TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN DELAWARE - FALL EDITION

The author enjoying an ancient human activity.

The author enjoying an ancient human activity.

 
The author’s child making an important holiday decision .

The author’s child making an important holiday decision.

It’s finally here!!!  Autumn is upon us and because you are a reader of this blog, you will be privy to the most interesting things to do in Delaware during this fine season.

  1.  Milburn Orchards - One of my best fall memories was a trip to Milburn Orchards when I was a student at UD.  My friend organized a group hayride and bonfire one Friday night in October, and luckily, I had the good sense to attend.  Apples were everywhere, and like an irresponsible child, I ate half a dozen before the tractor arrived. That made it tough to consume a reasonable number of apple cider donuts later that night.  Nothing beats a hayride with good friends in the fall. But a nice little bonfire at the edge of the woods comes close. Perfect evening. Just 5 minutes outside of Newark.

  2. Cut your own Christmas Tree!  I was an artificial-tree-kid growing up, but I have been doing fresh tree cutting for the last several years and it’s unbeatable.  I think this activity is excellent for bringing out the relational dynamics in your family. You really get to see who the decision makers are because you’ll keep looking for that perfect tree until that person(s) is satisfied.  By the way, you’ll want to do this in the fall because Dec 21st is too late to get a decent tree.

  3. UD Football Game, Newark, DE.  I personally feel UD has struck the correct balance of college football quality vs. insanity.  The games are competitive, the tail-gating is top notch, and tickets are extremely affordable for families.  Grab your hoodie and check out a game. You can get tickets the day of if planning ahead isn’t your thing.  

  4. The Fall Festival at Autumn Arch Beer Project, Newark, DE.  It’s October 26 and we’ll have music, food trucks, lawn games, and an outdoor beer garden.  Milburn Orchards is on site with apple cider donuts (see #1). It happens to be the same day as UD Homecoming game (see #3), which is either a nice alternative or a post game activity for you.

  5. Markell Bike Trail, New Castle, DE - I just rode this with my son last week specifically to report back to you on it’s quality.  It’s high. Park near Battery Park in New Castle and ride up to the Wilmington Riverfront. Treat yourself to a snack at Iron Hill Brewery before riding back. You definitely earned it.

  6. The Apple Scrapple Festival, Bridgeville, DE.    If you’ve never consumed a block of scrapple, this may be the best place to do it for the first time.  The event starts on Friday, October 11 and goes through the next day. There’s a 5K as well as loads of delightful and/or interesting foods.  And if you’re a native to Northern Delaware, this small bit of southern Delaware culture will be good for you.

  7. Picnic at Brandywine Creek State Park, Wilmington, DE.  The rolling hills and open expanses provide a great view of the changing fall foliage.  Mid to late October is your best bet for awesome colors. Bring your kid(s) as well as a kite or frisbee.

  8. Tour Dover Air Force Base.  Technically, as a US taxpayer, you own all the planes there, so go check out the goods.  Take the day off with your kid(s) and go check the massive military clout the United States wields (unfortunately, they only give tours on Tuesday and Thursday, and you need to book 30 days in advance, so this is not for the last-minute-planner)

  9. Frightland, Middletown, DE.  This spooky theme park has a hayride as well as carnival.  If the actual place is half as spooky as the website, you are in for a treat.

  10. Backyard campfire @ your house.  Epic beers optional. Epic friends mandatory.  100% free (except for the beers…unless you wisely convince your friends to bring them).  There is something primal and beautiful about gathering around an open fire and sharing stories.  Humans have been doing it for millennia, so as a modern human, you should embrace this ancient tradition starting now.  Some of my best fall memories are chilly evenings hanging around a backyard campfire, sharing local beers, smoking cigars (which I find totally disgusting but strangely appropriate for the occasion), and trading old stories, bad jokes, fond memories, and lofty dreams.

IN SEARCH OF EPIC BEER (and other Grail Quests)

Something epic is going on here…

Something epic is going on here…

I plainly remember the first epic beer I tasted (and by epic, I mean a highly sought-after, high-alcohol, scarce-in-Delaware, eye-raising, paradigm shifting beer).  It was aromatic, juicy, and boozy. It re-defined IPAs for me.  

I jokingly call the pursuit of these types of beer “Grail Quests”, because it’s essentially the modern millennial’s zealous pursuit of holy beer.  

But I didn’t have to go on a grail quest for a taste of my first epic beer...it fell into my lap at a point in my life where I was just beginning to wade into the culture of craft beer.  A friend from work gave me a can of this beer, and at the time, I was completely unaware of the legendary epic-ness of said beer.  

I beheld the one bequeathed to me in my kitchen on a Wednesday night while preparing dinner.  I find drinking a beer while preparing the family dinner is a great time to imbibe due to the individual nature of the work and the opportunity to reflect and delight in the beer without other distractions (yes - in our house, there is an unstated rule of not bothering a chef at work). The can artwork was weird and I felt it was strange to be drinking a beer from a 16oz. can (which is all the rage today), so I poured it into a fancy glass.

The aroma wafting out of the glass immediately caught my attention.  I was astounded a beer could contain such a pungent cloud of hoppiness. None of my homebrews up to that point could measure up to it. And it put my go-to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and VIctory Hop Devil in the backseat (although I eventually came back around to them). I won’t bore you with details of taste, mouthfeel, etc. I considered it epic and that’s all that really mattered.

Now I seek out that beer when I’m in New England.  You’re probably wondering what the beer is, but I’m not going to send you on MY grail quest; you need to find your own.  

Maybe your holy grail is a Trillium Triple IPA (WTF, when did that become a style?!) or a Westvleteren #12.  Or maybe it’s that one-off, small batch beer that your local brewery whipped up last week which you have yet to try.  

I hope it’s the latter, because you’ll find it a hell of a lot easier to recruit friends on a local grail quest. And frankly, having a beer with close friends is the type of quest that all of us should be pursuing in earnest.

BAVARIAN WINTER

If you have been a close follower of this blog, you are aware of my general disdain for summer’s heat and humidity. July’s weather is a prime example……did you enjoy doing anything outside that didn’t involve being submerged in water!?

Its during the hot nights of summer that I find myself looking at the myriad of pictures I took of last winter. Even though it was only six months ago, I feel like it was years. And it’s somewhat comical looking at my family dressed in winter garb….how can we possibly be cold!? (Literally I think this while sitting pool side in flip flops and Hawaiian shirt)

Some of my pictures were from a trip I took to Germany last February. I wasn’t planning to take a business trip so close to opening, but circumstances warranted a surgical strike to Munich (and besides, I left Dan working hard at the brewery). I meant to write a blog post about it when I got back, but we were on the cusp of getting our Certificate of Occupancy at Autumn Arch and a lot of little details (like anchoring the half wall, finishing the bathroom tile, installing the bar top, etc.) needed my attention as soon as my return flight touched down.

Now that the urgency has passed, I can give you my general impression of Bavarian beers and people.

Rathaus-Glockenspiel by night in Marienplatz

Rathaus-Glockenspiel by night in Marienplatz

This was my third trip over to Bavaria, and so far, all have been in winter, which I don’t mind at all. Except for the fact that I have yet to drink in a beer garden.

But let me immediately confirm what you already suspect - a Bavarian winter is cold, gray, and dark. Which is actually a good summary of a Delaware winter. But due to the increased latitude, Germany is even darker.

But I didn't let that stop me from exploring the city and it’s world-class beer scene in the evenings.

While known as a beer mecca, Munich does not have a wide variety of beers. Helles, Pilsner, Dunkel, and Wheat. That’s it. Maybe substitute out a Maibock or Kellerbier in spring. Otherwise, choices are limited. And definitely no beers with IBU above 6.

The lack of variety surprised me on my first visit, but it’s more than made up for in overall quality. There was a point in my life where I was not a big fan of lagers, but a week in Munich changed my thinking on this. The quality of Munich lagers is extremely high - golden and crisp. Not even a hint of a defect. It takes a skilled brewer to produce a light beer with no flaws. There are no hops or alcohol to hide behind.

I’m a big fan of the glassware. Normally, I prefer a pilsner, but those usually come in the tall skinny glasses, whereas the Helles comes in a liter stein, which has the added benefit of making anyone holding one automatically look (and feel) more badass. So I had a couple of those throughout the week.

Let me digress and point out my observations of the people of Munich. I didn’t want to admit it, but overall, Bavarians display a level of toughness beyond the typical Delawarean.

Let me explain. When I stepped out of the subway one evening, bundled in scarf, gloves, down coat, and thermals to ward off the savage cold, a gaggle of school girls whizzed by me on their bicycles. And similar encounters like this happened a lot - I was constantly being passed by men, women, and children on their bikes as I walked around the city in the cold and dark. Like I said, a general level of winter toughness is on display in Munich, and I was impressed.

On my final night in the city, I visited the Giesinger brewery. This is the only "craft" brewery I could find in Munich, as the city is dominated by several huge breweries (Paulaner, Augustiner, etc). When I walked in, the aroma of malted barley almost knocked me over. They must have just finished brewing for the day, so I was a little disappointed that I missed it. But the staff was moving tables INTO the brewing area, which piqued my curiosity, so I asked the server if there was a special event, and he replied, “no, we just let people sit in the brewery on busy nights”. SWEET! There's something special about enjoying a beer in the place it was made....and specifically right next to the tank it fermented in. Kudos to Geisinger for having an open policy with regard to brewing and enjoying beer.

I know a brewery in Newark, DE kinda like that.

SUMMER TOP 10 THINGS IN DELAWARE (And Slightly Farther Afield)

The muchkin enjoying a fine afternoon of football tossing on Broadkill Beach, Delaware

The muchkin enjoying a fine afternoon of football tossing on Broadkill Beach, Delaware

You may be surprised to hear me say this, but it’s a fact that summer is the worst season.  It’s hot and humid. Sports are mostly limited to baseball. Kids are off school. The beach is f$&king crowded as hell.  And the season starts off with an extremely subtle punch in the face which you won’t even feel for at least a month…..the summer solstice.

Here’s the thing that I can’t help thinking about on the summer solstice, June 21, the longest day of the year.  At exactly 11:54am that day, the earth will be at the point in its revolution around the sun that gives maximum daylight to the Northern Hemisphere.  Every minute after that, daylight will inexorably grow shorter; and if you’re like me, you begin to consciously notice this by late July. And maybe like me, you’ll be a little sad about that.  

But you can be happy about the superb things to do in and around Delaware in the coming months.  I’m going to give you a few ideas. And because summer usually comes with a bit of extra leisure time, enabling you to drive/ride/walk a little longer, I am expanding the area of interest slightly beyond Northern Delaware.  

  1. Fort Delaware - My father would take Dan and I here every summer.  The trip would usually be saved for the hottest days of summer because there was a nice boat ride and plenty of damp underground rooms to hang out in to escape the blazing sun (it should also be mentioned that we did not have the luxury of AC at our childhood home). History + dungeons + cannons + boat ride = summer fun.

  2. Reedy Point (on the Delaware River) - This is truly a “locals only” spot.  You’ll have to do a bit of exploration to find it, but I definitely give you permission to explore it. Kid(s) and fishing pole recommended but not required.  There is a nice rock-hopping walk out to the very end of the jetty. Bring a picnic lunch and watch the ships go by.

  3. Take a walk in Blackbird State Forest - I camped here often in my scouting days.  The forest is deeply shaded (pitch black at night = scary) which makes it ideal for a summer stroll with the family and dog(s).  If you look carefully, you may notice shallow depressions littered about in the forest - these are sometimes referred to as Delmarva whale wallows.  One theory for their existence is when global sea levels were falling thousands of years ago, whales were stranded in the shallow water covering the Delmarva peninsula and they created these depressions.  As a young scout, I often looked for whale bones there, but never found any….maybe you will :)

  4. Cecil County Fair - Please treat yourself to Demolition Derby...you will not regret it.  There are lots of other cool events there (stunt dogs, cows, goats, chainsaws, funnel cake, and carnival rides, etc.), but nothing tops cars crashing into each other and sometimes catching fire.  The last time I went, a car caught on fire, the driver got out, then the firefighters put it out, and then she got back in and won the whole thing! Classic Cecil County entertainment.

  5. Longwood Gardens - This place is one of the true gems of our area.  Go for one of the illuminated fountain shows - they are truly spectacular.   Get there early to hang out in the awesome beer garden and then take a stroll over to the extreme western side of the gardens where you will be inspired (or shamed) by their incredible vegetable garden.

  6. George and Sons - If the fish counter at the grocery store intimidates you, skip it and go to George and Sons in Hockessin.  They have a super friendly and knowledgeable staff who can tell you exactly which fish to put in your tacos. This will also give you an opportunity to get outside and use your f&$%ing grill like a man (or lady).  And before you walk out the door with fish in hand, I recommend giving the raw oysters a try. You’ll either love it or hate it, but I hope you’ll stop by Autumn Arch and tell me about it.

  7. Broadkill Beach - This is one of the more underrated beaches in Delaware.  Because it's on the bay side, it doesn’t get the traffic that saturates Rehoboth and Dewey.  The waves are tiny, but the beachcombing is superb. If you don’t plan on body surfing, Broadkill yields a very chill day on the water.  Also, the single road heading to Broadkill is close to Milford, so stop by Mispillion Brewing on your way home.

  8. Hill’s Auction - I’m adding something on this list that I have never done, but I really want to.  Go to an auction, bid on something, and win! A list of auction dates and items is here.  Maybe you’ll find an awesome tool or an intriguing antique.  They take cash and check (seriously, check? It’s a bit crazy in 2019, but that’s what they do).  Good luck!

  9. July 4th FireWorks in Newark - The city of Newark puts on a pretty spectacular fireworks show.  Park at the UD sports complex along Rt 896 and Rt 4, and enjoy the food and live music. Starts at 6pm on July 4. Bring lawn chairs and a smile; also be prepared to chill for an hour after the fire works show is over….there’s no sense in subjecting yourself to the massive traffic jam that occurs afterwards.

  10. Invite your neighbors over for BBQ and beers - Seriously.  Americans are generally awesome at most things, but we’re kinda terrible at this (myself included).  I guarantee if you do this, it will be one of the highlights of your summer. And if it goes terribly, at least you were prudent enough to bring good beer.

Happy Summer.
Love,
Jimmy and Dan

Ps.  I would be remiss not to mention the one amazing and redeeming quality of summer; it gives way to the best of all seasons - Autumn.

DOWN ON THE FARM

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As you probably remember from your Western Civilization class in high school, agriculture began the way of life as we know it today.  It enabled you to wait in line at Delaware Growler last weekend for an epic IPA. You didn’t have to grow the grain and brew it yourself.  Instead, you worked at your (insert adjective of choice) ________ day job and earned money to buy the things you like. This type of lifestyle (i.e. people specializing in things other than hunting prey) started in Mesopotamia, present day Iraq and Iran, and it’s worked out fairly well for the human race ever since.

So it should not surprise anyone that beer production first began in that area as well, which makes complete sense, because you need farms to make the ingredients for beer.  

But let me pause here to inform you about the quality of the Mesopetamian beer - it was terrible.  You’d give it one star on Untappd.

Some of you would add an extra star because it was hazy, but most of you would hate it.  Back then, humans didn’t quite understand the finer points of brewing delicious beer, like keeping contaminants out.  I’ll cut them some slack because the product was apparently good enough that people kept drinking it. #knowyourcustomer

While Dan and I have a good bit of knowledge around beer brewing, we are pretty much knuckleheads when it comes to the production of the main raw ingredient of beer - barley!  

So when Proximity Malt invited Dan and I down to tour their facility in Laurel, DE, we enthusiastically accepted.   

Leaving the brewery early on a Thursday morning, I was surprised the GPS said it would take us 1.5 hours to get there!  It has been literally 20 years since I have been to the very southern portion of Delaware (high school cross country meet in Seaford), and I had forgotten how rural the area was (and still is).  Miles and miles of flatness. Luckily, Dan and I had plenty of brewery business to discuss.

When Proximity Malt moved into Laurel two years ago, they contracted with local growers to begin producing winter barley.  About 8,000 acres are now growing the crop over winter. This is awesome for Delaware breweries because the main ingredient comes from our state!

Winter barley ready for harvest in Georgetown, DE.

Winter barley ready for harvest in Georgetown, DE.

During one of the tour stops, we visited Conaway Farms where they are into their second season of growing winter barley.  The barley is planted in the fall, grows for a short time before winter’s cold descends, and picks back up again in the spring.  If you’ve ever seen an absurdly green and grass-like field in the winter, it’s probably winter barley or winter wheat. Harvest is in early June, giving the farmer an opportunity to grow another short crop in the summer.  #winwin

Driving home that day, I was really excited about the connection we have to this locally grown ingredient.  When you raise your next pint of Autumn Arch beer, I hope you feel that connection too.

TOO CLEVER HANS

Clever Hans hanging around at the brewery on a lovely Tuesday afternoon.

Clever Hans hanging around at the brewery on a lovely Tuesday afternoon.

It’s nearing the end of May.  

A small part of my soul was saddened after writing that sentence.  MAY JUST GOT HERE! We even made a beer for the month of May!

And that’s what I wanted to talk about.  Clever Hans.

If you couldn’t tell, Dan named this beer.

I thought it was ridiculous and nonsensical but was too busy at the time to raise a strong objection, so I settled for what it was.  

Despite its esoteric name, Clever Hans is a delicious spring beer, and there’s even something interesting about the name.  

After publishing the menus, I decided to google “Clever Hans” to determine whether Dan was inspired by something the Interwebs could explain.  Turns out that it could. The internet never fails.

Clever Hans was the name of a horse that lived in Germany about 100 years ago.  Hans was coined “clever” because he could do simple arithmetic. Not enough to hold down a minimum wage job, but way more than a regular horse.    

Except, this is completely ridiculous - horses are obviously not intelligent enough to reason through even the most basic concepts of math.  How was this a thing?

The entire Clever Hans/intelligent animals concept was somewhat of a controversy at the time, and a commission was appointed to figure out what the deal was with this horse.  You read that right, a bunch of scientists were charged with debunking an alleged genius-horse mystery.

I can’t help but put myself in the scientists’ shoes in this little ordeal.  It’s a good thing I wasn’t on this commission because I would have just been continually stating the obvious - “Guys, this is a f*&king horse...let’s stop wasting our time!” and the team would have missed out on the discovery of a kind-of-interesting phenomena.

The scientists discovered that Hans was reading subtle and unconscious cues from his owner as he was tapping out the right answer with his hoof.  There was quite a bit of experimentation before this was definitively proved, but they did it and it’s now called the Clever Hans Effect. Hans was giving the answer that the questioner wanted to hear, and the fact that a horse can do that is pretty cool.  Humans tend to do this as well.

Like those scientists studying Hans, sometimes we have to put an inordinate amount of effort into things that are seemingly simple and easy.  And I think that’s what is interesting about this little story. I hope Autumn Arch makes the beer brewing look easy, but behind the scenes (or actually during the week when no one’s there), we are putting in a massive amount of research, organization, hard-work, and good ol’fashion gritty determination to deliver good beer to the tasting room. Both the simple and complex beers demand it, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.  

It’s almost June, so naturally Clever Hans (our May beer) is almost gone.  


EVERY BEER HAS A STORY

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One of my favorite parts of brewing are the new beer releases.  I love experimenting with new styles and providing customers fresh and interesting new beers.  I also love naming the beers - check out 841 Brewing on UnTappd for a sample of our labeling endeavors.  Most of our beer names have a personal connection to the owners or to the brewery (ask us about Autoignition IPA sometime).  

But the downside of not being in the beer distribution game is that we don't get to send out amazing can labels into the world.  So in lieu of a label, we will strive to release our brands via social media; and for the really special beers, there may be some limited edition swag.  

Now let me introduce you to our newest beer, a Belgian Tripel, “Modern Day Monk”.  We brewed a similar tripel fairly early in our home brewing days, and I was so pleased with the result that I decided Autumn Arch needed an amazing Belgian Tripel in the line up.

In preparation for a home brew day, I would typically spend weeks researching and fine tuning a beer recipe before the brew day arrived, and the first Belgian Tripel we tackled was no different, except for one thing - the yeast.  

I intended to pick up the Trappist Ale yeast (WLP500), a solid go-to yeast strain for this style...however, as I was picking up my ingredients the night before the brew day, I discovered that the Trappist was out of stock!  Luckily, HDYB holds a variety of different strains, and my interest was piqued by a fresh package of the Bastogne yeast.

At this point, I should probably say that I am a sucker for marketing; I make a lot of beer purchases based on label designs and names, and this mindset applies to beer ingredients too.  Let’s be honest - the cover definitely does matter.

The Bastogne yeast just ‘sounded’ cool, and it happened to fit the style I was targeting.  I purchased the yeast and went on to brew an amazing golden and spicy tripel. The Modern Day Monk is based on our original recipe (we learned one or two things over the years since that brew and honed the recipe appropriately :)

I decided to name this beer the “Modern Day Monk”, inspired by the badass monk from the Canterbury Tales.  Chaucer describes the monk as rebellious, ignoring rules as needed, and basically living life as he damn well pleases.  As my brother and I were beginning the journey towards creating a brewery, I felt there were a few parallels to this mindset.  

For starters, Tripels were historically brewed by monks in Belgium , so that part of the name is self-explanatory.  

We planned this brewery to stand out from the usual trends in our area...one large open taproom, beer garden style table seating, full view of the brewing equipment, plenty of daylight and fresh air from the giant doors, a substantial sour beer program, owners without the ability to grow beards...the list goes on.  For our region, this type of brewery vibe is not very common...one could say we are ignoring the rules (especially the part about brewers having beards).

Launching a new venture is also taking a step towards owning our own future.  We are branching out from the comfort zone of working for large corporations; with the brewery, we fully own success and failure (and gladly so).  

With all of this in mind, the Canterbury Tales monk seemed like a perfect fit for the namesake of this beer...but considering we are living in the 21st century, he needed a modern twist.


10 THINGS TO DO IN DELAWARE (SPRING EDITION)

When I was a kid growing up in rural Kent county, there were occasionally times where I complained that there was nothing to do in Delaware.  I couldn’t wait to grow up and move to an exotic location like Perth, Australia where you can swim with sharks. I still may do that later in life, but it won’t be because I am bored living in this area.  

I came up with this list of 10 things to do in Delaware, and it took me less than 15 minutes.  I think this speaks more to my lack of creativity as a teenager than a spike in cool Delaware activities. Since I typically hang near home on the weekends, I limited the scope of this list to “Northern Delaware” and “spring time”. The beaches do not have a monopoly on amazing experiences, and I think you’ll agree with me on this.  And if you don’t, you are more than welcome to let me know how I’m wrong...over a beer at Autumn Arch of course.

Spring has the potential to be the best season in Delaware.  Low humidity, insane blooming, and the promise of warm breezes.  There are only two months left of the solar spring, so get busy!

  1. Castle Trail.  If you don’t know about this, stop reading immediately, grab your family (bikes optional but highly recommended) and head over to the C&D canal.  There is plenty of parking at a myriad of lots along the 12 mile path. You’ll be rewarded with up close views of massive container ships, birds, cool engineering structures, and even a couple restaurants.  Some of the spots are feel more remote than they actually are, which is hard to do in New Castle county, so enjoy it.

  2. Point to Point.  Classy horses, hats, and dresses.  Point to Point is a good opportunity to wear your best hat and picnic with your besties on a lovely spring day.  Tailgating is encouraged. So are bow ties. You need tickets ahead of time, so plan now!

  3. Picnic at Iron Hill Park.  This park is a hidden gem in Northern Delaware.  The county and Friends of Iron Hill Park have done a lot of work upgrading the park amenities over the past 10 years.  I had several birthday parties for my son there at the sweet playground. There is also a couple open fields where you can spread a blanket, eat some sandwiches, and enjoy the wonders of the forest.  Other park features include a world-class disc golf course, dog park, mountain biking and hiking trails, and the remnants of iron ore mining from colonial days. Amazingly, this is all less than half a mile off of I-95.  It’s also just down the street from Autumn Arch Beer Project.

  4. Grab a pizza at Wood Fired Pizza Shop in Newark.  This is undeniably the best pizza in the area. Their ingredients are sourced locally and organic when possible, and the menu has a nice creative twist on ordinary pizza (Fighting Blue Hen pizza all the way!). I usually eat a whole pie by myself.  My 11 year old son does the same. My advice is to ride your bike(s) on the Pomeroy Trial to Wood Fired Pizza.  If you do this, you have my permission to indulge in a second beer.

  5. See a play at the Chapel Street Theater in Newark.  This community theater is of uncanny quality.  And it’s small, so you’re guaranteed a great seat. Pippin is coming up in June! Combine this with dinner on Main Street and a beer afterwards and you’ve got yourself a damn fine date night.

  6. Somerset Farms Ice Cream stand.  This is off the main road, but worth the extra effort on a warm spring evening.  The mint chocolate chip is obviously the best flavor, but feel free to ignore my advice and get a different (but inferior) delicious flavor.

  7. Nemours Mansion.  See how the 1% of a hundred years ago lived.

  8. Morris Library at UD.  Save this for a rainy day.  I think the taxpayers of Delaware sometimes forget they own a huge f@%#ing library.  It’s the kind of place you can read a newspaper from 1923 (microfilm) while catching up on your latest informative magazine.  So brush up on your Dewey decimal system skills, and go hang out for a couple hours and read whatever piques your interest. I researched a lot of obscure Delaware and Maryland history last year in preparation for the brewery, and my biggest take-away was realizing how much knowledge is NOT online.  Morris Library has plenty of fiction as well (e.g. I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories while a student there). Trust me - just walk in and peruse at your leisure like you own the place (because you do).

  9. Catch a Blue Rocks game.  Tickets are modestly priced and so is the ball park food.  The quality of baseball is usually high, but there’s a good chance you’ll see a blooper or two.  Kid friendly and and the stadium has craft beer!

  10. Separation Day in Old New Castle.  About two weeks before the Continental Congress declared independence from Britain, Delaware decided to go it alone and give King George the middle finger and declare independence. This was before the advent of social media, so they did a terrible job of broadcasting the news. Luckily, over 200 years later, we have a festival dedicated to Delawarean boldness. Old New Castle is on full display June 7-8.  Parades, BBQ, craft beer, music, fireworks. I think it’s a superb way to slide into summer.

I hope you try one or two of these things in the coming months.  Most of the items are reasonably priced or free.  And I’ll have 10 more coming your way on the summer solstice!


SOMETHING INTERESTING

We thought a lot about the name of our brewery and went through a few names before finally settling on Autumn Arch Beer Project. We had simple criteria - needed to have an interesting personal connection, needed to reflect our love of details and deep knowledge, and had to be beautiful. #Easy

Except it wasn’t.

At some point in your life, someone has said to you “Tell me something interesting.” I say that often to my 11 year old son, partially for my own entertainment and partially because I am intrigued by what he finds interesting. But I often think about what actually makes something interesting. And I think what makes something interesting is the same for most people.

It’s detail and specificity communicated (somewhat) well.

So let me tell you something interesting about our brewery’s name.

In my late 20s, I was in need of a thrilling extracurricular activity. I wasn’t in the position to get a sports car or quit my job to roam the earth. But I knew some people who were into rock climbing, and I had even done some of this in my youth, so it wasn’t unfamiliar. I decided to pick it up again and subsequently dove in 100%. Ropes, harnesses, and carabiners were acquired in earnest, and I tackled indoor gym climbing during the week so I could crush real cliffs on the weekends. Epic trips were made to NY and WV, but the most fun was had at a relatively local Pennsylvania crag.

Autumn Arch is the name of a climbing spot in central Pennsylvania that my brother and I frequented. As I got into outdoor rock climbing, I would often ask Dann to come along. He spent a lot of his youth climbing boulders and was already really strong, so he made a good partner. Climbing seems like it’s a constant thrill ride, but let me disabuse you of that notion - a lot of climbing is preparing equipment, belaying, and setting anchors, something Alex Honnold doesn’t really do, and those things take time to do well.

So there’s a decent amount of hanging around, talking, and catching up - and that’s just as much part of the climbing experience as scaling the insanely steep cliffs. Climbing on Saturday mornings is how Dann and I bonded as adults. Autumn Arch is the connection to great beer because it was the prelude to us home brewing together.

When we got into brewing beer at home several years later, it didn’t take long for us to dive deep into the science of how raw materials and process impact flavors, color, aroma, and mouthfeel of the finished product. Because of this, our beer went from “okay” to “great” in just a couple years (and I won’t lie - there were several lousy batches of beer mixed in there). #learning

For example, take the standard IPA. We started out with a malty, amber colored IPA with relatively mild bitterness and it would have been described by the casual observer as “thin” or “meh”. By modifying the grain bill (eliminating stupid crystal malts, adding some pilsner and flaked oats), adjusting mash temperature down a few degrees (a few degrees makes a big difference), and being more selective with our hop additions, we arrived at a nicely hopped, bitter as hell, bone-dry, resinous IPA.

There was a lot of experimentation in between those two points. And that’s the essence of the “Beer Project”. Constant experimentation to achieve perfection.

And lastly, we like to think Autumn Arch Beer Project is a beautiful name. So that tied the knot for us. We were married to it and onward we march to brewing great beer in Delaware.

There it is. The good and interesting stuff is in the details.

A TRUE AMERICAN HOBBY

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Dann and I did a small tasting event at How Do You Brew in Newark last week, and to prepare, I dug into our cellar and pulled out a couple sour beers that we made back in 2017.  They were still in their carboys, yeast and all. I tasted two (of the 8) and picked the more interesting of the pair and kegged it a few days prior so that it was properly carbonated.  

As I was waiting for beer to transfer from carboy to keg (auto-siphon = slow), I was thinking back on all the brew days that went into making the beer we had in storage. There were a lot of great times hanging out in the garage, sharing epic beers, shooting the breeze with Dann, and keeping the dog away from the spent grain.  Brewing beer at home is quite an amazing little hobby. And it’s quite an American hobby too.

The founding fathers really wanted America to produce badass wines like France and Spain.  But this was not the fate of the New World. Jefferson and Washington both had grand plans for their vineyards, but this little guy continually thwarted all attempts at planting European grapes (and native American grapes make absolutely terrible wine).  Phylloxera nymphs basically feed on the roots of grape vines eventually killing it. So even though the mid-Atlantic climate is decent for growing grapes, it just wasn’t an option.

And I’d like to think this is how America got off to such a good start.  We were destined to be a beer producing country. And that’s about American as you can get.

Making wine is hard.  And it’s expensive. First you need a nice large plot of land that’s well drained, gets a lot of sunlight, and preferably has “loamy” soil.  Then you plant vines and tend to them for 3 years or so while they mature enough to produce grapes. While you are waiting, you purchase all your wine making tools and equipment - pickers, sorters, stainless vessels, barrels, etc.  #costly

Then you need to find a badass winemaker (which could be you if fortunate enough to have grown up on said wine estate and had years of free training in the art), and these folks are rare because of the above point of wine making being expensive.  It’s not something you get into easily like riding a bike or rooting for the Eagles, thus, there is a small pool of quality wine makers in the world (relative to say accountants or mechanics).  

And then your wine is subject to the variability of the raw materials - the grapes!  And there’s a lot of variability in grapes.  In fact, this variability is so high from field to field that wine producers have coined a fancy term for this - terrior (pronouced terr a wah….French of course) and made it a selling point!   Clever bastards!

And this is where a quality winemaker makes his or her bones - turning relatively poor grapes, with non-ideal terrior, into a decent wine is hard.  Deep knowledge and experience is required to do this consistently. And that’s all I can say about it because I don’t know how they do it (but if you’ve had a great dry wine made with grapes from DE or PA, I assure you that there was an amazing winemaker behind it).

Wine = hard. Man and Nature are working against you succeeding in this endeavor.

Enter beer making.  The largest raw material component, grain, is cheap, and relatively homogeneous (low variability) because it’s grown over massive areas of the US and Canada and sold in bulk.  And unlike grapes, grain can be stored for years. Hops are fairly easy to grow as well (I have eight hop vines thriving in my backyard...coming to an Autumn Arch beer in August!).

The stainless equipment is still pricey, but the overall cost to start producing beer on a large scale is a fraction of producing wine.  And it’s quite cheap to do at home, especially considering the high quality results an enthusiast novice brewer can achieve (I am not counting the time investment since its a hobby, and thus should not be monetized when trying to make a point about beer making).

We live in an egalitarian county, and I would hypothesize that beer is the egalitarian beverage.  So put down that wine glass, find a buddy to share the experience, pick up the supplies at your local homebrew shop, and create your own American beer!