During our visit to the Dewey Beach Music Conference 2009 I allocated time to visit 16 Mile Brewing Company, a new brewery located in nearby Georgetown Delaware. We mean new, as in two months new. The brewery is owned and operated by Chad Campbell and Brett McCrea, who were both present early Saturday morning in the never ending process of cleaning equipment. I interrupted Mr. Campbell's task long enough for him to describe the breweries foundation, philosophy, and a tasting.
Both Campbell and McCrea are native to Georgetown, the county seat of Sussex County. The original seat was held in Lewes, but the state's General Assembly requested that the county move the seat to Georgetown because, it was “16 miles from anywhere” in the county. They both went to Washington College and after careers in government intelligence and business, the two returned home. And after a stint of home brewing, they decided to go commercial. McCrea's chemistry background was a plus, and as an intelligence officer, Campbell has sampled brews made throughout the world. His favorite were English ales - particularly those malty ales with lower carbonation levels. This was the style they chose to emulate.
Currently, the brewery produces two ales: the Old Court Ale and the Amber Sun Ale. When tasting these ales its also imperative that the drinker understand the brewer's philosophy before judging the brews. First, and most evident, the beers are bottled in 22 ounce cans, shaped like a bottle. This delivery vessel provides all the benefits of canned beer that we discussed previously, Craft Brewers Turn to Cans, which are amplified within a beach community. Think drinking at the beach or on a boat; not worrying about the beer being exposed to the hot sun; and easy recycling. For the brewers, they do not need to worry about glass exploding during the bottling process; no need to pay glass deposits; no worries of glass thinning; and finally, plenty of room for description and marketing material. A win wine for the producer and consumer. Second, the beers will be malty - which means the beer will be darker than a comparative version. The Old Court Ale is marketed as a pale ale, but there is nothing pale about this beer. Third, the beers will never be overly "hoppy" - no 60 IBU's here. Instead both beers had just enough hops to balance the flavor - and even with the fewer hops - the hops provided a long finish to the beers.
The final, and most important feature of these beers are that they are designed to be served closer to room temperature than most beers. We don't mean actual room temperature, but just slightly chilled. As with wine, the aromas and malt flavors of beer are enhanced by the warmer the beer is served. Pouring wine or beer too cold depresses the flavors - great for quenching a thirst - but not for savoring a quality beverage. All to often mass produced beers are marketed to be consumed ice cold in order to mask the poor flavor. In order to produce a nice head, these beers are loaded with CO2 gas because the colder a beer gets, the more the malt sugars hold onto the CO2. On the other hand, 16 Mile beers are intended to be consumed warmer, so there are lower carbonation levels than most beers. This doesn't mean the beers will not have an adequate head. In fact, while Campbell was explaining this concept to me, we gradually warmed their beers by cupping the glass and witnessed as the beer warmed the CO2 gas was released from the malt sugars. Served at the appropriate temperature, these beers have the perfect carbonation levels, consumed too cold - the beers may feel flat. A nice chemistry lesson.
Getting back the the beer; their two current offerings are excellent beers. The Old Court Ale is darker than comparative pale ales - but is actually light bodied with a slight citrus flavor. This is a nice afternoon, out in the sun beer. The Amber Sun Ale is stronger - with a more malty sweet flavor - with a perfect long hop finish. Great balance between flavors, hops, and carbonation. This is a the beer for dinner - strong enough for steaks on the frill. 16 Mile beers are available in most retail outlets (remember no sales tax) along the Delaware beaches and are served at many of the neighboring restaurants. But, for a more personal touch, the brewery is just off several routes to the shore. Stop in and say hello.