Why Delawareans Should Like Beer

You know, you guys write a lot about beer.

It’s a comment I’ve heard frequently in 29 years of producing Out & About. In fact, it’s an observation our teetotaling editor, Bob Yearick, has pointed out on more than one occasion.

My defense? There is none. I like beer. And as a Delawarean, you should like beer, too.

Since 1997, when Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione put a six-pack into a homemade row boat and “exported” his brew to Cape May, N.J. (a memorable and clever publicity stunt), the craft beer industry in Delaware has been rowing with the current. And, oh, what a current.

Today, there are 19 operating craft breweries in Delaware. That number will expand significantly with the recent announcements of Stitch House Brewery, Midnight Oil, Braeloch and Wilmington Brew Works (See story on page 25). In fact, Wilmington Brew Works will be the first production brewery located in the city since 1954.

Today, craft beer is generating more than $318 million in economic impact for our state, says the nationally-recognized Brewers Association. We’re in the top 20 in the nation in breweries per capita, and Delawareans over age 21 drink about 11 gallons of craft beer per year—sixth in the U.S.
In other words, I’m not the only one in Delaware who likes beer.

What’s not to like? The craft beer industry promotes agriculture, science, creativity, entrepreneurship. It also promotes historic preservation, as abandoned buildings, warehouses and brownfields are popular new homes for aspiring brewers. Case in point: The recently announced Wilmington Brew Works will occupy the former Harper-Thiel Electroplating headquarters on Miller Road, a Superfund site that sat vacant for nearly two decades. The state helped clean it up, Wilmington’s economic development office found a development partner in Rose and Ralph Pepe, and soon beer will be brewed there.

Just five years ago, Delaware breweries employed 200 people directly and another 2,600 in related jobs such as wholesaling and retailing. Those numbers have doubled.

Dogfish Head has become more than a tasty brew; it’s now a brand that helps sell our state, much like the DuPont Co. has done for years. A stretch? Put it this way: On more than one occasion while traveling, I’ve had people respond to me when I say I’m from Delaware: Hey, that’s where Dogfish is from, right?

It’s an evolution not lost on state officials. The Delaware Tourism Office created a special tour—the Delaware Beer, Wine and Spirits Trail—which has doubled in size since its launch in 2010. And just last month the office introduced the Delaware On Tap app, a mobile version of the BWS Trail.

“The craft beverage industry as a part of tourism in Delaware is booming,” says Liz Keller, Delaware Tourism director. “The state has the ninth largest economic impact per capita from craft brewing in America.”

This month, Out & About will raise a toast to the craft beer scene with our seventh annual Wilmington Beer Week (Nov. 6-11). Read all about it in this issue, as well as other fascinating developments for the local craft scene.

Yes, more stories about beer. Hey, we like to paddle with the current, too.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.