Fall Beers and Winter Warmers

Rob Kalesse

Here’s a sampling of what Delaware’s best brewers have to offer for the coming colder months

Target recently released a $5 line of wines, fermented malt beverages like hard ciders and sodas continue to sell, and the Paloma—a refreshing Mexican mix of tequila and grapefruit soda—has been randomly popping up on restaurant cocktail lists.

But while those are three distinct trends that speak to a specific type of drinker, craft beer geeks will be happy to know that their suds are safe. As the calendar turns to autumn and, way too soon, winter, those big, malty fall beers and winter warmers are on their way. Here’s a sampling of what some of Delaware’s best breweries have to offer, from north to south:

More than 20 years after it burst onto the local scene, Stewart’s Brewing Co. in Bear continues to churn out a bevy of both flagship and seasonal beers. On tap this fall is the Gourdzilla, a high-octane pumpkin ale that features several yeast strains. According to owner Al Stewart, this isn’t your average pumpkin beer, weighing in at a lusty 8 percent ABV.

Meanwhile, India Pale Ales still rule no matter the time of year, with the Spaced Invader IPA taking up tap space in November. The session IPA (just 5 percent) was originally brewed and named for the ‘80s fans at 1984 in Wilmington. Stewart says they’re currently (mid-October) a bit low on tank space, but if they can brew a double batch again this year, they’ll be sending another 10 kegs to the Fourth Street bar that features classic arcade games and pinball machines.

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant’s most award-winning beer just received its 13th medal in October—this time Silver—at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado. Courtesy of the Newark location, the vaunted Russian Imperial Stout is a robust 9.8 percent that ages well into the winter months. Four-packs will be available by can for $22 by Nov. 22.

Up the road a piece, the Wilmington location is preparing to release the second iteration of its Last Alarm IPA, which commemorates Delaware’s fallen firefighters with a donation of $1 per pint sold. The beer—which was brewed with the help of local firefighters—will be available at both Delaware restaurants, benefitting the I.A.F.F. Local 1590 (Wilmington Firefighters Assn.) and Aetna Hose, Hook & Ladder Co. in Newark.

Despite the change in location from Greenville to Newport, Twin Lakes Brewing Co. is up and running with its new tasting room, featuring German beer-garden-style tables, a 20-seat bar, darts, board games, and an 18-foot shuffleboard table. They’re currently featuring seven beers on tap, including some nano-brew one-offs, and the 8 percent Jubilicious come late November.

Twin Lakes has been brewing this malt-forward holiday ale for years, and they recently learned it ages particularly well in oak barrels. The initial brew features seven specialty (and secret) grains, Belgian yeast, and imparts flavors of caramel and dried fruit. If you venture out for a taste, Twin Lakes is in the same building as the Delaware Tile Market, but on the side of the L-shaped building that faces the railroad tracks.

At Bellefonte Brewing Co., bigger is better. They’re now featuring a regular rotation of 32-ounce cans called “crowlers” (basically a play on merging cans and growlers), and will be featuring a combo Saison-cider spiced ale, as well as the new EZE IPA, a session beer made with American-grown Ekuanot hops (think more citrus than pine) and reduced gluten, for those watching their figure or suffering from allergies.

As the colder weather approaches, though, get ready for the Big V Porter. This big buy (8.5 percent) is aged with vanilla beans, making it the perfect pairing for those holiday desserts. Bellefonte is also planning a Fall Fest (because there probably aren’t enough local beer festivals on your calendar) for late November.

Up in Yorklyn, Dew Point Brewing Co. is releasing a collaborative Imperial Black IPA, in which they’re using locally grown hops from Greenview Farm in West Chester. It boasts an ABV of 9.5, and the Dew Point brew team is suggesting a hearty pairing of beef brisket or rack of lamb, as well as sweet desserts like crème brûlée and carrot cake.

And speaking of hearty, hold onto your hats for the brewery’s upcoming barley wine, which will use some undisclosed (but locally grown) herbs for flavor and is targeted to reach an ABV of around 12. A strong charcuterie board—with big cheeses, cured meats and candied nuts—would make a great complement to this one, whether on draft or in the bottle.

Rounding out the hop field in New Castle County is Blue Earl Brewing Co., which begins releasing its Big Earl Bourbon Series in November with the barrel-aged imperial breakfast stout called Dark Star. Distribution will be somewhat limited for this 10-percenter, but 22-ounce bottles will be available just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The series continues in December with I Put a Spell on You, a Belgian dark, strong ale that’s been conditioning for about a year, followed in January by the American barley wine called Big Boss Man. At around 12 percent, the BBM will feature notes of rich dark caramel, licorice, toffee, bourbon, and even fig and plum. Be sure to stop by Wednesday through Sunday and check out The Juke, Blue Earl’s live music series that features a rotation of local bands and acoustic acts.

Heading downstate, Kent County’s crown jewels are following the local trend of spiced ale and stout. Fordham & Dominion Brewing Co. in Dover is putting out a Spiced Harvest Ale that blends a “tea” of nutmeg, allspice, ginger, clove and honey. It won “Best Spiced Ale” at Peco’s Liquor Store’s Great Pumpkin Debate in late September. The autumnal ale will be available in six-packs at Peco’s, Kreston’s Liquors and Total Wine & More, as well as on draft at the Washington Street Ale House.

Also on tap is the Morning Glory Espresso Stout, a sneaky good stout that measures 9 percent but drinks smooth, like a 6. This is the first year the stout makes an appearance as a seasonal, rather than a flagship beer, due to competition from Dominion’s Oak Barrel Stout (a mere 5.5 percent). Morning Glory, being the bolder of the two, makes a better fit for the winter months, and is brewed with nearly 70 pounds of locally roasted Indonesian and South American espresso beans. It will be available at the same liquor stores mentioned above, as well as on draft at Stanley’s Tavern, Ulysses Gastro Pub and Trolley Square Oyster House in Wilmington.

A little further down the road, Mispillion River Brewing will be challenging the notion that dark beers are too heavy and “chewy” to drink with their Seven Swords Golden Stout. This lighter colored stout still features notes of chocolate and coffee, but is easy on the palate and higher in alcohol than your average stout (at 8.6).

Beer drinkers looking for a little energy in their effervescence should try what may be the first “SportsBerliner” ever conceived, with electrolytes (like potassium, calcium, magnesium) added to the brew. The brainchild of brewer Ryan Maloney came about when he found himself mixing his daily sports drink with Mispillion’s Berliner Weiss, or German wheat beer. Called War Kitten, this novel concoction has a slight grape flavor and is available in 16-ounce cans and on draft.

Since most of us have come to expect something “off-centered” from Dogfish Head, diehard fans won’t be disappointed with the Liquid Truth Serum. This IPA unconventionally has three different hops

Dogfish Head Brewery’s Liquid Truth Serum IPA. Photo courtesy of Dogfish Head Brewery

added after the boil (rather than during), but is hoppy without much residual bitterness. The result is balance, with 65 International Bitterness Units (or IBUs, which is low for an IPA) and a finish that leans more toward crisp, zesty citrus, rather than pine or floral notes.

A little less than 10 miles away, 16 Mile Brewing Co. is planning an entire event around its new fall beer, and it’s a pretty creative brew, especially for Fireball fans. Called “Soul Cake,” this English pale ale is brewed with American oak chips that have been soaked in Fireball, the cinnamon whiskey that’s a favorite among bar-goers.

This 9.6 percent spiced ale will be the centerpiece of 16 Mile’s Launch Party on Saturday, Nov. 18, at which the folks from Screams at the Beach will set up a beer-centric haunted maze outside the brewery in Georgetown. Make your way to the middle and get a taste of the Soul Cake, which is a nod to the Old English tradition that commemorated All Souls Day. Before trick-or-treating became popular, the cakes were passed out and eaten as a sign of good fortune and the escape from purgatory.

While a majority (if not all) of the beers featured in this story should still be available after publication, Out & About cannot guarantee how long each will remain in stock, either on tap at the breweries or by bottle or can at liquor stores.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.