Monday, October 6, 2008

A Burger and a Beer: Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats

Even though I live closer to the Jersey shore than to Delaware’s beaches, over the last few years I’ve taken a keener liking to the first state’s shore points. Maybe it’s a throwback to childhood summer vacations, when my folks packed up the family car and took us to varying beaches on the DelMar peninsula for a week. Or maybe it’s the fact that dogs are welcome on some of Delaware’s beaches starting not long after the season finale of Labor Day. In any event, when it comes to Delaware's fairly short stretch of shoreline, there’s little doubt that Rehoboth Beach is the area’s economic epicenter as well as its focal point when it comes to options for good grub.

Since opening in 1995, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats has been one of the anchors of Rehoboth’s casual dining scene. Maybe “dining” is not the right word, as DFHB&E is first and foremost a brewpub. The food is hearty, straightforward and honest, served in more than ample quantities in an environment that more or less matches the tone of the food. Given the relatively low bar set by the food at all too many brewpubs, I almost always choose a burger when eating at any brewpub for the first time, figuring that if they can’t get it right with a burger (and a beer, of course) then there’s little reason to explore further.

Even though I’d visited Dogfish’s brewpub a couple of times in the past, I could hardly pass up starting over as if from a blank slate. Their headliner, the “Indulgence Burger,” a hefty patty of locally bred beef topped with an onion ring, cheddar and bacon sounded hard to beat. Though there are other burger options available at Dogfish Head, I figured “why bother?” A choice well made, as it turned out. The “Indulgence” is not without room for improvement – the Kaiser roll was a touch meager for the scale of the sandwich and full strips of bacon would have delivered greater depth of flavor than the dried bacon crumbles. Those are minor quibbles, however, as the sandwich was more than satisfying – beefy without being greasy and cooked to a dead-on medium rare, just as ordered. It’s the onion ring, though, that really provides the burger’s signature. Sliced thick (it’s as large as the burger itself) and fried in beer batter made with Dogfish Head’s Shelter Pale Ale, the ring adds a sweet, earthy richness to the meatiness of the burger, pushing the whole combo right over the top.

What to drink with an over-the-top burger? How about an over-the-top beer? Dogfish Head has made a name for themselves producing some of the biggest, boldest and hoppiest beers on the craft brewing market. Their 90-Minute IPA – intensely hopped, rich with malty goodness and exhaling aromas of apricot and caramelized grapefruit – may just be the finest all-around beer in the Dogfish Head lineup. Tipping the scales at 9% ABV, it’s hardly a session beer but it’s well balanced and made a very fine match to the burger.

They got it right – the rudiments, that is – enough so that I was compelled to return again later in the week to explore the beers on tap menu a little further. But that’s another story for another day. This is just about a burger and a beer.

Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
320 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
(302) 226-2739
Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats on Urbanspoon
Exterior photo of restaurant courtesy of Dogfish.com

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3 comments:

Joe Manekin said...

Welcome back, David McD. I do miss Dogfish Head and exploring their beers on tap, uh, I mean menu. In fact I played with a group that gigged there monthly for a while, nice people, good crowds, and always an enjoyable show. That 90 min IPA is definitely over the top, though. Had their 'Punkin' ale last week and it's quite good. Their distribution in the bay area is getting wider.

ryan said...

Never been to the brewery, but I love the beers! Used to sell a lot of them, and still have an old bottle of World Wide Stout aging away on my counter here in Spain!

David McDuff said...

Right on, Joe. We were there just a little too early to catch the bands but it seems like it would be a fun spot to catch some tunes while drinking some good brews. This year's batch of Punkin Ale is pretty tasty, a little drier than previous versions if I'm not mistaken. And a really good match with the sausage trio on the brewpub's Oktoberfest menu.

Hey Ryan,
Glad to hear you're a fan. I took a tour of the main brewery, which I'll probably write-up later this week. The brewery in the pub is much smaller (there's a distillery on-site too) and focuses on producing beers that are poured exclusively at the brewpub. They were pouring Sah'Tea during our visit, an ale based on an old Finnish recipe that's brewed with juniper berries, lemongrass, ginger and black tea. Very refreshing.

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