If you’ve never been to the Blue Ball Barn in Wilmington’s Alapocas Run State Park, it’s worth the trip even when it hasn’t been converted into a beer garden (as it was hen I was there Saturday for the annual beer festival). Part nature museum and part conference hall, the “barn” actually is a modern building with all the appointments one expects.

The annual beer event this year was to benefit “Restore the King” a nonprofit formed by author John Medkeff to fund the reconstruction of the Gambrinus statue that once was featured on Diamond State Brewery, the state’s mot storied pre-Prohibition breweries.

cheers
3rd Wave was among the dozen or so breweries in attendance at the 2016 Restore the Kind fundraiser.

Delaware beer and wine and spirits all together

Even though I write about beer all the time, it was a little shocking to see how many breweries attended the event (as well as wineries and distilleries). Delaware beer now is a thing, which is really cool to see. When I wrote my own book on the subject (which I finished less than a year ago) I didn’t include all the breweries and brew pubs that were open. It just wasn’t possible, as I mentioned in the preface, because they were opening more quickly than I could cover them. Moreover, there were a bunch that hadn’t (I’m pretty sure) even been conceived this time last year.

Since the event was held on Labor Day Saturday, I really didn’t expect the number of beer enthusiasts that turned up. Similarly, I was shocked at the number of breweries who got representatives up and out of bed to be brand ambassadors. At this point, a lot of the public already is on board with craft beer, but it still is nice to be able to talk to someone from the brewery or who at least has an intimate understanding of the brewery culture.

In case you missed it, we’re doing something similar at Shore Craft Beer, trying to put more brewers in touch with more volunteers to make certain that the people pouting the beer actually care about it as well.

Tony Russo
An “expert” is apparently a lonely things to be…

Experts abound (and apparently I’m one of them)

I’ve been speaking at a lot of these events and what never ceases to surprise me is how engaged people are. They want to know about beer, which is a pleasure for someone like me, who wants to talk about beer at length and often. I followed two great talks by beer historians who helped paint a great 3D picture of how Delaware beer became an important part of the state’s identity before prohibition. I spoke (briefly, which for me always is a challenge) about what happened after.

As beer becomes a regional presence, there is a lot of concern about how it will continue to grow and stay strong. One of the ways is to continue making good beer, which all of them seem to be doing. Another way, though, is to continue to ramp up the education aspect of craft beer. To bring accessible beers to the people and convince those who are afraid of the daring tasting beers that there are solid craft beers for them to try that needn’t assault their palate. After drinking those for awhile, most of us come around to the more challenging beers anyway.

Tony Russo
Author: Tony Russo

Tony Russo has worked as a print and digital journalist for the better part of the 21st century, writing for and editing regional weeklies and dailies before joining the team that produces OceanCity.com and ShoreCraftBeer.com among other destination websites. In addition to having documented everything from zoning changes to art movements on the Delmarva Peninsula, Tony has written two books on beer for the History Press. Eastern Shore Beer was published in 2014 and Delaware Beer in 2016. He lives in Delmar, Md. with his wife Kelly and the only of his four daughters who hasn't moved out. Together they keep their two dogs comfortable.

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