‘What’s on tap?’: Beach Liquors crafts new way for customers to enjoy draft beer
After a long day, there are few things more satisfying than the first sip of a cold craft beer right from the tap — and thanks to Beach Liquors in Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, now local residents don’t have to rush to happy hour or purchase an expensive kegorator to enjoy their favorite draft brew.
After providing customers in the area with a selection of craft beer for nearly 15 years, a recent Delaware law change has now made it possible for the family-owned shops to add to that selection and sell standard-sized “growlers” of a variety of beers in a retail setting. (Delaware breweries can sell and fill growlers only of their own products.)
“We heard the law was changing and thought, ‘Well, we’re definitely going to do that,’” explained Chris Miller, Bethany store manager and co-owner of the Beach Liquors store in Fenwick. “There is nowhere else in Sussex County,” he said of the growler sales. “We’re the only ones, soon to be the only two. There’s one in Dover, and seven or eight up in the Newcastle/Wilmington area, but that’s it for the state.”
The Bethany store has been selling its custom-designed 64-ounce growlers since early December 2013, but the Beach Liquors south location right on Route 1 in Fenwick Island will be following suit and installing a draft system of its own by St. Patrick’s Day.
“Within five miles, we’re going to have 11 different beers on tap,” Miller said. “We were really excited about the growlers, because a lot of breweries will brew things that they only do in kegs — which, prior to this, in Delaware you couldn’t get at retail.”
Each store will feature six different beers on tap, one of which will always be the custom IPA brewed specifically for the store by Mispillion River Brewing Co. — a new craft brewery based in Milford. Of the five rotating draft beers at each store, Miller estimated that at least two or three of them will be from other local brewers — in addition to their “proprietary IPA,” which will be exclusive to Beach Liquors and won’t be available anywhere else.
“We try to do a lot of local stuff,” said Miller of the store’s selection. “There’s definitely beers from California on there right now, but we’re going to try to do at least 50 percent local. There’s so much good local beer now that’s it’s going to be easy to do that.”
While a name for the custom IPA from Mispillion has yet to be announced, the Beach Liquors crew is already very impressed by the finished product.
“It’s awesome. It’s going to appeal to a lot of crowds,” Miller predicted. “It’s a hoppy pale ale. As far as craft beer goes, it’s pretty low alcohol — just under 5.5 percent. It’s pretty light-bodied but it has a lot of hop flavor to it — tons of hop aroma, but more palatable to the mainstream.”
“I like it a lot. It’s very session-able,” commented sales associate and beer connoisseur Phill Blush. “It’s a beer you can have a few of and not be overwhelmed by the flavor or the alcohol content.”
Beer enthusiasts can also look forward to the release of few rare kegs of draft beer that the store will be featuring during the spring and summer — including Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island, which is aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels and only released once a year, and Worldwide Stout from Dogfish Head — a beer that is even tougher to find.
“In the entire state of Delaware, there were fewer than 10 kegs, and we have one of them,” Miller said, highlighting the scarcity of the Dogfish Head stout.
After a customer has decided on a beer, they’ll have the option of purchasing one of the custom-designed Beach Liquors growlers or bringing in a growler of their own to be filled.
“They’re reusable,” Miller explained. “People are bringing their growlers back, but we will fill any growler. If you’ve got a Dogfish or Evo growler at home, we’re happy to fill it.”
The Beach Liquors growlers were designed by local artist and musician Reed “Reedo” Dibler, a friend of Miller who put his own spin on some local landmarks, including the Fenwick Island Lighthouse and the “totem pole” sculpture in Bethany Beach, to go along with a breaking wave of barley for the logos.
“If you look at craft beer labels, there’s a lot of great artwork going on out there,” Miller said of the design process. “We wanted to have something representative of that and also representative of the communities that we have our stores in.”
The re-useable glass growlers cost $10 and are available in either clear or amber, but the store will begin to sell aluminum and plastic growlers as early as this summer — something they said will be better suited for boaters and beachgoers.
“They’ll be beach- and boating-friendly for those beaches that do allow alcohol consumption,” Miller stated. “We encourage you to reuse them. Once you’ve got your growler, you’re just paying for your beer.”
In addition to the increased variety of craft beers available both in bottles and on draft, the store has also begun to bring a larger assortment of liquor from craft distilleries — which according Miller is a growing trend.
“There’s been this big resurgence of craft distilleries coming up,” he noted. “We’ve really kind of embraced that in trying to bring in as many of these small-production spirits as we can.”
“We probably have the better part of 50 or more small-batch craft whiskies, and we’ll be adding more,” Blush added.
The easiest way to see what’s on tap at either Beach Liquors location before heading to the store is by visiting their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/beachliquors or their website at www.beachliquors.com or following them on Twitter at @BeachLiq.