A Very Dogfish Vacay: The Inn
Many think of Delaware for its fun, party-hopping beach towns. I think of beer. We went down for a long weekend to enjoy the beaches and of course – Dogfish Head Brewery. As I looked into the trip, I noticed that the Dogfish Inn just opened and we decided to try it out for a night. Dogfish Head is slowly taking over the entire territory of Delaware Beaches. The Inn is located in Lewes, DE, which is conveniently between the brew pub and the brewery. Originally, Dogfish started a “360 Experience” where customers could stay at a specific hotel and were given preferential treatment at both the brew pub and the brewery. Then, one day Sam Caglione (Founder of Dogfish Head Brewery) noticed an Inn up for sale and took advantage of the opportunity. Now, the experience is truly 360 from beginning to end.
We didn’t know what to expect except for what the reviews said. I read early on that the Inn does not supply or sell beer. I was disappointed to begin with, since I am staying at an Inn created by the mind behind Dogfish Head Brewery. One of the first questions I asked is why they don’t sell or provide beer. The innkeeper, Andrew (who has a very admirable and thick beard) explained that Sam did not want to open up further competition in the town of Lewes. Since Sam is a resident of Lewes, he wanted to promote business at the local eateries and bars. Every night, the inn posts which local bars and restaurants have what Dogfish brews on tap. We asked the staff about several of the restaurants, and they were very knowledgeable about the best food and best prices. They will also call ahead if you want to eat at the Brew Pub, or if you want to take a tour. The Inn will make the arrangements for you.
The rooms have a retro/hipster kind of feel. It’s a basic setup with everything you’d need for a vacation at the beach. What does that mean? You find your standard toilet, a sweet shower that is pretty much open to the rest of the bathroom (separated by a small pane of glass), and your comfortable beds and a nice TV and AC. It also means to leave all of your beach stuff at home. In your room, there are two low-back beach chairs made in collaboration with Lawn Chair USA, a durable Apolis bag (made to also carry two 750 ml bottles of beer), comfortable Woolrich wool blankets, and a bottle opener mounted on the wall for your convenience. The room is also stocked with essentials such as beer soap (made with their signature 60 minute IPA), Rum body wash, and you can even get some beer shampoo. There is also a mini bar stocked with some goodies (still…no beer). Each room also includes artwork from the artists that designed the various label artwork on your many Dogfish Beers. The room had everything we needed and plenty of space. It was a comfortable area to unwind after strolling the streets of Lewes or after a day on the beach.
Each room also has benches or chairs outside on the porch that are reserved for you to sit out on a nice night and crack one open. Or, you can go downstairs to relax by the fire that is stoked by the staff. We went down with a bottle of wine from the local winery. Trouble is – we forgot a bottle opener and I refused to by a bottle opener for $100 anywhere else. We asked on a whim if they had an extra and of course – they had one that they would loan to us no problem. While enjoying our bottle of wine, we helped ourselves to the complementary corn hole game and enjoyed the fire. Also available was the famous yard game of ladder ball. Another couple was sitting at the picnic table playing cards (provided inside at the lobby). Turns out I could have brought a case of beer down if I wanted to – the picnic tables have built in coolers if you need them. Unfortunately, I missed the best part – the next day, Sam was coming down for what is now known as one of his “fireside chats” to hang out with us meek people to talk about beer, enjoy some cold ones and play yard games. The fire pit with yard games was one of my favorite parts of the Inn.
Of course, like any other hotel, the Inn offers complementary iced and hot coffee all day. The only difference is the coffee here is made with some Dogfish Chicory Stout ingredients such as chicory and dark malted barley and is unique to the inn. The Inn also offers discounts at several local recreation hot-spots including a 10% discount at the Kayak shop if you want to tour the canal and even go dolphin watching. There is also a library stocked by City Lights Books for anyone that needs a book to read on the beach. Andrew (our bearded innkeeper) also explained that the Inn will be providing complementary bike rentals in the coming weeks including lights for the bikes.
My biggest gripe is that you can’t get your hands on some unique Dogfish brews at the Inn. While I understand the philosophy of it, I was hoping to find a beer only offered at the Dogfish Inn. Many of the people staying there agreed and are looking for the same thing. However, the location is convenient to the beach and several great places to eat and shop. The atmosphere of the Inn is typical of what you would see at the brewery or at the brew pub – people that love beer and love to chat. We talked to couple out at the fire pit for a while and found we have several common interests. They typically camp at the nearby state park, but decided that this experience was well worth it and it sounds like the tent will be packed away whenever they come back to Lewes, DE. Others brought their dogs along and others even brought those mangy things we call children. There are promises of some collaborated events coming, possibly tastings, and other fun things to do during the season and even during the off season. PLUS – you never know when Sam will stop by for a fireside chat.
The Dogfish Inn is home to sixteen rooms and one suite. Rooms are either single kings or double queens. The suite is a two-bedroom suite. In-season rooms come at a two-night minimum with a weekend cost of about $260 per night. The suite at the same weekend minimum comes close to $600 per night. However, once the season is over, rooms drop to about $210 per night. It is pricey, but you are also paying for some preferential treatment at the brew pub and brewery and also at the Inn. I’ve been at some hotels renting beach chairs for $50 a piece and there is no way in hell they will loan you out ANYTHING. The staff at the Inn make you feel special while you are there and work hard to make the experience worth your while.
After asking the folks at the Inn, we decided to try out the following places (all are recommended):
– 1/2 Full: Pizza and bar where the 61 IPA originated (try it out yourself)
– Gilligans: Good seafood on the water
– Lewes Bake Shop: Awesome coffee…even better pastries (try the ooey gooeys)
– Nassau Valley Vineyards: Free tour of the winery and $5 dollar tastings for some delicious wine at the state’s first winery