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AUG/SEP 2006 | REGIONAL | EAST COAST

Dogfish Head 360
By Gregg Wiggins

Is this the ultimate brewery tour? The “Dogfish Head 360-Degree Experience” starts with a VIP visit to Milton, Del.’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, then throws in T-shirts, dinner, music, kayaking with dolphins, a sunset boat cruise and two nights in what British beer writer Michael Jackson calls “the most civilized hotel bedroom in the U.S.”

The inspiration, according to Dogfish Head founder and President Sam Calagione, was his regular brewery tour. “Every week, there’d be someone planning their whole vacation around coming to see Dogfish Head. So I said, ‘Well, how can we make this experience even better for people?’” he says.

“The other goal was that they left not just with a better understanding and appreciation for what we’re doing at Dogfish Head, but for the beauty of the area,” Calagione adds. “We wanted them to leave not only as missionaries for our brewery,” he continues, “but also missionaries for coastal Delaware.”

For help developing the Experience package, Calagione approached two businesses in nearby Lewes. The Inn at Canal Square and Quest Kayak signed on to provide a place to stay and an introduction to the area’s attractions, respectively. “It’s by far the prettiest hotel in coastal Delaware, right on the harbor,” says Calagione, while Quest is noted for creating and conducting ecologically sensitive tours that highlight the natural attractions of the coast.

Dogfish Head worked with the hotel to decorate a room, installing a four-foot-long copper dogfish above the bed. “The Brewmaster’s Suite,” says Inn at Canal Square General Manager Stacey Wiles, “has a king-sized bed, a Jacuzzi bath, and a separate little seating area with a pullout queen-sized sleep sofa.” It also features what Calagione calls “beercentric amenities.”

Dogfish Head worked with the hotel to decorate a room that features what Calagione calls “beercentric amenities.”

“The room is filled with CDs of national bands like the Strokes and NRBQ that have played at our pub,” Calagione says. “Then there’s a bookshelf with 15 or so beer book titles, and there’s lots of different beers in the room’s refrigerator.” Even the soap and shampoo are made with Dogfish Head beer.

The first guest in the Brewmaster’s Suite was Jackson. “He was just the nicest man,” says Wiles.
After touring the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton the first afternoon, you can spend the evening exploring the town of Lewes, founded in 1631. “You’ll be walking around town looking at history,” says Wiles. “There’s neat, quaint little shops, and the restaurants — oh my God, the restaurants are unbelievable.”

The key to the Brewmaster’s Suite serves as a bottle opener at those restaurants. “We have a deal with all the Lewes restaurants,” explains Calagione. “When people show their room key, they get [Dogfish Head] Chicory Stout with their desserts.”

The next morning is set aside for a two- to three-hour self-propelled tour around Cape Henlopen State Park. The tour “goes along the Atlantic coast, wraps around the Cape Henlopen Point and goes into the Delaware Bay, where we go by a couple of lighthouses,” says Quest Kayak’s Matt Carter. “About 99 percent of the time, we see dolphins. You see a lot of wildlife, like osprey and pelicans.” Carter stresses that kayaking experience is not needed. “It’s definitely for the beginner, but it’s still a lot of fun for the advanced kayaker because of what they get to see.”

After a free afternoon that might be spent on one of the nearby beaches, the “S.S. Dogfish” arrives at the dock in Lewes for a canal cruise to the beach resort of Rehoboth and an evening at the Dogfish Head brewpub. “And that’s when the drinking starts,” laughs Carter, who serves as captain. “We try to keep them sober until after the kayaking.” On the trip, says Calagione, “you go right through the state park wetlands, and it’s just really, really pretty.”

Perhaps a drink is understandable, considering that the S.S. Dogfish is, according to Calagione, “our little military assault raft.”

“It’s a Zodiac,” chuckles Wiles, promising that “next year we’ll have a bigger one.”

Dinner at the Rehoboth brewpub, where bands play most Friday and Saturday nights, is the last formal part of the Dogfish Head 360-Degree Experience. “And then they just relax [the next day] and check out,” Calagione says.

The all-inclusive cost of the package for two people is $695 for weekend stays, or $600 during the week. The Experience can be booked by calling the Inn at Canal Square at 302-644-3377. Summer weekends in the Brewmaster’s Suite are fully reserved for this year, Wiles says, but space is available during the week and in the fall. Reservations are also being taken for 2007.

Tips for Travelers
The closest major airport to Lewes, Del., is Baltimore-Washington International (BWI). From BWI, Lewes is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive. Salisbury, Md., about one hour’s drive from Lewes, is served by commuter flights on turboprop aircraft.

An automobile ferry to Lewes sails from Cape May, N.J., and the southern end of the Garden State Parkway.

More information on the Dogfish Head 360-Degree Experience is available by phoning 302-644-3377 or on the Internet at either dogfish.com/tangents or theinnatcanalsquare.com/beer.html.

Gregg Wiggins works in public radio, contributes regularly to Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and has too many G’s in his name. He can be reached at greggwiggins@hotmail.com.

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