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The Beer Circle » 16 Mile Brewing Co., Breweries » 16 Mile Brewing Company – Georgetown, DE

16 Mile Brewing Company – Georgetown, DE

Recently I drove out to the DelMarVa (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Peninsula and visited 16 Mile Brewing Company in Georgetown, Delaware.

The name “16 Mile” itself is an homage to local Sussex county history. In the late 1700’s the county government was looking to move the capital from Lewes, located in the north-east of the county on the coast. Since interstate highways were still about 200 years away, the legislators needed to find a location that was more centralized. They chose Georgetown as the county seat since it was “16 miles from anywhere in the county,” making it easier for county residents to take care of official business.

My wife and I went on a tour conducted by co-owner Brett McCrea. Brett grew up in Georgetown but left for school and worked overseas for many years. Georgetown was always in his blood and he was drawn back to the area. As Brett put it, “I grew up about 200 yards south of the brewery and now live about 300 yards east.”

16 Mile opened their doors in 2009 and have quickly grown. Unlike many breweries, they decided to limit growth so that they can remain deeply involved in the entire brewing process. In 2011, 16 Mile produced 850 barrels and have a capacity to grow to 4000 barrels per year. They are currently undergoing a facility expansion that will increase the walk-in cooler size and house additional fermentation tanks. Once the expansion is completed sometime in 2013, the brewery will have increased their capacity to 10,000 barrels per year. Even with this expansion, their distribution will remain focused on Delaware and adjacent states: Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Brett spent many years working in London and grew to love the English style of beers: so much so that 16 Mile’s beers use imported English malt to provide the quintessential English flavor. In fact, over 80% of their malt is imported from Engliand and ground on-site using their own grist mill. To me, the grist mill is the best example of what 16 Mile Brewing aims to achieve: hands-on control of the brewing process to ensure consistent quality. They want to provide well-made beers in small batches to a small distribution area. Even the brew kettle is small. The 15 barrel capacity allows 16 Mile to produce 170 cases or 30 half barrels at one time before heading off to the fermenters: three 30 barrel and one 15 barrel.

If you happen to live in 16 Mile’s current distribution area you may be familiar with the 22oz aluminmum bottles that 16 Mile used. However, greater demand forced the move to regular glass bottles. They were running out of storage area and had to purchase between 30,000 – 50,000 units of the bottles for each of the beers at any one time. Moving to a glass bottle system allows them to standardize on one format with the use of labels.

As with everything at 16 Mile, the bottling line isn’t some mammoth structure since the owners are “brewers, tour guides, forklift operators and do pretty much everything else that needs to be done.”

16 Mile doesn’t dream to become a major craft brewery with their own TV show. But, at the same time, Brett doesn’t knock other breweries and what they aim to become. Also, while many breweries are getting involved in today’s hot craft beer trends (barrel aging, sour ales, etc.), 16 Mile wants to deliver good everyday beers that will appeal to those looking for something “normal” yet well made. You might call 16 Mile a gateway brewery. You can use them as a springboard to something bolder if you desire. 16 Mile isn’t totally going it alone. They are making their first collaboration beers that stray beyond the classic syles. Unfortunately, 16 Mile wasn’t forthcoming with the names of the breweries that they are working with but did say that the other breweries are taking the lead with developing the beer. The Hot Fudge Sundae Stout was good but there was not enough caramel and chocolate taste. The Eastern Chef Brew missed the mark. I believe that it was aiming to be a Belgian Ale because of the use of sumac, coriander, and figs. However, figs and the spices gave it a bit of a rotten egg aroma.

16 Mile is a good local brewery. They aren’t going to set the world on fire but all of their beers are approachable. Tthe hands-on style ensures that you are getting a quality brew to enjoy.

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Written by Bob Pack

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

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