Shore Brewery Tour

Posted by: on Dec 20, 2013 | No Comments

burleyoakLast Friday, my husband and I went on a craft brewery tour with his co-workers. Every year, these sounding rocket engineers take a Friday off from work and visit a whopping six breweries in Maryland and Delaware. This year the organizer rented a tour bus with a designated driver, which happens to be a genius and terrible idea at the same time. The shenanigans began in a parking lot close to the Maryland and Virginia state line on the Virginia side at 10 a.m. It was freezing cold but the sun was shinning. There was a cooler of Natural Light and a few family size snack boxes of chips and Goldfish. A handful of the guys were already drinking beers. All we were missing was a football game. Apparently breweries are enough reason to pregame. My husband had promised me there would be other women. I specifically asked him, “Are you SURE there will be ladies?” “Yes,” he assured me. Turns out ladies meant 3 other women of which only 1 actually made it. Score: 2 girls to 26 boys…

The bus was late. We all had cold fingers and noses by the time it arrived at 10:30. Nevertheless, it was a brand new tour bus, comfortable, and relaxing to not worry about who was driving. The first stop was Burley Oak in Berlin, Maryland about an hour drive from our starting point. Burley Oak is small and doesn’t have a restaurant or menu of any kind. It’s just beer. You enter a long thin room with a few tables and stools, a ping pong table, a leather couch, and a bar. They have 12 beers on tap and 1 root beer. I really wish I had tried the root beer too. I meant to, but it escaped me. My husbanded ordered “Just the Tip,” a Kolsch. Normally, 11:30 is a little early for me, but I ordered “Sour Trip,” a pucker inducing beer made from locally grown wheat (is anyone surprised I chose the one with local ingredients?). The sourness comes from lactobacillus bacteria, which is added before it’s boiled. The bartender added a very small amount raspberry syrup to the top of the beer. It sounds girly but the raspberry was not prominent. I really liked the beer. The sourness was refreshing and light. If I was going to six breweries, I was not going to start with heavy beer. The brew master took us on a tour of the brewery. I love listening to people who are passionate about their art. Bryan obviously lives what he does. He talked about the process of brewing small batch craft beer with limited mechanical input. A lot of their work is manual. In fact, they brew in a year what Dogfish Head brews in a day and a half! Bryan also talked about their developing partnership with local farmers to use local wheat (a great winter cover crop) and potentially making malt locally. This was my favorite brewery and I hope to see them expand and continue their local efforts.

OceanCity

Empty boardwalk in Ocean City

We piled back on the bus at about 12:30 and headed to Ocean City, MD. Shorebilly Brewing is located on the boardwalk, which was desolate. The beach was empty with nothing but waves lapping the sand. The sky was brilliant blue and there were a few small boats visible on the horizon. The boardwalk was ours, as was Shorebilly. This brewery fits right in on the Ocean City boardwalk. It’s decorations are kitschy. There is an old VW bus in front of the bar. Inside there is barely room for six people to stand in line for a beer. They have outdoor seating. In fact, it’s exactly what I expect a brewery on the boardwalk to look like. It blends in with the Funcade and the stores that usually offer cheap sunglasses and shell jewelery. Since it was cold, their neighboring restaurant opened space for us. I had a “Novemberfest” beer. It was similar to an Oktoberfest but darker. This was the darkest beer I tried all day. The beer was good and I appreciated their hospitality to such a large group of ragamuffins. They even had vegetable trays and crackers with cheese for us to snack on. Despite the silly back drop, I enjoyed our hour there.

The VW bus in front of Shorebilly Brewing

The VW bus in front of Shorebilly Brewing

We got to Dogfish Head Restaurant in Rehoboth for a late lunch. My husband ordered the “Piercing Pilsner,” a seasonal pilsner with pear undertones. I had the “Midas Touch,” which is a mead. They were both good. I was more interested in the food. I had a big falafel salad. It was tasty but could have had both more vegetables and more falafel. I really wanted to try the mushroom mac and cheese but they don’t serve it as a side. Overall, I like Dogfish Head. But I didn’t find their restaurant super exciting. Maybe it’s because I have had their beers and have had better food elsewhere. I should also probably mention at this point that we were drinking lots of water between breweries. On a normal day, I’d be tipsy after 3 beers. But tempering the beers with time and water really helped. I can’t say the same for all our compadres though.

By the time we made it to 16 Mile in Georgetown, DE, the sun had set. The brewery had a nice fire going outside. It was bright inside, all light-colored wood and well-lit. I think we ordered the Responder’s and Blue’s Golden Ales. They were both light and tasted extremely similar to each other. A friend of the brewery, Larry, gave us a tour of the inner workings. He told us that 16 Mile is named so because Georgetown is 16 miles from anywhere in Sussex County, making it the central point. The brewery is larger than Burley Oak. Larry showed us all the steps including their bottling machine.  We chewed on some barley, which is very sweet and provides the sugars that feed the yeast during fermentation.

Our next stop was 3rd Wave in Delmar, DE. This was another very small bar. The bartenders were far less friendly here than anywhere else. But I’m sure the group of 28 was reaching a level of obnoxious. Nevertheless, they had big carafes of goldfish on the counter, which I was extremely happy about. I posted up on a stool at the bar with a carafe immediately. My husband and I ordered a flight of various light beers mostly IPAs, a blonde ale, and a Belgian ale. They were all a little hoppy for my liking. Dogfish Head’s 60 minute IPA is my gateway IPA. These were not as good in my opinion. But I did enjoy the seasonal pumpkin brew.

Our last stop was outside of Salisbury, MD at Tall Tales. They had a whole side of the restaurant available for us. There were comfortable couches in the corners and high tables. This was our dinner stop. They have really good pizza, something that is hard to find on the Virginia side of the Shore unless we make our own. We had a vegetable pizza with red onions and green peppers. I chose the light apple ale. It was almost like a hard cider, crisp and slightly sweet. I don’t like sweet drinks and this wasn’t overly sweet. I also really like the restaurant/brew pub feeling. And really at this point, all I cared about was the pizza.

I’m not a big beer drinker. But I wanted to check out the semi-local breweries and this was a really good way to do it. Although, I’d probably do three or fewer at a time. It was great to not have to drive. And the 5 gallons of water I drank in addition to the beers meant I enjoyed myself without being embarrassing or sick. I’d love to see the Virginia Eastern Shore get a small brew pub. Most of these places are at least an hour and a half drive for me, making them a little too far for an evening out.

Cheers!

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