Time flies. It was nearly a month ago (Columbus Day weekend) that Andy and I headed southeast to one of my favorite places: slower lower Delaware.
Our destination, specifically, was the Dogfish Inn. It’s the former Vesuvio Hotel, rescued by Dogfish Head Beer founder Sam Calagione in his adopted hometown of Lewes, DE.
The 16-room inn opened this past July for the first time since its substantial renovation, and beer writers from around the coast have stayed and reviewed the modern, collaboration-heavy decor, communal firepit and surprisingly cozy lobby.
Each of them remarked how there isn’t actually any beer at the Inn. This seemed to surprise most folks, but it didn’t phase me (I guess because it’s a hotel).
Calagione (such a down-to-earth, cool dude), who paddles through the nearby canal daily, didn’t want to take away from his neighboring bar and restaurant friends who have long kept his brews cold for customers. Instead, on the sizeable chalkboard in the lobby you’ll find a listing of every local bar’s Dogfish Head tap and bottle offerings, plus what’s new at the Brewpub in nearby (bikeable) Rehoboth.
Not to mention, the liquor store on Second Street (a place much different from our numeric main street) is packed with wine and craft beer. The proprietor is happy to make suggestions, find you chilled versions of a bottle or even recommend local restaurants.
So, there’s no beer at the Inn. Except the first night we were there.
A few weeks before our arrival, Andrew, the head “Inn mate” emailed me to let me know there would be a special event at the Inn the night of our visit, but it was a ticketed event, and did I want to purchase any tickets. He was hardly halfway through his spiel — writer, book, Sam Calagione, beer, chowder — and I was in. I didn’t even particularly care how much tickets were, but they were just $10. Yes, please.
It turns out that this event was the first “official” event held at the Inn, and though the weather was less than desirable (chilled and drizzling), a friendly crowd gathered around the big Cowboy Cauldron to listen as Sam talked about discovering craft beer and how within a month he was writing a business plan that would effectively take him from English major to brewer — an off-centered path, one might say.
Calagione joked that his company is not just for craft beer lovers, but “recovering English majors,” as well. Though he left his MFA program, Calagione has authored several books on brewing. And Andrew, that aforementioned innkeeper, I later learned was a high school English teacher. His path to Delaware was similar to Sam’s — his wife also a local — and the Colorado native told me he was drawn to the company not only for its craft beer, but because its original menu featured literary-based references. Even the Inn’s Vesuvio Library is curated by the famous City Lights Books in San Francisco.
After encouraging us to drink up ( staff served up tastes of Namaste, Theobroma and a special brewpub exclusive collaboration beer, DogisGood) and to eat (Brewpub chowder), Calagione introduced the man of the hour. The event was celebrating William Bostwick, author of The Brewer’s Tale and beer critic for the Wall Street Journal. Bostwick talked about his own experience with beer and read excerpts from his book.
In-between, both Calagione and Bostwick entertained the crowd with a question and answer session. Later, Bostwick signed copies of his book, which had been sold on-premise by local bookstore, Browsabout Books (my mom’s most favorite bookstore).
The event was terrific, educational and delicious. Calagione even let me get a photo with him.
That evening, we sneaked over to next-door Striper Bites for a great oyster stout and terrific seafood, before heading over the liquor store to pick up some craft beers for the room.
I’ve neglected to mention another cool part of the Inn (and don’t worry, I’m getting to the Inn details shortly) — it’s dog friendly! I saw this in a review a few weeks before our trip and called to see if they could accommodate us. Half of their rooms are kept pet-free for folks with allergies, but the bottom-level rooms can accommodate your pooch in most cases (you’ll want to read the details to make sure your pup qualifies).
So let’s take a look at these rooms:
Dogfish Inn offers a bunch of neat amenities, like use of their beach chairs and market bag, IPA glasses (which you also can buy), terrific Chicory Stout Coffee all day long, easy-access bottle openers, a sweet mini bar filled with local favorites (like their hop pickles). Even the shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion — all Malin + Goetz Bath Products — are cool.
The bikes are free for use, and they even offer locks and helmets. Cape Helopen State Park and Rehoboth Beach are both within biking distance.
Wifi is free and pretty strong throughout the rooms and lobby.
Another bonus? Guests of the Inn will be expedited to the packed-even-in-winter Brewpub, even when there’s a wait. For some special events, you can also score free shuttle service.
So, what is there to do in Lewes besides drink great beer?
After that great starter event and dinner on Saturday night, we got up early on Sunday and started our Sunday with a trip to Nectar Cafe & Juice Bar for their signature pickle Bloody Mary and breakfast.
Next on our list: We wanted to get our dog on the beach. As far we knew, he’d never seen the ocean before, and I had a hunch he’d just love it.
We researched which beaches were dog-friendly this time year (most, since it was the off-season) and paid our way into Cape Henlopen State Park. We had to reroute ourselves around some kind of race but eventually found the pet-friendly beach.
Basically, this was the best day of his life, and thank god for leash laws or we would’ve let him off — and probably never seen him again. He stalked seagulls and definitely thought he was going to catch one (maybe he would have?). It was awesome and beyond adorable.
I made everyone go shopping in Rehoboth afterwards, picking up some great finds at my favorite boutique, Hula Sue. Then, we calmed down with a margarita and some guac and chips before heading back to the Inn.
Everyone raved about Agave Mexican Restaurant as the place to go to eat but there would be a long (albeit worthwhile) wait (plus we just had the marg in Rehoboth), and we needed some place where we could sit outside with Buddy. We settled on a Touch of Italy, which was just across the street, and they were kind enough to let us have Buddy leashed under the table with us.
Our meals were terrific, if not a bit under-seasoned (I’m used to cooking my own Italian food, I suppose), but we enjoyed it all.
We finished our night with some beers back out by the firepit — this time in better weather. We made new friends from Lancaster, Philadelphia and Silver Spring, Md., chatting about craft beer and life.
To learn more about the Dogfish Inn, visit dogfishinn.com. Reservations are available year-round, typically with a two-night minimum. A suite also is available.
To see more photos from our trip, visit our Facebook page.