Beerded Ladies

water + hops + malt + yeast + blog

This website is devoted to craft beer reviews, sudsy events, brewery tourism, stunning beertography, bad puns, offbeat beer pairings, dispatches from behind the bar and general beverage snobbery where we can apply terms like "biscuity" and talk about hop profiles.

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Filtering by Tag: Brewery Review

Brewse Cruise: Maybe it was Memphis

Memphis Beer Week, Memphis, TN

Last week, I took a road trip down to Memphis with my girlfriend and our pup, who are relocating down south for work. And... the trip *happened* to coincide with the second annual Memphis Beer Week! What are the odds?? 

We all know that Memphis is a charming southern city on the banks of the might Mississipp. The music, the culture, the cuisine -- it's all world famous. But did you know they're also host to a budding craft beer scene? True story.

According to Memphis Made Brewing Company co-owner Andy Ashby, three craft outlets have opened in just the last year. Despite a relatively slow start, the local beer community is beginning to thrive in the sleepy Delta town. A ton of businesses are getting in on the craft craze, stocking bottles and kegs of hometown brew, adding lines for grocery store growler fills and hosting tap takeovers, meet the brewer events and beer dinners year round. "Memphis has been a little slow on the trend," Andy explained. "Trends tend to start on the coasts and move in, and we're in the middle of the country. But people really have a taste for it now." 'Bout time.

Here's my quick list of where to go and what to drink, if you happen to find yourself in this tasty little corner of the US. Cheers, y'all!

What to Drink:

  1. High Cotton Brewing
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    ust about everything I tried from this little microbrewery was well made and very creative. Highlights include the Belgian IPA and the Biere de Garde, which makes good use of its refreshingly fruity funkiness. 
  2. Wiseacre Brewery
    These guys output some great canned options, including a hoppy, bright IPA and a lighter, biscuity Pils that top my list. Their tap room, the first in Memphis, is sunny and inviting. Bring your pup and kick back for the afternoon with a cold one in hand.
  3. Ghost River Brewing
    The O.G. of the Memphis brewing bunch, this pioneering craft outlet opened way back in 2003 and has been churning out brew ever since. They specialize in European styles and are known for their award-winning Riverbank Red, a traditional Irish-style red ale, and their refreshing, German-hopped Golden Ale.
  4. Memphis Made Brewing
    N.K.O.T.B. Memphis Made Brewing Co. gets the award for friendliest little brewery under the Memphis sun. The guys can be spotted making deliveries around town, stopping in to say hello and grab a sip at the Growler or another local fave. The Bent Note IPA is nicely balanced and the richly spiced farmhouse ale, the Junt, is good on a hot day. Their newest brew, the Southern Julep, is a Belgian-style brown ale brewed with fresh mint and aged with American oak. Grab your hat and get ready for the Derby, folks!
  5. Yazoo Brewing Company
    Ok, so these guys are technically based in Nashville, but they were all over Memphis Beer Week just the same. And thank goodness, because they are so, so, so damn good. Check them out, for serious. The Hop Project line of IPAs are of particular interest... because they taste amazing.

Where to Drink:

  1. The Growler
    A brand new bottleshop and taproom in an adorable little neighborhood called Midtown. Flights, pints, growler fills and soon-to-be sandwich bar run by a couple of passionate beer nerds -- my kind of place.
  2. Central BBQ
    As a write this, my mouth is watering. Come for the BBQ nachos and ribs, stay for the well curated selection of thirst-quenching local brews, all served with a smile.
  3. Tamp & Tap
    I totally fell in love with this downtown cafe. For a New Yorker with a mean coffee addiction, locating good coffee in a new town is top priority, and this place has excellent drip, espresso and cold brewed iced coffee. And what else? A fantastic supply of local craft brews with enough bottles and taps to keep you kickin' for hours.
  4. The Green Beetle
    This tavern, which dates back to the early 20th century, is a classic dive bar in the best sense of the term. Warmly lit, with doors flung open to the street and Memphis Grizzlies basketball pumping through the speakers, this joint has a surprising number of craft-devoted taps. A great place to catch a game or grab a bit of southern fried goodness.
  5. Local Gastropub
    Ok, so this place is a little cheesy and a little chain-y, which isn't my normal bag. BUT, in my defense, the food is awesome and they offer a Tennessee-brewed flight special for cheap. Worth a try if you're overcome by a powerful thirst while visiting the touristy part of town.

 

Brewse Cruise

Carton Brewing Company, Atlantic Highlands, NJ

One frigid, hungover Sunday in March, upon strong urging by a certain Augie Carton, I made a blurry trek into New Jersey to check out Atlantic Highlands' Carton Brewing Co. As you might remember, these folks sponsored our January trivia night and killed it on the Springsteen round. But of course.

Their delicious, hand crafted brews range from simple sessionable perfection (Boat Beer) to wild, high gravity experimentation (Regular Coffee). The brewery itself is tucked away on a quiet little street in a tiny town within a mile of where many of the Carton crew were born and raised -- true hometown heros and a very inspiring story. It's no wonder that Augie and the rest of the Carton team are so dedicated to brewing on premises -- their brewery is only a stone's throw away from the tasty water source they all know and love.

"It's the difference between being local and claiming to be local," Augie explains. "It's knowing the water."

The tour begins downstairs in the brewery. Jesse showed us around the place, a brick, 100+ year old building that dates back to a New Jersey far removed from the likes of Snookey and Bridgegate. The original building, they think, was once used to store the tents of traveling revival groups who camped on the shore each summer, spreading the Methodist gospel. Now, however, the building stores a slick 15 bbl brewhouse and a cozy upstairs tasting room that brims with thirsty locals each weekend.

The brewhouse is small but functional, running at full capacity to churn out just enough beer to satiate the tri-state masses. The "Tippy," Carton's pilot system, produces brewery only batches, giving the brewers the space to experiment with new recipes or to learn about the potentials of individual ingredients through the "School of" series, educational beers that focus on a single hop strain. It's worth visiting the brewery just to get a sip of one of these limited Tippy brews.

Deeper into the building, down a twisting basement stairwell, lurks the barrel room -- a real sight to see. Of particular note are the Laird's Apple Jack barrels housing Pumpkin Cream Ale, infusing the spicy-sweet, bubbly brew with notes of sweet apple cider and boozy liquor. The Laird distillery -- the oldest continually operating distillery in America -- is also just a few miles down the road, adding yet another layer of local flavor to the Carton family.

I was struck by how the Carton team's passion for great beer co-mingled so closely with their intense hometown pride. This is craft beer at its best -- a drink for the people, by the people, produced to facilitate conversation, community and lots of love. Bravo.

Brewse Cruise: Maine Squeeze

Who decides to visit Maine in late November, a time when temperatures drop to Planet Hoth levels and tourist hot spots lay barren and empty, dreaming of the warmer months? What kind of maniac plans a birthday weekend away to the coldest corner of the country? This guy.

For beer lovers, Maine is a veritable mecca. The state is known for phenomenal craft beer -- from Alan Pugsley's legacy of English-style open-fermented ales to innovative and deliciously aged Belgians to hopped-up ambitious young brews. Drive through adorable downtown Portland and you're bound to see at least a dozen brewpubs, beer bars and full fledged production breweries, churning out barrels upon barrels of the good stuff for tourists and locals alike. 

Click through the photos below for a peek into my Maine adventure and start scheduling your own visit today (a summer trip is highly recommended...).

Brewse Cruise

Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, PA

Craigslist is a funny beast. It has been proven to successfully lead its follows to an overpriced apartment, a couple of creepy roommates, a like-new Ikea shelving unit or a casual encounter. And sometimes it can lead a person to a private tour of Victory Brewing Company lead by co-founder Ron Barchet. 

To make a long story short, my friend Emma was selling some vintage lamps or something arbitrary on Philly's Craigslist and was contacted by an interested buyer who happened to have a @victorybrewing.com email address. She inquired, found out it was Ron Barchet's wife and, as a good friends should, told her about my blog. Next thing I knew, I was on a Chinatown bus heading South towards the city of brotherly love.

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While the Downingon, PA facility isn't currently offering pubic tours due to 24/7 production, Ron and his wife welcomed us to the sprawling operation with open arms, dousing us in free pints and showing us personally around their impressive property. The taproom itself is worth the trip -- its a giant space, filled with beautiful custom woodwork and bits and pieces of retired copper brew kettles shipped over from Germany. It's also -- and more importantly -- filled with a ridiculous amount of taps pouring the freshest one-offs, limited batches and flagship styles Victory has to offer!

Brewing up some PA goodness in the backroom!

Brewing up some PA goodness in the backroom!

Ron immediately greeted us with a firm handshake. Before I knew it, the pints started flowing and a crisp and perfectly balanced Swing Session Saison was in my hand. This Belgian Pilsner, bright with carbonation and spicy with black pepper and lemon zest, went down fast and easy -- a true session beer. Ron began telling me about his background and unlikely path towards brewing (a common story in this industry). He opened Victory with his best friend since 5th grade, Bill Covaleski. The two began homebrewing in the 80's, and several years later, Bill convinced Ron to quit his day job in finances and join him in the pursuit of great beer. The goodnatured, faithful friend agreed and went off to an apprenticeship with Batimore Brewing Company. It was during that short stint in Baltimore that Ron fell in love with traditional German brewing. He then took a trip to Germany and completed intensive training at the Technical University of Munich at Weihenstephan, initiating a strong German partnership that continues to this day through hop exchanges, equipment trades and a wealth of shared brewing knowledge.

Ron Barchet gives us a detailed tour of Victory's brewhouse.

Ron Barchet gives us a detailed tour of Victory's brewhouse.

When Ron returned, joined Old Dominion Brewing Company in Virginia, expanding their production exponentially and increasing his skills as a brewmaster. Bill was in Baltimore, adding German styles to their repertoire and learning as much as he could about the business side of brewing. After a few years making beers for other folks, Bill and Ron decided to return home to Pennsylvania to open their very own brewery. Starting as a brewpub outside of Philadelphia, Victory Brewing poured its first pint in February of 1995 and has been turning out a growing lineup of great brews ever since.

Since expanding, Victory has relocated their main production outfit to some buildings adjoining the brewpub and is in the process of moving their major brands to a new piece of acreage down the way. The brewpub facility is used to produce one-offs and specialty beers, as well as to house the bottling plant and barrel storage warehouse. The automated, winding bottling line is impressive and extremely efficient, paying testament to Ron and Bill's business mindset. I was particularly struck by the barrel aging room, where Bill giddily told me about the the retired Chardonnay, Heaven Hill Bourbon and red wine barrels infusing their delicious remnants into richly decident gallons of Storm King stout and Golden Monkey Belgian ale. Barley wine, too, like the patiently aged bottle Ron dropped off at my table while I had my post-tour lunch. Nicest guy ever? Probably.

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If you're headed to Philadelphia, I heartily recommend paying Ron and the rest of the Victory team a visit. Victory is one of those craft breweries that manages to balance a dogged dedication to the small/traditional/independent craft beer ethos while also enjoying distribution in 29 states, a strong brand presence and growing sales. Their new 40 acre space will host both an expanded production facility as well as a gathering space where Ron hopes to have live music and events. We can't wait to get in on that. Cheers, Ron!

50 States of Beer: Florida

Jai Alai IPA, Cigar City Brewing Company 

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Flor-i-dah! I almost for-got yah!

Ah, the Sunshine state. Who doesn't love a good trip to Disney World? A rousing visit to see the grandparents? An airboat journey through the Everglades, where a quietly stern man named Bubba propells you and your drunk family through the alligator-infested waters. Oh that's just me? Okay, okay. On to the beer!

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The Brewery

If I had to review a Florida beer, it'd better be a Cigar City brew. Lucky for me, I was able to acquire a few cans through online craft beer outlet LetsPour. The stuff has gotten quite a reputation amongst the geekiest of beer geeks, and I was ready to dive in.

The award-winning Tampa Bay brewery was founded by Joey Redner (son of infamous Tampa "Strip Club King" Joe Redner... but that's another story) and began operating in 2009. In a 2010 CraftBeer.com article, Redner describes his local boy brewing dreams and tells the story behind the brand's peculiar name.

Back when my dream was still just a dream, I concluded that my hometown of Tampa hadn’t always done the best job exporting its unique history and culture. I wanted to educate people about the town I loved as much as I grew to love craft beer. I made up my mind that spreading the word about Tampa and its Cuban-American heritage and its past as the world’s leading producer of cigars would be an integral part of what I’d do at Cigar City Brewing.

Redder sure poured all that love and pride into his beer.  Today, Cigar City occupies a 15 barrel brewhouse in a 6,600 square foot warehouse space in Tampa's Carver City-Lincoln Gardens neighborhood. In addition to their production facility, Cigar City offers brewery tours and runs a tasting room where thirsty visitors can pick up a pint or grab a growler filled with one of their many styles. There's like twenty different beers! And that's not even counting one-offs! Unreal.

 

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The Beer

The Jai Alai IPA is one of Cigar City's flagship brews. The citrusy IPA is named after the great Spanish sport of Jai Alai, in which somebody has this plastic sicle thing and they kind of play a high speed game of catch with it, or something like that. My Trinidadian grandmother loves watching it and other old people love betting on it from little rooms perched above the court. Either way, the sport's namesake beer is goddamn delicious.

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Pouring a foggy honey orange with a creamy, frothy head, the Jai Alai is all tropical and citrus on the nose. This stuff is super juicy -- pineapple, mango, passionfruit, awesome. But don't be fooled by the fruit -- at 7.5% ABV and 70 IBUs, this is no casual beach sipper. It comes in juicy on the palate, too, with a burst of grapefruit hoppiness giving way to sweet malt. The finish is smooth and the hops stay fresh and juicy throughout -- no pine or resin on the back of the palate, which is exactly how I like it. If all IPAs could taste like the Jai Alai, I'd die happy. And drunk. And obese.

Moral of the Florida story: grab a can of Jai Alai IPA, bet on some Jai Alai with my grandmother and enjoy Cigar City's incredibly diverse line of delicious craft beers. 

Next up is Georgia! Because that's the way the alphabet goes! Hurray!

Serious Cider

A craft cider that surprisingly stands up to its maltier compatriots.

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A few Saturdays ago, I was stumbling around the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market after enjoying a leisurely early morning off-leash stroll around Prospect Park with my pup, Miko. After picking out a fresh, disgusting dog bone from the butcher stand, we wandered over to a stand I had never seen before -- Bad Seed Hard Cider. They were perched right next to the cider donut stand, so I'm not sure how I missed them before -- I'm a big fan of those little donuts.

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Now, I wouldn't describe myself as a cider fan. I'm about as interested in cider as I am wine -- it's not that I'm against it, just not so into it. A cold, crisp glass of cider or white wine has its place: a hot, muggy Summer day or a September afternoon spent apple picking in the country. But, I wouldn't order one at a bar. No, sir.

Despite my prejudice, something about Bad Seed caught my eye. Maybe it was the adorable typeface on the label or the cute apple farmers behind the counter. Whatever it was, I'm glad I stopped by. Bad Seed features a sizable fleet of styles most cider drinkers couldn't dream of -- things like Belgian-style cider, a bourbon barrel aged variety and a hopped cider called "India Pale Cider" or "IPC." Craft cider? This is a thing? Apparently. Maybe it's a marketing ploy to pull us craft beer geeks off of our high hoppy horses... but it worked! I picked up a bottle of IPC and ran home to give it a try. 

For a more in-depth, better written review of Bad Seed, check out this awesome Edible Brooklyn  article .

For a more in-depth, better written review of Bad Seed, check out this awesome Edible Brooklyn article.

While they don't have a website, with a little research I dug up an Almanac Weeky story that explains a bit of Bad Seed's background. Devin Britton and Albert Wilklow started the operation in 2012, housing a fleet of 150-glasson tanks on their Highland, New York property. Devin's a cook and makes all the recipes while Albert grows the apples. Like all great craft brewers, these fellas clearly aren't afraid of a little experimentation. Besides the requisite fruit, the ciders feature an array of other add-ins, like orange peel, coriander, wine and wild yeasts and of course, hops.

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The cider pours a hazy tangerine-yellow, topped with a tiny bit of white head. The aroma is a little sweeter than I expected, with some grassy notes from the hops. It's fruit forward, with a big punch of sour apple juice that overwhelms the palate at first. Then comes the hops, cutting a clear path through the sweet-and-sour apples to thankfully dry out the whole experience. The citrus and the apple play nicely together on the palate and the cider smoothes out by the finish. I could have done with a bit more hops, but that's me and as I said, I'm not much of a cider. This cider does do a great job of balancing complex flavor with universal appeal, which isn't an easy feat. Hats off to the creators.

If you're around NYC, head to your local market and ask around for Bad Seed Cider Company. I'm thinking their bourbon barrel aged cider ought to be pretty damn good... like vanilla ice cream meets apple pie with a pool of Makers Mark on top? Yes, please. 

50 States of Beer: Delaware

Positive Contact Imperial Belgian-Style Witbier, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

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It's no secret that Dogfish Head in Milton and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is one of my favorite breweries of all time. They were one of the first craft beers I tried, and I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Sam Calagione's sweet little wacky brewing tactics. He's a good looking, down home man who loves adventure and good beer. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

The Brewery

Dogfish Head began in 1995 in Milton, DE. Sam was a craft beer pioneer, favoring collaboration over competition and believing that the consumer simply wanted more choices and more creativity, so why not give it to them? He also was a significant player in revising many of Delaware's liquor laws to allow craft brewers the ability to pursue their dreams without having to jump through all the complicated hoops that come with setting up a brewery in a Puritan New England. His efforts shaped the way craft beer was viewed and seriously impacted the craft beer boom.

You can read an in-depth review of Dogfish Head's brewery and brewpub in my December Brewse Cruise, so I'll spare you the redudancy and just say that if you haven't been: go. Go on a beautiful summer day and taste everything. You won't regret it.

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The Beer

Positive Contact is special release under Dogfish Head's newish music collaboration series. This peculiar apple cider infused imperial wit is the brainchild of hip-hop producer Dan the Automator and is sourced from 300lbs of fresh pressed Fuji apples. Here's an adorable video about the release.

I enjoyed this beer at the Jersey shore on a windy Memorial Day afternoon. The beach was the perfect backdrop to the brew's crisp sweetness and its full bodied juiciness came through as warm and bright as the May sun.

The beer pours a hazy, rich honey color with about two inches of creamy yellowish head. I immediately noticed a Saison's amount of spice -- cilantro, coriander, a little white pepper, fresh cut grass -- on the nose. I liked the way the apple juice integrated with the classic Belgian wit's sweet malt, but be warned -- this is not a beer for a hophead. The aroma  features a mild amount of floral hops but I couldn't detect much on the palate as the fruit took precedent over any bitterness. The heightened, champaign-like carbonation balanced out any potential medicinal qualities associated with its 9% ABV, which was a nice surprise, although I was expecting a more sour-like body instead of the deep sweetness that ran rampant on my tongue. Enjoyable, for sure, but I doubt I could drink more than one glass in a sitting.

This post is brought to you by the letter D, and concludes our stop in our nation's tiniest state. Next up: Georgia. Finally time to drink that Terrapin I've been hoarding away!

Brewse Cruise

Epic Brewing Company, Salt Lake City, UT

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Reasons Why Epic Brewing Company Rules: A Brewse Cruise Essay

  1. They're they proudest, most perfectly irreverent brewers of high gravity ales and lagers I've ever met.
    Does Epic care that its Mormonistic (is that a word?) state strictly monitors and limits the ABV of beer sold in bars, grocery stores and even state-run liquor stores? No, Epic doesn't give a fuck. They are the first brewery since prohibition to exclusively brew beer above 4.0%. And they've been successfully handing it to the man since 2010, distributing the majority of their product out-of-state while also selling an amazing variety of cold (state-run liquor stores prohibit the sale of cold beer) bottles from their tiny brewery shop in downtown SLC.
  2. Their hand-crafted, inventive line is primarily sold in 22oz bottles.
    Because you really ought to be serious about drinking this stuff. And you also really ought to share. 
  3. Their brewery features a sandwich shop the size of a closet.
    As soon as Utah's ATF laws changed to allow breweries to sell their own draft beer as long as food was also consumed, Epic installed a tiny sandwich shop in a narrow hallway. They list about a dozen snacks on a chalkboard and it's manned by a guy who looks eternally bored and claustrophobic. All so you can now enjoy a post-tour sample.
  4. They age their Brainless® on Peaches Belgian-Style Ale in imported French Chardonnay casks.
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    Are you impressed yet?
  5. Said Belgian-Style Ale is incredibly well-balanced and somehow drinkable, despite its 10.7% ABV and oak conditioning.
    Yeasty, sweet fruity notes give way to a complex mixture of hay and a little sour zing at the end. I'd recommend letting it open up like wine, maybe even decanting it. It also ages well and each release it a little different (and marked by the brewery).

When I visited Epic, the tour guide was really nice and informative and gave us an in-depth behind the scenes tour of the single building brewery. Apparently, it used to be even smaller before they bought out the Thai place next door to install their warehouse. Unbelievable. By far the best brewery experience in the great Salt Lake and worth a visit. Fingers crossed for New York distribution.

-MH

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Brewse Cruise

Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats, Rehoboth Beach, DE

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Who doesn't love Dogfish Head? Their quirky, charismatic and somehow resolutely humble founder, Sam, practically singlehandedly brought craft beer to the forefront. He's the kind of guy that travels all the way to Egypt to collect wild yeast, names limited edition brews after dead blues musicians and continuously hops IPAs for 120 minutes. What an adorable wack job. I might be a little bit in love.

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[While this appears to be a picture of my girlfriend, it's actually a picture of the back of Sam's head at the table behind her...]

I've been to Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats Brewpub in Rehoboth twice and to the actual brewery in Milton, DE once. Although both are pretty awesome, I'd check out the brewpub if you had to pick one -- it's a bit more accessible and you get the same amount of hands-on sights and beverage selection, including their full line of spirits. The food at the brewpub definitely lives up to the beer, which is really saying something. And there's always something special on cask.

What to drink? I'm a big fan of their seasonals -- Festina Peche, Aprihop, Punkin Ale, Chicory Stout, etc. I find that they seem to be the most balanced, fresh-tasting and consistently interesting of the batch. Sam can get a little wild with his experimentation and I tend to get lost along the way. But the seasonals are 100% worth it every time. 

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The first craft beer I remember consuming was a Festina Peche. Maybe that's why I hold the little delicate Summer Berliner Weissbier so dear to my heart. Maybe its the juicy peachiness that first fills your mouth, or the tart, fruity zing that lingers on the back of the palate, or even its light, saison-like champagney mouth feel. Either way, I knew from that first sip that this was unlike any other "beer" I had ever tried. From that moment forward, I put down my 40oz of Ballantine, purchased a mini-fridge off Craigslist and scoured the Brooklyn streets for more. And six years later, I'm still drinking it.

So, beerded fellows, visit Delaware, hit the outlets and finish your day with some good eats and inventive brewing ala Sam. 

-MH