Uber & Lyft: Good for the Bar Business

But does responsible drinking take a back seat?

The digital age of rapidly advancing technology is ubiquitous. Each day, new apps offer us ways to connect and make life easier, whether it’s sharing videos and photos, managing our bank accounts, or checking in and meeting up with friends.

The Uber and Lyft apps have revolutionized the ride-hailing landscape, which once consisted of either scheduling a car service well in advance or calling and waiting on a cab for who knows how long. While they both can be used to hop a ride anywhere, the prevailing destinations are bars and restaurants.

Naturally, the hospitality industry welcomes any assistance when it comes to getting patrons to belly up at their establishments. But sometimes those same apps can encourage folks to stay out past the point of intoxication, knowing they have no responsibility to drive. We asked some local bartenders about the positives and negatives of the digital designated driver.

John Kelly, a Wilmington resident who works at Tonic Bar & Grille on 11th Street, has seen his share of guests who range from the mildly buzzed to the utterly sauced. He believes Uber and Lyft have had a positive effect on business, especially in crowded areas where parking can be an issue.

“For the bars and restaurants, ride-hailing is great. It encourages people to stay out a little longer, and sometimes even gets people out in the first place, if they’re going where parking is an issue,” says Kelly. “We have a garage right around the corner, but the convenience factor is big for Uber users, because they can come and go as they please, sometimes for as much as it costs to park.”

Greg Safian, a bar manager at Trolley Tap House, says ride-hailing services keep the crowds out later, especially in his neighborhood, where parking can be almost non-existent on weekend nights. On average, Safian says, about 25 percent of his patrons use Uber on busier nights.

“The taxi thing is pretty much dead, especially in Wilmington, and I don’t know if you’ll find a bartender who doesn’t appreciate how Uber has had an effect on things,” says Safian. “I can recall, in the past, you might see crowds die down a bit after midnight. Not now. Having the option of what is basically a designated driver—to order—keeps people out, which is a good thing.”

Kelly says nearly 50 percent of his patrons use Uber, either to get to Tonic, get home, or both. And even on the occasion where someone has more than their fair share to drink, Uber makes it easy on the bartender to get the inebriated folks home safely.

“Before ride-hailing became popular, calling a cab for someone could take hours, and even trying to get the address out of a drunk person was a challenge,” says Kelly. “Now you can just ask to use their phone to call them an Uber, hit the ‘HOME’ button, and the car arrives within minutes. It’s not like taking someone’s keys anymore. Most people are happy to get home safely for just a few bucks.” 

Irresponsible Drinking?

While ride-hailing apps keep the inebriated and intoxicated off the roads, the notion of responsible drinking can sometimes take a back seat. After all, when a designated driver can be arranged at the tap of a button, what’s to stop bar hoppers from binge drinking?

Jen Stike, a former bartender at the Greene Turtle in Rehoboth Beach, is all too familiar with the issue. She’s seen hordes of already drunk bar-goers take advantage of ride-hailing at the beach, even though she knows part of the responsibility is still hers.

“I’m sure you’ve seen groups of people come into a bar at the beach in the middle of summer, out of control, yelling, ‘We’re not driving!’ or ‘We took an Uber!’ without realizing I still have a responsibility,” says Stike. “I still go by the old dram laws and consider it my job not to over-serve.”

According to the current State of Delaware Trained Alcoholic Beverage Server Program, Delaware no longer observes Dram Shop laws, which hold a business selling alcoholic drinks liable in the event that someone becomes intoxicated at the establishment and injures themselves or others. However, it is stated that overserving may result in fines and a civil penalty. Either way, Stike isn’t taking chances.

“I think that because people take Uber they think I won’t try and manage their drinking, or serve them responsibly, or cut them off if the situation warrants,” she says. “So, it’s added a little bit of a challenge. Trying to explain to somebody Ubering home that you can’t serve them anymore can be as tough as taking their keys away and calling a cab. I feel like sometimes Uber is used as an excuse, or a crutch.”

Much of Lyft’s and Uber’s business comes from bar patrons who are either heading out or going home. Photo courtesy of Lyft Inc.

Kelly says he’s seen multiple guests do just that—including one regular on multiple occasions—to the point where he must either cut off the person or ask for his or her phone to call Uber to pick them up. It’s an awkward situation, and one he tries to avoid, although sometimes he can’t.

“Bartenders are responsible for not over-serving, let’s make that clear right away,” says Kelly. “But if someone comes in off the street and has already been drinking, it can be hard to tell how far along they are. Sure, [ride-hailing] probably encourages more drinking, but the fact it offers a safe way home is key. It makes our jobs easier, that’s for sure.”

Uber’s Commitment to Safety

Regardless of where you fall on the ride-hailing argument, Uber officials stand by their commitment to provide a safe means of getting home, whether you’ve had one beer or 10. According to Craig Ewer, a Mid-Atlantic spokesperson for Uber, the company even set up a breathalyzer kiosk in Rehoboth last summer.

“Uber is changing the way people think about drinking and driving in Delaware,” says Ewer “By providing a reliable ride at the push of a button—no matter the time or place—we’re empowering people to make better, safer choices.”

Such is Uber’s commitment that, in 2014, it partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to further fight drunk driving and the accidents and fatalities it causes. Malcolm Friend, Pennsylvania state program manager with MADD, calls the partnership “a match made in heaven.” He adds, however, that his organization has no position on any individual’s alcohol consumption.

“If alcohol is sold legally to patrons over 21, and not those who are already drunk, then it is the business of the individual after that point,” says Friend. “Our goal is to see that people get home safely, and in that regard, Uber has been a wonderful partner. We’ve seen some numbers to specifically support that.”

According to a study furnished by MADD?though conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group, an independent, New-York based strategic research consultancy—the number of arrests for driving under the influence fell 10 percent between 2013 and 2014 in Seattle. Similar results were found in Chicago, Austin, Texas and Pittsburgh.

The numbers are encouraging, though no such studies have been conducted in Delaware. On a national level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that the number deaths of resulting from alcohol-impaired-driving crashes—not arrests—actually increased slightly between 2015 and 2016, from a total of 10,265 to 10,497.

Safian believes that, in the long run, ride-hailing services are a positive. “My question is, would you rather pay the $5 or $10 for an Uber and worry about getting your car the next day, or pay a ton in fines if you get a DUI, or worse? To me, the answer is pretty clear.”

Uber and Lyft are both available to riders in all three counties in Delaware, including the towns and cities of Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach. The mobile app is available for free download on iPhone and Android OS, as well as Samsung Bada and Windows Mobile.

Wilmington Music: Ever Evolving

Susquehanna Floods cookin’ at Kelly’s Logan House. Photo courtesy of Kelly’s Logan House

Cover bands, small groups and small venues prevail, but change is in the wind

Music-loving Delawareans old enough to remember can gleefully recount stories of the times Springsteen played Newark’s Stone Balloon back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when national acts were common sights there and at the Talley Ho on Concord Pike. Tony Cappella, a local bassist who plays with several local acts, most notably Montana Wildaxe, remembers the era fondly as a time when packed houses were the rule, not the exception.

“When we played those venues, you typically played Tuesday through Saturday,” says Cappella. “Same went for rooms like Prime Times, Reflections and so many others. Montana Wildaxe used to play at the Logan House the last weekend of every month and pack the place.”

Rob Zinn performing at Shine A Light 2016. Photo Joe del Tufo
Rob Zinn performing at Shine A Light 2016. Photo Joe del Tufo

Rob Zinn, a local jazz musician who’s been performing since the early ‘80s, confirms Cappella’s memories of the large venues. “Stone Balloon, 4&1 Club, Prime Times, Tally Ho, Big Kahuna and Garfields all come to mind,” says Zinn. “It was common to be booked at some of these rooms for four or five days in a row, with big bands every night of the week.”

But those times didn’t last. It wasn’t long before that era’s temples of great rock ‘n’ roll started to shut their doors.

Joe Trainor, another major name in the Wilmington music scene, remembers the early ‘90s into the early 2000s, when things started to shift. “In Wilmington alone, we watched bar after bar close due to the waning interest in live music,” he says. “You knew things were concerning when places like The Stone Balloon, The Buggy Tavern and The Barn Door closed.”

That’s one of the big differences between today’s music scene and the period when Cappella, Zinn and Trainor first emerged: large groups used to have plenty of places to showcase their talents. But when venues began to struggle financially, they ditched the traditional cover charge (the thing that made those large acts possible) in an attempt to entice the more casual, curious fan who might stick around for a few drinks.

It worked, in a way. Venues now book at least in part based on bar activity during the act. “I think the hardest thing is finding bands that are not only good, but also good at keeping the crowd at the bar,” says Joe Mujica, who’s been helping to book acts at Logan House since December.

Cover Bands Prevail

On paper and in practice, it makes sense. A restaurant or bar can’t get away with selling tickets.

Scantron plays at Arden’s Shady Grove concert in 2014. Photo Joe del Tufo
Scantron plays at Arden’s Shady Grove concert in 2014. Photo Joe del Tufo

Their product is the food and drink, and a live band is a draw they use to sell more of both. They can’t afford to be overly experimental and must provide entertainment that won’t alienate anyone.

That means time-tested, crowd-pleasing cover songs. Acts aren’t discouraged from playing their own material, but if a band wants to play, say, the Logan House, they’d be well advised to build a solid base of songs the audience already knows.

“The covers usually keep the people interested,” says Mujica. “Then you throw a few originals in there and the crowd seems to really like it.”

Lee Mikles, owner of Grain, follows much the same formula at his locations (Newark, Summit North Marina and Kennett Square). “We are looking for acts that can bring a mix of originals and covers in the artist’s unique style,” he says. That’s typically the blend that can keep an audience interested enough that they’ll drive the sales Grain needs to keep booking live music.

But, as venues and musicians alike soon found out, getting crowds to stay in one place and buy more drinks didn’t do enough to replace the economic assurance of the cover charge. Talking about the loss of the cover, Zinn says, “I believe that has impacted the ability to bring in bigger and more expensive bands.”

So, even if today’s musicians are playing well-worn songs from popular bands, they’re doing so in significantly smaller groups. “Gigs nowadays are more trio and duo acts,” says Cappella.

Typical of smaller venues is Oddity Bar, on Greenhill Avenue in Wilmington. “We book keeping the space in mind,” says Andrea McCauley, who owns the bar along with Pat McCutcheon. “So it’s all about what’s comfortable for our customers.”

Angela Sheik performs at The Ladybug Festival. Photo Joe del Tufo
Angela Sheik performs at The Ladybug Festival. Photo Joe del Tufo

She cites the genre that’s most popular at the bar, an alt rock-leaning style, versus her own musical roots, a heavier punk type. She’d like to book more punk shows, but those are better suited to bars where crowds have room to spread out and dance, as opposed to the more intimate setting of Oddity Bar.

Cappella and Trainor adapted well to the new prevalence of smaller places and smaller groups. “I play several styles of music, so some bands I play with can play large electric type venues like the Queen,” Cappella says. “Other acts are trios and duos that work smaller rooms like the Bellefonte Cafe, Kid Shelleen’s and Tonic.”

Trainor created his own solution by founding The Joe Trainor Trio and streamlining the group’s songwriting style, eventually building a larger audience than what his earlier, more experimental groups played to.

Zinn, on the other hand, is a musician who is at a bit of a disadvantage in a scene that favors smaller groups. Certain instruments, like, say, Zinn’s trumpet, don’t adapt well to duos and trios. “Being a trumpet player, I’m shut out from any of these types of [smaller] venues, unless I want to play along with tracks,” he says. “As for the new Queen, I’d love to be a part of any show with [the Rob Zinn Group], but I’m not sure if they are interested in original jazz/funk type bands.”

Emerging Styles?

Despite this, Zinn hasn’t lacked for success—which he finds a little surprising. Plenty of the local spots support his preferred style of music. Says Zinn, “The Nomad, Ubon Thai Cuisine, World Cafe Live [now The Queen] and Tonic bring me in regularly; more recently, Kennett Brewing Co.”

So it seems that, even if there is a preference for cover songs, Wilmington isn’t devoid of emerging styles and opportunities to play original work. The fact that Zinn is getting consistent gigs hints that the city is ready for new music.

He also is getting support from other musicians. “I happen to love jazz,” says Cappella. “Thanks to people like Rob Zinn, Tony Cimorrossi and the Nomad bar, because they are putting it back in Delaware again.”

One group that has successfully transitioned is The Susquehanna Floods. It started as a cover band, but the group didn’t find widespread success until they switched to original music. “After almost five years of being in a cover band, I think we’d all gotten a bit burnt out,” says Zachary Crouch, Floods lead guitarist. “We all showed up to rehearse and agreed the only way we’d want to continue making music is if we focused on writing our own.”

Since their switch, the band’s amount of Facebook exposure has doubled, it won the 10th Musikarmageddon, got better treatment in venues, and attracted crowds that were much more receptive to and supportive of their original creations. “The crowds at these venues are super responsive and it’s clear that they bring out fans that are active in the original music scene,” says Crouch. Cover bands may have ruled the scene in the early 2000s, but the Floods are proof that the city is ready for more original tunes.

Some musicians and venue bookers even see opportunities that aren’t being fully developed. “I think there’s a market out there for good hip-hop, especially in Wilmington,” says Trainor. “Richard Raw seems to be the only artist making a real name for himself, and you’d think hip-hop would have a stronger voice in the city than it does.”

Rob Matera, who’s been booking in Arden since 2011, says it’s time to expand a different genre. “In North Wilmington, there’s a strong roots and Americana fan base that not many local original bands have exploited,” he says.

New Acts at Shady Grove

Matera makes sure his bookings at Shady Grove reflect his desire for more original music. “I personally like bringing new acts to our audience,” he says. “I think it has become something of an expectation that when you come to Shady Grove, you’re going to see new bands.” This year, of the nine shows planned for Shady Grove, eight are acts appearing there for the first time.

Another place original music comes first is, not surprisingly, also in Arden—Gild Hall. “We actually prefer not to repeat acts very often,” says Ron Ozer, the man in charge of bookings. There are some crowd- and venue-favorite musicians who return every so often, but for the most part, Gild Hall acts are fresh, original bands.

Both Arden venues provide plenty of bookings, with Gild Hall hosting close to 20 shows a year, along with Shady Grove’s nine. For volunteer-run venues, 30 shows represent an admirable offering.

If any organization is plugged into the opportunities for every genre, it’s Gable Music Ventures. To Gable, that soft reliance on cover songs is finally starting to give way, allowing local, original acts, like those from the ‘70s and ‘80s, to retake the scene. Says Gayle Dillman, who, along with Jeremy Hebbel, owns Gable: “We are thankfully seeing more of a trend towards original music, something we’ve been encouraging since we started.”

Through Gable’s efforts, original music is reclaiming large venues. Attendance for The Ladybug Festival, the all-female-led music event in Wilmington, has skyrocketed, allowing Gable to experiment with lineups. “We are able to focus less on how many people an artist can bring to the event,” says Dillman. “[Instead, we] can focus more on achieving our goal of having a diverse lineup of tremendous artists covering as many genres as we can.”

Besides Ladybug, Gable is bringing diversification to Smyrna at Night, events for the City of Newark, Wilmington University, The Sugar Bowl Series, Grainfest and the New Castle County Ice Cream Festival. That’s in addition to the daily gigs the company plans.

Similarly, McCauley and McCutcheon are using the popularity of Oddity Bar and its regular acts to introduce new groups to the scene. McCauley says they like to use a few slots in their Friday and Saturday night lineups to mix in new bands with the more consistently popular acts. Says McCauley, “Some bands we know well will get the [other] bands who play the whole night.” In other words, McCauley and McCutcheon will occasionally trust Oddity’s regular bands to fill Friday and Saturday nights with unknown acts that the regulars think will fit in well. It’s rare that it happens, but when it does, it’s a great opportunity for the older players to pull acts they enjoy out of obscurity.

Ultimately, the Wilmington music scene is one in recovery, but it’s recovering well. Coming off the glut of cover bands, venues are slowly beginning to experiment with original acts again, and they’re finding crowds that are receptive. There are still hurdles, but there is an ever-increasing number of capable people and companies to overcome them.

Where to Watch the Game

This season brings college football and intriguing NFL action back to a bar near you. Because of the multitude of options—number of TVs, choice of beers on tap, best food—we’ve come up with this directory to guide you through the selection process.

8th & Union Kitchen

801 N. Union St., Wilmington; 654-9780
Number of TVs: 5
Beers on Tap: 16, Bottled Beers: 38
Crowd Favorites: half-price burgers, tacos, appetizers, and $1.25 oysters.

BBC Tavern & Grill

4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville; 655-3785
Number of TVs: 7
Beers on Tap: 15, Bottled Beers: 60-75
Crowd Favorites: Nachos, caprese salad, house-made meatloaf, and BBC Burger.

Big Fish Grill

720 Justison St., Wilmington; 652-3474
Number of TVs: 9
Beers on Tap: 7, Bottled Beers: 26
Crowd Favorites: Fresh, chef-inspired seafood dishes, large outdoor patio and lounge on the Riverfront.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Multiple locations: Bear, Dover, Limestone Rd.,
Middletown, Newark, Rehoboth
Number of TVs: 42
Beers on Tap: 24, Bottled Beers: 18
(Features sports lottery at Bear, Dover, Limestone Road and Middletown locations)
Crowd Favorites: Boneless or traditional wings in any of 16 signature seasonings or sauces.

Chelsea Tavern

821 N. Market St., Wilmington; 482-3333
Number of TVs: 4
Beers on Tap: 31, Bottled Beers: 214
Crowd Favorites: Wood burning oven pizza, Chelsea cheeseburger, and BBQ pork nachos.

Columbus Inn

2216 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington; 571-1492
Number of TVs: 5 (and a projector screen)
Beers on Tap: 8, Bottled Beers: 28
Crowd Favorites: Lobster fried rice, filet sandwich, and CI signature crab cakes.

Deer Park Tavern

108 W. Main St., Newark; 369-9414
Number of TVs: 21
Beers on Tap: 24, Bottled Beers: 31
Crowd Favorites: Wings, mix combo, and nachos.

Delaware Park

777 Delaware Park Blvd., Wilmington; 994-6700
Number of TVs: at least 37 at each location, including many 100-inch screens and one 150-incher
Beers on Tap: 5-6, Bottled Beers: 15
Three bars – Club 3, The Cove, and the Sports Bar – all featuring plenty of pro football action plus the sports lottery
Crowd Favorites: Flame-broiled cheeseburgers, dollar hot dogs, cheese pizzas from Picciottis, wing zings, jalapeno crab fritters, crab fries, crab cakes, and lobster.

Ernest & Scott Taproom

902 N. Market St., Wilmington; 384-8113
Number of TVs: 11
Beers on Tap: 29, Bottled Beers: 30
Crowd Favorites: Blackened mahi tacos, loaded fries, and burgers.

FireStone Roasting House

110 W. St., Wilmington; 658-6626
Number of TVs: 24
Beers on Tap: 8+, Bottled Beers: 30
Crowd Favorites: Firestone original pizza, spinach tomato ricotta pizza, and Firestone burger.


1709 Lovering Ave., Wilmington; 655-3689
Number of TVs: 8
Beers on Tap: 16, Bottled Beers: 15
Crowd Favorites: Pomodoro pizza, California turkey Ruben, sautéed seafood medley, stromboli, and homemade lasagna.

Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen

Newark, Bear and Kennett Square, Pa.
Number of TVs: 12
Beers on Tap: 24, Bottled Beers: 60
Crowd Favorites: Fried pickles, street tacos, and Cubano

The Greene Turtle

250 S. Main Street, Suite 101, Newark; 454-1592
Number of TVs: 48
Beers on Tap: 24, Bottled Beers: 30+
Crowd Favorites: Crab dip, Chesapeake burger, and hog hammers.

Grotto Pizza

16 locations in Delaware
Number of TVs: 15-25
Beers on Tap: 6-14, Bottled Beers: 16-22
Crowd Favorites: Boneless wings, appetizer combo, and broccoli bites.

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

Wilmington and Newark
Number of TVs: 4
Beers on Tap: 12-20, Bottled Beers: 7-9
Crowd Favorites: Cheesesteak eggrolls, voodoo chicken pizza, crab cake sandwich, petite filet mignon, scallops, and house nachos.

Kelly’s Logan House

1701 Delaware Ave., Wilmington; 652-9493
Number of TVs: 18 TVs including a big screen
Beers on Tap: 22, Bottled Beers: 18
Crowd Favorites: Buffalo wings, chili nachos, and dirty bird grilled cheese. 

Kid Shelleen’s

14th & Scott, Wilmington; 658-4600
Number of TVs: 6
Beers on Tap: 13, Bottled Beers: 55-60
Crowd Favorites: Shelleen’s nachos, buffalo wings, and chicken quesadilla.

McGlynn’s Pub

Three locations: Polly Drummond, People’s Plaza, Dover
Number of TVs: 22 with NFL Package, all games all week
Beers on Tap: 32, Bottled Beers: 40+
Crowd Favorites: Wings, nachos, burgers, and prime rib.

Mexican Post

3100 Naaman’s Rd., Wilmington; 478-3939
Number of TVs: 5
Beers on Tap: 5, Bottled Beers: 24
Crowd Favorites: Fajitas, chimichangas, and nachos.

Pike Creek Pub

4809 Limestone Rd., Wilmington; 235-8368
Number of TVs: 12
Beers on Tap: 8, Bottled Beers: 18
Crowd Favorites: All draft beers $3, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coronas are $3.

Route 2 Tavern

4305 Kirkwood Hwy, Wilmington; 256-0803 
Number of TVs: 15
Beers on Tap: 12, Bottled Beers: 15
Crowd Favorites: All draft beers are $3, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coronas are $3.

Stanley’s Tavern

2038 Foulk Rd., Wilmington; 475-1887
Number of TVs: 40
Beers on Tap: 25, Bottled Beers: 66
Crowd Favorites: Award-winning baby back ribs, wings, and tavern nachos. (Also features sports lottery.)

Stone Balloon Ale House

115 E. Main St., Newark; 266-8111
Number of TVs: 4
Beers on Tap: 16, Bottled Beers: 50
Crowd Favorites: Beef & bacon lollipops, keg fries, and short rib pot roast.

Tonic Bar & Grille

111 W. 11th Street, Wilmington
Number of TVs: 15
Beers on Tap: 16, Bottled Beers: 24
Crowd Favorites: Crab cakes, fried calamari, and lobster tail.

Trolley Square Oyster House

1707 Delaware Ave, Wilmington;
Number of TVs: 6
Beers on Tap: 16, Bottled Beers: 30
Crowd Favorites: Live music, open until 1am daily, Best of Delaware winner for lobster roll, and large raw bar.

Two Stones Pub

Three locations: Newark (294-1890),
Wilmington; (439-3231)
& Kennett Square (610-444-3940),
Number of TVs: 6-10
Beers on Tap: 20-25, Bottled Beers: 40-90 at each location
Crowd Favorites: Fry piles, hog wings, and chicken wings.

Washington Street Ale House

1206 Washington St., Wilmington
Number of TVs: 9
Beers on Tap: 24, Bottled Beers: 20
Crowd Favorites: Draft beer selection and Sunday brunch with a build-your-own bloody mary bar.

Beer: A Weapon Against the Cold?

These brews can warm you inside and out as winter descends on us

Brace yourselves, folks: early winter forecasts for the Northeast are not encouraging (depending on your perspective). The vaunted Farmer’s Almanac says it “will be colder and snowier than normal,” while websites like FirstHandWeather.com predict a “wintry battle zone.”

The best way to prepare for this battle, as we know from years past, is to stockpile the weapons to fend off Old Man Winter and his arsenal of wind, snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

Certainly shovels, snow blowers, salt, space heaters and generators come to mind. But what about strong ales, bourbon porters, Belgian quads? What about heavily spiced dark beers that warm from the inside out?

Some local breweries are battening down the hatches and raising the AVB on some seriously stout winter beers. Here’s a round-up of these offerings, which are lovely, dark and deep, and will be flowing from taps and bottles in the very near (and cold) future.

Argilla Brewing Company, Newark

The little nano-brewery continues to crank out some big beers, including its “Baron,” an English strong ale, and a forthcoming Belgian quad that weighs in at 10 percent, due in January. Owner/brewer Steve Powell says Argilla brews between four and five times per week, and is working on installing a three-barrel system.

“Getting three barrels in here would double our current brew capacity from 1.5 barrels,” says Powell. “That would allow us to brew a greater amount and keep certain beers on tap longer. Right now we have between five and eight house beers on tap, but they rotate pretty frequently because of our smaller system.”

Powell is currently working on a collaboration beer (all the rage with breweries right now) between Argilla and Mispillion River, in Milford. Called “Old Earth,” this spiced strong ale will include components like ginger, vanilla beans, cinnamon and molasses, and is scheduled to be on tap at the Kirkwood Highway brewpub in December.

Mispillion River Brewing, Milford

The new can artwork for Mispillion River Brewing’s re-release of Black Tie IPA. (Photo courtesy of Misspillion River Brewing)

The downstate brewery, which will celebrate its two-year anniversary on Nov. 15, will once again be releasing its popular “Kringle Beer,” a spiced brown ale, just in time for the holidays. Filled with cinnamon and clover, this 6 percent ABV brew is intended for those who like to drink more than a few per session.

Mispillion will also re-release its “Black Tie Black IPA,” which features lots of roasted coffee and black licorice notes, and is rounded out with El Dorado hops for a finish full of pine notes. Six-pack cans should reach northern Delaware spots like Kreston’s and Premier Wine & Spirits by mid-late November, and will go for between $9.99 and $10.99 per six-pack.

Stewart’s Brewing Company, Bear

Head brewer Ric Hoffman is rather blunt when it comes to popular winter beers: “I’m a traditionalist. I kind of despise the heavily spiced winter beers, and I steer away from putting that god-awful cinnamon and allspice in the brew kettle.”

Well, then … what does Hoffman, a two-decade veteran of brewing and Great American Beer Festival medal-winner, prefer? Simplicity, mostly, in the form of a rye beer, called “Winterfest” that shows off a “nice, medium brown color” at 6 percent ABV.

“We put molasses in the kettle for depth and richness, but I also use the tips of Scottish heather flowers, which bring notes of lavender to the beer,” says Hoffman. “That and hops, of course, along with some vanilla beans; the result is beer’s answer to mulled wine. We’ll have it on tap for the Winter Solstice.”

Hoffman also plans on another showing of Stewart’s “Dark Helmet,” an imperial schwarz bier (strong black lager) by Thanksgiving. The malty flavor but clean finish goes well with big holiday meals, according to Hoffman. He is also planning an imperial stout, called “Destroyer,” which was placed in bourbon barrels last December, and will be aged and ready to go this January, weighing in at 10.5 percent ABV.

Blue Earl Brewing Co., Smyrna

The new kid on the block, Blue Earl opened in May of this year, and is owned and operated by Ron Price, a mechanical engineer by trade and enthusiastic home brewer who first warmed up his kettle in 1992.

Price says that some of his favorite beers to brew are the wintery big boys that carry a high ABV or require oak bourbon barrel aging. Blue Earl currently works off a 15-barrel system and features 12 beers on tap in its tasting room off Rt. 300 in Smyrna.

Blue Earl’s winter lineup will include an American strong ale infused with American bourbon called “Born Under a Bad Sign,” at a whopping 12 percent ABV, along with an imperial porter called “Big Joe,” which is also bourbon barrel aged.

“We also just brewed a Russian imperial stout that will be the darkest and boldest beer we’ve brewed since we opened this past spring,” says Price. “We’ll be distributing that in kegs across Delaware through NKS Distributing in December.”

2SP Brewing Company, Aston, Pa.

2SP Brewing Company’s winter offerings: The Russian, Citrus Rhine’d and Barolo Old Ale. (Photo courtesy of 2SP Brewing Co.)
2SP Brewing Company’s winter offerings: The Russian, Citrus Rhine’d and Barolo Old Ale. (Photo courtesy of 2SP Brewing Co.)

True, 2SP is technically a Pennsylvania brewery, but with such strong roots in Delaware under the Two Stones Pub umbrella, it had to be included in our round-up. Besides, it has got a lot coming down the pike as it continues its late-summer launch of brews, most of which will be on tap at the Newark and North Wilmington restaurants.

Brewer Bob Barrar, formerly of Iron Hill Brewery, is well known for his Russian imperial stout recipe, which just won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for his former employer, Iron Hill (Lancaster store).

Now he brings his talents to 2SP, where he plans to release his “Russian” on Mischief Night (Oct. 30). Following this winter season, 2SP will release its “triple threat” to limited accounts in Delaware.

Those three beers include a bourbon barrel aged Russian imperial stout, a bourbon barrel aged Belgian tripel, and a bourbon barrel aged S.I.P. (or Stigz’s imperial porter, named for founder and president Mike Stiglitz).

In the coming months, 2SP also will be releasing what it calls the “Citrus Rhine’d,” a collaboration between its brewers and Jeff O’Neil, originator of the highly popular “Flower Power,” from Ithaca Beer Co. This imperial pale ale, at 7.5 percent, will feature 88 pounds of Mandarina Bavaria hops, giving it a distinct tangerine and citrus aftertaste.

Iron Hill Brewery, Newark and Wilmington

Beginning in early December, both Iron Hill locations will feature the brewery’s award-winning Russian imperial stout and the “Winter Warmer,” an English brown ale infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and served in a sugar-and-cinnamon-rimmed glass.

But big beer lovers should mark their calendars for Dec. 19, when Iron Hill Wilmington will host its eighth annual Dark Side Party, starting at noon. Iron Hill’s “Dark Side” black lager, at 9 percent ABV, is the star of the show, and pays homage to brewer Brian Finn’s love of Pink Floyd and Star Wars.

“Last year we had Darth Vader and Princes Leia walking around during the event,” says Finn. “It’s a really fun event that’s become more popular each year. At first, we thought it might scare people off, because all we have on tap are black beers. But as people have come around to darker beers, it’s become big.”

The Dark Side Party also falls on the same weekend that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released in theaters. Finn says that they will be raffling off tickets to see the film at Penn Cinema on the Riverfront, all while pouring big, black beers like 2SP’s Russian imperial stout, Firestone Walker’s “Wookie Jack,” and Iron Hill’s new black IPA called “Galaxy Far, Far Away IPA,” which features galaxy hops. The popular dual-purpose hop (for aroma and flavor) has increased in popularity recently, and offers notes of citrus and even passion fruit.