Racing Forward

1937 Brewing is Delaware Park’s latest effort to provide one-stop entertainment

By Matt Morrissette

Founded in 1937, Delaware Park, located just outside of the Wilmington city limits in Stanton, began as a thoroughbred horse racetrack designed and built by William J. duPont, Jr. in partnership with businessman Donald P. Ross. Over its rich history, DelPark (as Delaware natives know it) has been home to the career debuts of Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, near-Triple Crown winner, Afleet Alex, and other horses of note. Nearly a century later, the park still occupies a hallowed place in equine history.

In more recent times, DelPark has evolved into a full-blown entertainment complex, boasting a casino added in 1994 when the Delaware legislature legalized slots; a host of eateries running the gamut from bar and grill to fine dining; and a world-class golf course in the form of White Clay Creek Country Club, built by Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest & Associates in 2005.

Delaware Park went old school with its design for signature growlers.

Betting on National Football League games became legal in Delaware in 2009, and DelPark began offering betting on parlay cards featuring multiple teams. The law was expanded in 2018, allowing for single-game and parlay betting on all professional and college sports (excluding Delaware college teams). And in 2010, another gambling law allowed the park to offer table games including blackjack, craps, roulette, 21, and various poker games, as well as keno.

Though these changes and additions have kept the park thriving and growing, DelPark has concentrated its efforts over the last few years on shaking the common idea that casinos are primarily the province of the elderly and retired. At the center of the park’s new offerings has been taking advantage of Delaware’s ongoing craft beer explosion and the younger, hipper demographic that comes with it.

In the planning since 2018 and delayed by the pandemic, 1937 Brewing Company opened in the summer of 2021. Occupying the spaces that formerly housed the High Roller Pit and HOPS Bar, 1937 offers eight to 10 house-brewed beers on tap, gastropub-style cuisine, craft cocktails, and Stage ‘37, a venue offering free musical entertainment.

Delaware Park President Bill Fasy explains the reasoning behind adding an on-site craft brewery to the park’s amenities.

“We strive to offer a variety of entertainment options and based on the continued popularity of craft beers, we felt this was a natural addition,” says Fasy. “I believe being a one-stop entertainment venue is what separates us from our competitors.

Delaware Park Racetrack, Casino, and Golf President William Fasy at 1937 Brewing Company located inside the casino. Photograph by Butch Comegys.

“The craft beer evolution also attracts younger and more affluent customers, which is something our industry is struggling to capture. Our mission as a company is to ‘Create an Escape,’ so everyone can relax and enjoy all of the multi-faceted offerings, which in turn, breeds repetitive habits and brand loyalty.”

As with any brewery, the most important thing is the beer, and Fasy is excited about what they have to offer.

“It was a basic collaboration between guest feedback, our food and beverage management team and Brad Adelson, our brewmaster,” says Fasy. “We wanted to stand apart from the area breweries, but also offer some consistent favorites so the casual beer drinker could enjoy their time with us, too.

“Seasonality plays a big part in the brewing process, and I foresee a pumpkin ale in the fall and maybe a richer stout in the colder months. The Legal Lite lager (named for the first horse to win at Delaware Park) is one of our staples. Because of the uniqueness, the Watermelon Kicker seems to be a top favorite, and it is really light and refreshing.”

According to Fasy, DelPark’s gamble on craft beer appears to be paying off as regular customers seem excited and engaged by the new food and beer offerings, and there’s been a clear uptick in the number of customers in their 20s and 30s.

     He credits this to good old-fashioned positive word of mouth and the marketing department’s smart efforts at social media engagement on the Untappd and Instagram applications. 

Another method that Delaware Park uses to reach out to new patrons is special events, and none are bigger than the biannual Beers & Gears Craft Beer Festival and Car Show. The free and family-friendly event features trophies for cars in all categories, live DJs, food trucks, and of course, a huge variety of craft beers on tap. The fall edition takes place on Sunday, October 24 (rain date: Oct. 31).

Delaware Park chef Veronica Ingiosi now has her own beer to serve with the restaurant’s gourmet pizza.

According to Fasy, the events are crucial to bringing new people into the park and exposing them to the variety of entertainment options available.

“These special events are ways we can attract a diverse population to our property and discover the varied experiences we can offer,” he says. “Guests can enjoy a family picnic in our paddock-side Grove, dancing at Stage ’37, a quick bet in the Sports Book, and let’s not forget golf at White Clay Creek Country Club. It is really cool when someone stops me to say that they didn’t know we had this or that here!”

As the only thoroughbred horse racing track in the history of Delaware, Delaware Park’s legacy as a local landmark is undeniable, but it’s the park’s continued evolution that makes it such a vibrant asset for residents of the state. And in a state rapidly becoming known for its craft beer scene, it’s only fitting that a brewery be added to Delaware Park’s seemingly endless list of things to do.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.