Visiting Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has been a rite of passage for beer geeks for decades. Since opening its original brewpub in Rehoboth in 1995, followed by its production brewery two years later in Milton, Dogfish Head has been welcoming beer pilgrims to Delaware, giving them an up-close taste of the bold brewery’s “off-centered” ales.
Now, Dogfish Head has grown from the smallest operating brewery in America to its own mini-empire. In addition to its brewpub, brewery, and distillery, the craft beer pioneer opened its own Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Del., in 2014, followed by a seafood restaurant, Chesapeake & Maine, next door to the brewpub in Rehoboth Beach in 2016.
This spring, Dogfish will unveil renovations of Brewery & Eats, along with a new courtyard connecting the brewpub with Chesapeake & Maine, complete with a brand new R&D brewery and distillery.
Dogfish Head may not be the talk of the beer trade black market these days, but its significance for craft beer travelers is undeniable. It’s the 12th-largest craft brewing company in the U.S., the 22nd-largest brewery company in the country overall, and in its almost-25-year history of beer, food, and hospitality, Dogfish has figured out how to show beer lovers a good time.
Why It’s Famous
Dogfish Head began as a small brewpub in Delaware in 1995 as a champion for culinarily inspired ales in a craft-beer-thirsty nation. Considered a pioneer of the industry today, the brewing company has since expanded into one of the largest craft beer brands in the world.
The beer that made Dogfish famous is the 90 Minute IPA, an early example of the IPA style that introduced an entirely new concept to the craft brewing industry: continual hopping. The revolutionary method entailed adding hops during the brewing process from start to finish, creating a hoppy, nuanced ale that yielded complex hop flavors without the bracing bitterness that characterized other examples of the style.
What to Order
If you’re visiting the brewery, brewpub, or restaurant, opt for seasonal releases or beers with limited availability. A very special find might be the World Wide Stout, a rarity with many vintages over the years (one variation is oak-aged on vanilla beans). Another oddity, Chicha, is worth seeking out for the extra adventurous: The Peruvian-inspired brew is made with masticated purple corn (that means people chewed the corn and spit it out).
To take advantage of a special variety of Dogfish’s lineup of continually hopped IPAs (of which there are the 60 Minute, 75 Minute, 90 Minute, and 120 Minute), ask for the 75 Minute IPA on cask, giving it a smooth, soft mouthfeel and muted bitterness.
Also of note this spring, in honor of Record Store Day, Dogfish is releasing Dragons and YumYums, a collaboration with the Flaming Lips, brewed with dragonfruit, yumberry (a real thing), passionfruit, pear juice, and black carrot juice.
And, if you’re eating at the brewpub or any Dogfish locations, don’t be afraid to ask your server what pairs best with your meal.
What to Skip
Unless you live outside of Dogfish’s 41-state distribution footprint, you can skip the year-rounds like 60 Minute IPA and Indian Brown Ale (it’s not that they’re not delicious, but you can find them almost anywhere, including elsewhere in Rehoboth). Tasting the lineup of spirits is interesting, but not necessary; if you’re not traveling with a spirited drinker, pick up a bottle of Sonic Archaeology, a ready-to-drink cocktail that’s made with Dogfish whiskey, rum, and brandy, along with honey, lemon, and pomegranate juices.
When to Go
Summer is high season in Rehoboth Beach (the city bills itself as the nation’s summer capital), making June through August prime time for beach goers, but also crowds. For a more relaxed trip, fall and spring are great times to explore the brewery, distillery, and restaurant scene along with other Rehoboth Beach bars and nightlife (drag show at the Purple Parrot, anyone?). If you’re looking for slightly livelier-than-ghost-town vibes, winter is ideal for sneaking in for some good eats, drinks, and crisp walks on the beach, with a lot less competition for space and sanity. (Full disclosure: The author has done this and loved it.) Plus, winter travelers can take advantage of Dogfish’s off-season specials, like Wood-Fired Nights and Beers With Bryan, a pow-wow with a Dogfish brewer. Whatever the season, there’s always much to do within Delaware Dogfish domain.
Where to Stay
The Dogfish Inn can serve as a base camp for committed beer lovers looking to experience all things Dogfish. Located in the coastal town of Lewes, about 20 minutes from the Dogfish production brewery and taproom in Milton, and about 10 minutes away from Dogfish’s Brewery & Eats brewpub and Chesapeake & Maine restaurant in Rehoboth, the inn completes the triple feature of Dogfish happiness.
Staying at the inn includes “INNclusive tours” which, for a fixed price, allow guests to enjoy beery amenities in their rooms, get shuttled to the brewery for a behind-the-scenes tour, then escorted to the brewpub and brought back to basecamp. If you’re lucky, a late-night campfire might even feature a “fireside chat” with Dogfish Head co-founder and heartthrob, Sam Calagione, who lives close by and has been known to roll through on Friday nights.