Craft Action: From Delco to the Beach

Rob Kalesse

Rob Kalesse

, Uncategorized

As the popularity of craft beer grows nationwide and around the world, area breweries and brewpubs do their best to keep pace. Here’s a look at six craft-beer brewers and purveyors from around the area, and a taste of what’s on tap at each.

Pizza & Beer: A Most Perfect Union

Somewhat surprisingly, the very posh and elegant Pizza by Elizabeths has been brewing beer at its Greenville location for more than a year now. But it all started in the kitchen, when Executive Chef Paul Egnor, a home brewer for years, got the thumbs up from owner Betsy LeRoy to brew an arsenal of ales at the restaurant.

“I would bring whatever I brewed at home into the restaurant and share it with Betsy and the staff,” Egnor says. “As much as I like to brew my own beer, it’s impossible to drink it all. Brewing is definitely a shared experience, and that’s what led us to becoming Frozen Toes Brewing at Pizza by Elizabeths.”

After acquiring licensing to brew on the premises, Egnor and then-Sous Chef Rob Traynor made their first batch of craft beer for the restaurant in January of 2014. The name Frozen Toes is a shot at Traynor, who, according to Egnor, wasn’t prepared for the experience of brewing outdoors in the winter.

Paul Egnor, executive chef at Pizza by Elizabeths  (Photo by Tim Hawk)

Paul Egnor, executive chef at Pizza by Elizabeths (Photo by Tim Hawk)

“It was so cold out when we brewed our first batch, and he [Traynor] kept complaining about how his feet were so cold,” Egnor says. “It became a running joke and eventually the namesake for the brewery.”

Traynor has since left the company, so Egnor now brews two to three times a week with Steve Lewis, another back-of-the-house staff member with home brewing experience. Frozen Toes doesn’t brew on a large scale; Egnor says they brew 13 gallons at a time, and usually perform two brews per session.

“We only brew ales, because we don’t have the equipment to do lagers, but we’ve been able to pump out 30 different types since we started,” Egnor says. “We can usually get about two half-kegs and a sixtel per beer.”

That equals roughly 165 pints of beer, which have included an India Red Ale, a Saison, and the soon-to-be-released Pizza Party, an ale brewed with tomatoes and fresh basil and oregano, all grown on-site.

Two Stones Continues To Roll

Since the first “Temple of Beer in Delaware” opened in Newark in 2011, Two Stones Pub has continued to expand its brand, with new locations in North Wilmington and Kennett Square, Pa.

That expansion continues this summer in the form of a brewery in Aston, Pa., as Two Stones pursues the sacred art of brewing.

Known as 2SP Brewing Company, the brewery will have craft ales and lagers for consumption by mid-July, according to co-owner Mike Stiglitz. Joining “Stigz” and his craft brew crew are newly acquired Brewer Bob Barrar, a Great American Beer Festival medal winner (19 times over) with Iron Hill, and Cellarman Andrew Rubenstein, who will focus most of his attention on barrel aging the myriad Belgian sour beers 2SP will brew.
“We’re getting Barolo casks and other red wine barrels from Italy, bourbon barrels from distilleries like Elijah Craig and Knob Creek, as well as rum barrels,” Stiglitz said. “We plan on making a lot of creative stuff to go along with the food at all our restaurants.”

From left, Mike Stiglitz, partner, Bob Barrar, owner/brewer and Mike Contreras, director of marketing and sales stand in the warehouse where 2SP Brewing Company will be located in Aston Pa. (Photo by Tim Hawk)

From left, Mike Stiglitz, partner, Bob Barrar, owner/brewer and Mike Contreras, director of marketing and sales stand in the warehouse where 2SP Brewing Company will be located in Aston Pa. (Photo by Tim Hawk)

Fans of Two Stones can sign up for the 2SP barrel program, which will allow them to reserve a bottle of barrel-aged beer when bottling takes place in October and November.

2SP plans to age some pretty heavy hitters, including a Russian Stout brewed with coffee beans from ReAnimator Coffee Roaster in Philadelphia.

The timeline for 2SP’s core beers to reach the taps at Two Stones Pub locations is late July, and Stigz plans to feature a minimum of four of the six house beers on draft. Those six include two IPAs, an American stout, a Belgian saison, a “Weiss Witt,” or Belgian white ale with a slightly sour taste, and Barrar’s signature recipe, the DELCO Lager.

“We want 2SP to have a presence at all the pubs, but we certainly don’t want to cannibalize our beer list in the process,” Stiglitz said. “So you’ll see a number of our flagship beers, in addition to some of the seasonals we’ll be making, followed by a selection of some of the best craft beer from around the country and around the world.”

While plans for more expansion into Hockessin have stalled, a site has been established in Jennersville, Pa., for a fourth Two Stones Pub location. Stiglitz said that canned and bottled versions of 2SP beers will also hit the market at some point, likely in early 2016.

Stewart’s Celebrates Its 20th

July is going to be a very busy month for Al Stewart and his crew at Stewart’s Brewing Company in Bear. Not only are they finishing year-long renovations that include new booths, new table tops, new flatscreen TVs and other aesthetic modifications, they’re also rolling out a new menu and a 20th Anniversary Ale in anticipation of their Outdoor Beer Fest on Saturday, July 25.

“By the time July hits, you won’t even recognize the place,” Stewart said. “Since we’re really looking forward to unveiling a lot of the changes, we have events planned for pretty much every day and night during the entire month, culminating with our festival on the 25th.”

Some of those events include “Night Brewing” on Tuesdays, wherein the brewery staff will make beer during the evening and offer tours of the brewery as well, and “Original Menu” features on Fridays, with special items from their opening menus at 1995 prices.

“We’re also doing prix-fixe beer dinners all month long on Thursday nights, and a Lottery Discount special on Sunday, the 26th,” Stewart said. “If you come in that day, you have the chance of drawing anywhere between 5 and 20 percent off your check.”

Head Brewer Ric Hoffman recently began bottling the 20th Anniversary Ale, which will be available for sale and on tap this month. He said the big Belgian ale will weigh in at 10.5 percent, will be “orangey” in color, and will feature some locally sourced ingredients.

“I’ve never been a huge fan of botanicals, but I wanted to strive for nuanced flavors that you really need to search for when you drink it,” Hoffman said. “We used local honey from West Grove, chamomile, rose hips and elderberries. The result will have a perceived floral sweetness, with a dry finish. I think it’s going to be a great—although big—summer beer.”

Tickets for Stewart’s Outdoor Beer Festival on July 25 are $35. The event, which takes place from 4-8 p.m. in Stewart’s Governor’s Square parking lot, will feature foods cooked on the house smoker, Pete Casey & 7 Rings playing Irish music, and beers from other local breweries, like 16 Mile, Dogfish Head, Iron Hill and Mispillion River.

Grain On Main

Major renovations are currently taking place at 270 E. Main St. in Newark, home to the East End Café for nearly 25 years, and most recently, Mojo Main. Called Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen, the gastropub restaurant is scheduled to open in time for Newark’s Food & Brew Fest on the weekend of July 25.

Owners Jim O’Donoghue and Lee Mikels, both of whom spent time at the East End during their college days at UD, had been looking for a viable spot to make their dream come true for nearly six years. When Mojo Main went under in the spring of 2014, the business partners made their move.

“The timing of this place coming back on the market really worked out for us, because we had been aggressively looking to rent a place that was family owned,” Mikels said. “The Laletas family has been great to work with, though we didn’t realize how much work we’d be putting in to getting this old building up to speed.”

O’Donoghue, Mikels and their team hope to have Grain open in time for the Newark Food & Brew Fest on July 25. (Photo by Dennis Dischler)

O’Donoghue, Mikels and their team hope to have Grain open in time for the Newark Food & Brew Fest on July 25. (Photo by Dennis Dischler)

Mikels said they’ve been working tirelessly on the building, originally erected in 1972, ripping out old wiring, paneling on the walls, and even thick carpeting the former owners placed in the ceilings to keep the noise down.

“It was a bit of a mess, but I think the former owners did everything they could to satisfy the noise ordinances in Newark,” O’Donoghue said. “When we open, however, that won’t be a problem. We’ll only be featuring acoustic acts in our back room, and we have even modified the stage to accommodate smaller acts.”

The back bar will feature 24 taps, focusing primarily on local and regional craft beer, and the menu will focus on modern American cuisine, again with local fruits and vegetables, as well as meats from neighbors like Herman’s Meats on Cleveland Avenue.

The middle bar, which for years featured an eyesore in the form of a massive cooler, has been refurbished, and the cooler removed. This area, O’Donoghue said, will serve as a bar hangout, along with tables for casual dining.

The front patio will remain the crown jewel. “You really can’t find a patio with this much space up and down Main Street, so we really want to capitalize on that,” Mikels said. “It’s the first thing you see when you come driving down the street, so we want to be a welcoming sign to the town of Newark.”

A House Beer Shakeup at Iron Hill

For years at every Iron Hill location, standards like the Ironbound Ale, an American Pale Ale, and the Raspberry Wheat, a popular, filtered wheat beer with raspberry concentrate, held their own on the house beer list. But this spring both were replaced by more popular styles.

Enter the Ore House IPA, an India Pale Ale that references one of Iron Hill’s original house beers, the Ore House Amber, and the Witberry, a classic, unfiltered Belgian wheat beer with a touch of raspberry. According to Senior Head Brewer Brian Finn, the IPA has out-sold the rest of the house beer list, while the Witberry is holding its own.

“With the IPA, it became really popular almost overnight, and is now our No. 1 selling house beer,” Finn said. “For us, it was a no-brainer to add an IPA to our house list, because it’s one of the most popular beers in America right now.”

The Ore House IPA features a deep golden color, with notes of citrus and pine, while the Witberry is actually an off-shoot of another new house beer, the White Iron Wit. Both are unfiltered wheat beers (much like an Allagash White or Hoegaarden), but the Witberry features the addition of raspberry.

Both will be on tap, along with a slew of other “lawnmower beers,” as Finn calls them, at Iron Hill Wilmington’s annual bocce tournament on Saturday, Aug. 15. Three bocce courts will be set up all weekend, with tournaments taking place between local bar and restaurant employees, as well as Iron Hill employees and loyal customers, between noon and 5 p.m.
Light summer beers and fruity ales and lagers will be on tap from neighboring breweries, in Delaware and beyond.

New Brews at the Beach

A new microbrewery is planned to open between Lewes and Rehoboth come late August, and by all accounts, it sounds like one of the biggest dining destinations at the beach: 6,500 square feet, 80 seats in the dining room and on the back deck, 60 seats at the bar, 40 on the front porch, and a back yard with horse shoe pits, lawn chairs and a playground.

Owner/operating Partner Rich Garrahan came up with the name Crooked Hammock while lying in his own backyard hammock after work each night. Since moving to Rehoboth Beach from New Jersey, he has spent time working with the ownership group behind local favorites Nage Restaurant and Big Chill Surf Cantina.

“I left a job at Merrill Lynch after college, and figured I’d move to the beach and be on the sand just about every day, living the easy life,” Garrahan said. “But then I started working and started a family, and the idea I had of ‘beach life’ changed dramatically. The ‘Crooked Hammock’ is basically my nightly escape, and we’re hoping this place can be a personal escape for our guests.”

The escape will feature community picnic style tables outside, along with a stage to host local musicians. Three garage doors that will open from the dining room, allowing customers to look out onto the deck. But the beer will likely be the main attraction.

“Our brewer, Chris Wright, has worked at Terrapin Brewery in Georgia and Heavy Seas in Baltimore, so he is bringing a lot of great experience with him,” Garrahan said. “The food will definitely go along with microbrew beers—both our own and others from local breweries—and will include hot dogs, burgers, fresh seafood, boardwalk fries, and even meat on sticks.”

While construction at the Kings Highway location is still underway, Garrahan, along with partners Josh Grapski and Mitch Rosenfeled, are confident their doors will be open by Labor Day weekend, if not late August. For more info and updates on their status, like them on Facebook or go to crookedhammock.com.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.