Fun fact: When I was 19, my mother somehow let me live at the beach for the summer, and I lived in Dewey Beach for part of it. I worked at a Bed & Breakfast (long since gone), The Starboard and The Ice Cream Store (“TICS,” we called it) in Rehoboth. I spent early mornings drinking frappuccinos and walking the shoreline in step with dolphins, and spent non-working nights hanging out listening to “No Woman No Cry” on the jukebox at Mama Maria’s (or waiting for someone to take pity on us and buy us beer — shhh).
Of the four main beach destinations in slower lower Delaware, Dewey has always been the party beach. I remember from my days at The Starboard, our regulars were D.C. bankers and politicos who scored houses for the summer and came down in large groups each weekend to blow off steam.
None of this really has anything to do with this brewery review, but I can’t help but get nostalgic any time I’m there. I’m sure you’re all shocked.
Dewey Beer Company opened just a few weeks ago just in time for the start of the summer season, replacing what was once Bubba’s just along Coastal Highway.
I was flying solo for this trip, so I told the hostess I would just head to the bar. Well, the bar — though it did offer a handful of seats — is a bit more of a service area; I couldn’t get anyone back there to look at me — but after a few minutes I found an open seat by the brewery and as soon as I sat down, someone came over to help me.
The brewpub itself is rustic and beachy, but not in any tacky way. Exposed wood beams, wooden drink rails lining the bar-side of the space with petite wood-and-metal stools upon which to perch, open air throughout bar and restaurant sides, and glass walls and doors that showcase the brewery.
Dewey Beer Company (and Kitchen) features 7-9 beers — handcrafted no more than 30 feet from the taps themselves — with more in the works. Head Brewer Mike Reilly was visible throughout the brewpub, chatting with customers and answering questions. He told me he started — like many brewers we know locally — in his garage with a homebrew kit. The passion eventually took over, and he moved from his home in Washington, D.C. to open Dewey Beer Company with partners Clinton Bunting, Brandon Smith and Scott Kaufman.
Beers are available in 5 oz samples ($2.50 each) or 13-16 oz glasses. ($6-$6.50)
O’Reilly said his most popular beer is the Summer Saison. Before talking with him I had observed that it was a popular order (which kind of surprised me, I find that many people don’t always quite know what to make of farmhouse ales). However, as soon as I sampled it, I understood its broad appeal. Bright, lemon zest zing matched by a light body for ultimate refreshment. It’s no surprise to me that beach-goers are sucking this down.
I also sampled Dewey Beer Co.’s Brown Ale, which was delightfully nutty without that malty sweetness that I can find to be cloying. Reilly likened it to “burnt marshmallows.” Yes!
Naturally I also had to score an IPA — and three versions were available: [house] IPA, Rye IPA and Batch 2 IPA. My server described Batch 2 as a hop bomb, and I said, “sign me up!” Batch 2 IPA had a wonderful grapefruit bitterness and hoppy enough I had to double-check to see if it was a double. But no, this beauty came in at just 6.6%
Dewey Beer Company also offers an American Pale Ale, Amber Ale, Summer Wheat Saison (very close to the Summer Saison thanks to the yeast strain, Reilly told me) and a stout (light, dry, summery-stout — a description I’ve never heard before!) is on the way next.
Growlers — both 32 oz and 64 oz are available on a limited basis. Basically, these guys are going through a ton of beer, and I can see why. Dewey Beer Company is the only brewery in Dewey Beach, but their brews are high quality and everything I tasted was delicious and true to description.
Dewey Beer Company’s “Kitchen” has a small menu featuring a build-your-own meat and cheese plates; appetizers like scrapple empanadas (read that again) and steamed shellfish; a Waygu burger, a crabcake (of course); about five full-size entrees ranging from fresh halibut to grilled skirt steak.
As I mentioned, I was dining solo, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted a full dinner so I told my server I was thinking about the clams or mussels (I like to be on as much of an all-seafood diet when I’m at the beach), and without hesitation, she said, “Mussels.”
My mussels — intended to share with, I don’t know, four people? as an app — was about two pounds of mussels with pancetta, shallots, roasted garlic, cabbage, mustard and fresh herbs sauteed in Dewey Beer Co.’s Summer Saison. Holy. I ate it ALL.
The brewpub seats 110 people — including restaurant seating — and is open year-round.If you’re in slower lower Delaware this summer, definitely stop into Dewey Beer Company and check out what they’ve got brewing.