Mispillion River Brewing founder Eric Williams welcomes the state’s growth in craft beer producers
By Matt Morrissette
When Mispillion River Brewing opened its doors in Milford in the fall of 2013, it became just the sixth brewery founded in a state put on the craft beer map by the international success of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in neighboring Milton. Since then, the state’s craft beer scene has exploded with the number of breweries swelling to 25 and more on the way. This shifting landscape along with the challenges brought about by COVID-19 has kept MRB co-founder and president, Eric Williams, on his toes as of late, and as the clouds seemingly begin to part on the pandemic, he finds himself feeling grateful and excited for the future.
“The pandemic has definitely made things go up and down,” Williams says. “There was fear at first coupled with anticipation of opening back up. I think we all expected to be opened back up sooner than now, but that has been the thing about this pandemic: flexibility is the key.”
Another key to Mispillion’s continued success in the difficult conditions of the last year has been the loyalty of its established customer base and an unexpected surge in new patrons.
“We have huge support from our local customers, and we’ve seen more and more new fans to the brewery over the last year,” Williams says. “Everything is constantly changing. We expect that now and in the future. Our team has done an amazing job of adjusting throughout all of this. I owe it all to our incredible team.”
Another crucial element in keeping a brewery vital is anticipating trends in craft-drinking preferences. Though IPAs are still the bread and butter of most craft breweries, there has been a shift in recent years towards sours and offerings with less calories and lower alcohol content. In response to this shift in tastes, MRB created their series of sour beers called the War Series and began canning its easy-drinking Yard Bird American-Style Lager in December of 2020.
“Yard Bird is the ‘Brewer’s Choice’ here at the brewery,” Williams says. “Don’t get me wrong; we love all of the beers we create, but Yard Bird is that refreshing light beer that seems to hold a place in our hearts. All of us in the industry are adjusting to new trends and styles. We love our lagers, IPAs, and stouts, but the War Series is a stand-out beer. Some do not like sours, but this is different. It’s a sour beer with the sweetness of the flavored electrolytes, and it’s on point. It also makes you feel good, but do not take our word for it… just try it!”
Mispillion River Brewing also knows to lead with their classic beers that their reputation is built on, and that craft beer fandom is still filled with hopheads always looking for the next bitter IPA that packs a wallop. MBR’s two flagship IPAs can be found in bars all over Delaware and beyond.
“Our best sellers are our Not Today Satan IPA and our Reach Around IPA,” Williams says. “They are two very different beers! Reach Around IPA is a low-bittered, easy-drinking IPA. It’s great for the IPA lover or the beginner IPA drinker. It also goes great with blue crabs.
“Not Today Satan IPA is a bigger beer with a little more bitterness, and the nice thing about this beer is that it’s perfectly balanced from hops to malt. Not Today Satan IPA is one of my personal favorites.”
As the Delaware craft beer industry has rapidly expanded, some have speculated that a critical mass could be reached with not enough customers to support the ever-growing ranks of breweries. But rather than seeing the nearly two dozen other breweries as competition, Williams sees only positives in the Delaware craft beer explosion.
“I love the growth that our industry has seen over the last few years,” he says. “When we came on the scene in 2013, we were one the first few breweries. Now Delaware boasts over 25 breweries. It’s amazing. This is great for tourism and industry in Delaware as a whole.”
As the world at large shakes off the quarantine cobwebs and adjusts back to something resembling life before the pandemic, some small local businesses are scrambling for staff and struggling with the transition. In contrast, Eric Williams and Mispillion River Brewing seem to have things under control, and they are ready for whatever comes next as Williams explains.
“Personally, I am so excited about live music coming back to Mispillion River Brewing, and being able to do it in a mask free, relaxing, and safe atmosphere is awesome,” Williams says. “We are all excited about the future.”