
After a pair of fruit-forward beers, it was time to switch gears and explore more hoppy terrain. Heavily Meditated is a soft, plush tropical fruit-forward IPA hopped with Motueka, Wakatu, and Citra. Motueka and Wakatu are both hop varieties from New Zealand and carry traits of citrus and tropical fruits, especially lime. Citra lends pungent grapefruit and orange notes. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.
|Inside Dewey Beer Co. (Photo courtesy of sarabozich.com).|
Back at Taylor's, we enjoyed some more beers while watching a great Howard Stern interview with Paul McCartney as well as the latest episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Taylor was quick to break out a variety of DFH beers that were occupying his fridge. One of the best fringe benefits of working for a brewery is the insane quantities of free beer one amasses, and apparently DFH is no different than Tröegs when it comes to complimentary beer for its employees.
The first one out of the fridge was SuperEIGHT. Featuring eight different ingredients - prickly pear, mango, boysenberry, blackberry, raspberry, elderberry, kiwi juices, toasted quinoa and red Hawaiian sea salt - this fruit-forward beer boasts a vibrant red tint and flavors of tart berries, tropical fruit, and juicy watermelon.
Taylor also busted out a bottle of a collaboration with The Veil called Knuckles, Bats and Homemade Tats. Brewed with a blend of locally grown and malted Violeta barley as well as ancient grains Einkorn and Spelt, this open-fermented beer features mixed yeast and bacterial cultures transferred to French Oak Chardonnay barrels. After 18 months of aging, the beer is refermented on hibiscus and red, white and black currants for an intense, complex beer. I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and was glad to see that The Veil could contribute something to this collaboration besides murky haze or Oreo cookies.
Speaking of haze, we also enjoyed a can of American Beauty Hazy Ripple IPA. Another collaboration beer, this one with The Grateful Dead (yes, the actual band... or what's left of them, anyway), is inspired by the American Beauty album. An unfiltered IPA featuring spelt and a special yeast strain to complement the hop aroma, this one features notes of tropical fruit and juicy citrus. I found myself enjoying this more than I enjoy both hazy IPAs and - especially - the Grateful Dead's borning, meandering, LSD-laden space-outs. I wonder if John Mayer was involved with this one. Probably not.
|Outside Milford, Delaware's Mispillion River Brewing.|
Our first brewery of the day was Milford, Delaware's Mispillion River. I'd planned to hit this place on Saturday morning, but they didn't open until noon and I was anxious to get to DFH. Once I realized they were open on Monday, I called an audible and added it to our Monday agenda. The story of the brewery begins as a sort of midlife crisis for the owner, Eric Williams, who woke up on the morning after his 40th birthday and decided his life wasn't complete until he opened a craft brewery. After two years of planning, learning his craft, and traveling the country, Eric assembled his team and Mispillion River officially hatched in the fall of 2013.
Mispillion River distributes its beers throughout Delaware, New Jersey and a very small pocket of Maryland, as well as northern and central PA. I'd come across its beers on a few occasions while out and about at local taverns and such, so I was familiar with the name. Upon checking out the beer menu, the brewery seemed to have a penchant for IPAs (no surprise there). Lucky for me I was in a hoppy mood, so I decided to go with an IPA-centric sampler flight featuring the following beers:
- Lightning Bug - Triple dry-hopped with Azacca, Amarillo and Ekuanot
- Not Today Satan - An unholy joining of El Dorado, Centennial, Columbus, Cascade and Mosaic hops
- Nor'easter - NE-style rye IPA that's hoppy and bitter with a grainy, spicy character and lingering dryness
- Reach Around IPA - flagship old school IPA featuring Columbus, Cascade and Nugget hops
|Pleeps takes flight at Mispillion River!|
I was struggling to figure out where else we could go after Mispillion River. We'd recently visited Wilmington and Newark and were pretty thorough with our exploration of that area, so we decided to swing through Ephrata on the way to check out the new-ish Pour Man's Brewing Company.
The brewery stemmed from three friends' shared love for homebrewing, and over time they honed their skills, eventually winning an award in 2015 at a small competition. After three years and several more local awards, Pour Man's opened for business. I was pleased to see two ribbons from this year's PA Farm Show beer competition hanging next to two of its beers on the chalkboard. Good for them!
We decided to share a few small pours to dip our toes into this new local brewery. Here's the skinny:
- Sampson - Crisp, refreshing lager brewed with flaked rice and hopped with Sorachi Ace and Citra
- Oats & Hoes - Brewed with oats as well as five different kinds of malt varieties and cold brewed coffee brewed from Javateas, an Ephrata-based gourmet coffee cafe
- Ja'Crispy - Kolsch-style ale brewed with Pilsner malt and hopped with Hallertau and Saaz
- Black Market - Black IPA brewed with midnight wheat, caramel malt and oats and hopped with Columbus, Simcoe and Cascade