Delaware’s Beer Scene: Fermenting

Rob Kalesse

Three new craft breweries have sprung up over the past few months

Note to craft beer enthusiasts in Delaware, particularly New Castle County: With Thanksgiving almost upon on us, you have plenty to be thankful for—namely, three new breweries that have tapped their kegs and are pouring and distributing to the beer-swilling public.

We talked to folks behind the scenes at each of the breweries to get their story and discover where they are in terms of kegging and construction. To see what we found out, read on.

Bellefonte Brewing Company

Despite its geographical namesake, which is north of Wilmington, Bellefonte Brewing Company is located near Prices Corner in a warehouse unit fitted with a tasting room and bar made of California redwood. But co-owner Craig Wensell started BBC years ago as a home-brewing supply shop out of his house in —you guessed it—Bellefonte.

“I’ve been exposed to brewing since a very young age; my father, uncles, cousins, brothers, all of us have been involved in home brewing since the mid-‘80s,” Wensell says. “So I began opening up the front porch of my home in Bellefonte as a supply store for the advanced brewer, where people could taste what I’d brewed and purchase brewing products at the same time.”

Now Wensell, along with fellow home brewer Joe Jacobs and business partner Neil Shea, is running his own full-fledged brewery, which tapped its first commercial keg on May 20. The menu at Bellefonte relies on rye, with these four beers on tap: Grapefruit Rye IPA, Rye IPA, Rye Stout and Red Rye Abbey.

“I really like rye as ingredient, even though it can be a sticky mess for brewers to deal with,” Wensell says. “It’s got a very distinct flavor and crisp spiciness that goes really well with the citrusy hops we use, like the Simcoe, Cascade and Citra.”

Jacobs, meanwhile, brews what has been a very popular beer at Bellefonte since opening, according to Wensell. Called the Orange Street Ale, it’s a refreshing specialty ale made with orange blossom, honey and orange zest, though not heavily hopped, Wensell says.

While no food is served at Bellefonte, there will be occasional food trucks on site, at 3605 Capitol Trail. Hours are Thursday and Friday from 5-9 p.m., Saturday from 1-10 p.m., and Sunday from 1-6 p.m.

Growlers to go are $20 brand new and $15 for a refill. Bellefonte’s beers also are available locally at the Bellefonte Café (naturally), as well as North Quarter Creole, 1984 and Oddity Bar, all in Wilmington.

Twin Lakes Brewing Company

Almost a year to the day after closing its original digs in Greenville, Twin Lakes Brewery was up and running again in Newport in early August of this year, pumping out kegs of its popular pale ale and pilsner. Brewer Jack Wick, who had stepped away from the business for a few years after 2010, is thrilled to be back.

“We’re in a better place now. We’ve got more room to brew and a 2,000-square-foot tasting room we’re working on where we’ll be able to sell our product,” Wick says. “Everything that we couldn’t do at the old place, we can do here.”

With a name like Twin Lakes, it’s a given that the water in each brew was important to the quality and consistency of the product. While Twin Lakes can no longer rely on the natural springs at the old Greenville facility, Wick’s family background in water and waste water management helped to ensure that the brewer gets as close as possible to perfection in the H2O department.

“Outside of the licensing and deciding on where to relocate, selecting the water we use for Twin Lakes was one of the most important things we did,” Wick says. “We are having our water sent to us via tanker from a particular well in Chester County, so it’s free of chemicals that would affect the beer negatively, while being rich in the right minerals we need.”

Co-owners Burke Morrison and Matt Day have also helped with the transition, which Morrison said has gone as smoothly as possible, although not without some concern. “We brewed as much beer as we could before leaving Greenville, but even that only lasted until about January,” Morrison said.

“We’ve been essentially out of the market for more than six months, but based on the feedback we’ve gotten, I’m certain we’ll be fine,” he says. “The craft beer community is more cooperative than competitive. If you’re making a quality product, you’ll survive.”

Some of the Twin Lakes quality products include the Jubilicious and Tweed’s Tavern Stout, along with the Twin Lakes Pale Ale (formerly the Greenville Pale Ale) and Blue Water Pilsner (formerly the Route 52 Pilsner), both of which reflect the change in location for the brewery.

Wick, Morrison and Day are hoping to have their tasting room open sometime in November, but say a December or even early 2017 launch might be in the cards. When it does happen, they plan to cater to the happy hour crowd from 4-7 p.m. during the week. They will have growlers to go, and there will be various caterers and food trucks on site. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates on the tasting room opening and events throughout the fall and winter.

Dew Point Brewing Company

Nestled in the middle of acres filled with mansions, sprawling farms and woodland in northern New Castle County sits the historic mill outpost of Yorklyn. Blink and you may miss it, or make a random left or right off Rt. 82 and you’ll bypass it entirely. But keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see the area’s first microbrewery, housed in one of the old snuff mills, where passersby can stop in for a pint of freshly brewed ale or lager.

Dew Point Brewing Company, named for the area’s dense morning fogs and located along Creek Road in the heart of Yorklyn, opened its tasting room in mid-August. Dew Point boasts six regular beers flowing in a taproom where Marketing Director Nick Matarese also doubles as part-time bartender.

“This whole operation is like a family gathering; my uncle John (Hoffman) is a chemist and has been working out a lot of the technical issues, and my cousin Cody (Hoffman) is our head brewer,” Matarese says. “Everyone else you see around here is pretty much family helping the cause. I think there are five or six ‘partners’ altogether.”

Head Brewer Cody Hoffman developed a fascination with brewing at an early age when his sister, Alexa, gave their father a brew kit for Christmas. Only 16 at the time, Hoffman was hooked. He eventually worked unpaid internships at Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, Pa., and Twin Lakes Brewing Company in Greenville before attending Brewlab for official training in England.

“No breweries would give me a chance to work at only 18 years old, so I had to work for free to get experience, like a lot of young, aspiring brewers,” Hoffman says. “When my dad and family agreed to go in on a brewery, we started doing the research and landed here.”

The renovated loft area of Dew Point’s tasting room features hardwood flooring, a 14-seat bar, plenty of communal high-top tables, and natural light pouring in from the surrounding valley. Some of the more popular beers, according to Matarese, include the Nit Wit, a traditional Belgian witbier, the Hopworts Express, a Harry Potter homage that is classic West Coast American IPA, and the delicious Dubbel Dip, a 7.1 percent Belgian dark ale.

“Right now we’re brewing a porter, and we will also brew some stouts and sours, as well as two Belgian red ales later this month,” Hoffman says. “I like everything, really. I like every kind of beer, every style, so I’ll try to brew anything I can. We’re right around 50 barrels of production right now, but that will increase. Once we get to 100, we’ll start sending to restaurants and festivals.”

A half-barrel produces about 124 pints, all of which you can only currently get at Dew Point’s tasting room, open Thursday through Sunday. Large growlers aren’t yet available, but mini growlers, or mason jars, can be purchased to go for $4. Four-beer flights, or tasting samplers, are $8, while pints are $5. If you bring in a large growler from another brewery, they’ll “consider” filling it, according to Hoffman.

“Just make sure you slap a Dew Point sticker on there,” he says, laughing. “We’re holding off on filling our own growlers until we’re at a production level that’s more comfortable. Last thing we want is to fill a bunch of growlers on Friday and Saturday and then only have one beer on tap come Sunday.”

Dew Point also features an outdoor picnic area, though they don’t yet have a patio license. Hoffman says they can seal the mini mason jars, which patrons can take outside to drink, but can’t allow for a random, open pint to travel outside, per state law.

No food is currently available on-site, but Matarese says they are planning to have food trucks come out on weekends, particularly in the spring. The tasting room is open Thursday from 4-9 p.m., Friday from 3-11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. For updates on Dew Point’s tap list and events, follow them on Facebook or visit dewpointbrewing.com.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.