Iron Hill Brewery (Newark, DE)

After we finished up in Philly (including a visit to the very pleasant Morris Arboretum, and an attempt to visit Earth Brewing in Mt Airy that was foiled by them taking some vacation time), we decided to head down to Rehoboth Beach.

Along the way, we passed right by Newark, Delaware, so we decided to stop by and check out Iron Hill Brewery. I’ve always had a soft spot for Newark (I actually lived there as a kid from 1974 to 1981), but it’s had a lot of turnover in the 30 years (!) since I lived there. The Gino’s where we’d get chicken and “Gino Giant” burgers is long gone, as are most of the other businesses I remember (although one of my father’s two favorite diners, the Post House, is still alive and well, although Jimmy’s Diner down the way is, sadly, now a Cheeburger Cheeburger). However, one excellent addition to downtown Newark in the mid-90s was a brewery. Since 1996, Iron Hill Brewery has been running a successful brewpub.

First of all, they’ve got the “college town brewpub” vibe locked in. Walking in the door on a Friday evening around 5pm, you can tell that the beer specials during happy hour are bringing in the students, grads, and even a few professors. A lively bar area, dark wood, high top tables for the after-work beer crowd, plentiful seating, and windows in on the brewing operation, they’ve got this part down pat.

As for the beer itself, they’ve got this pretty dialed in as well. Indeed, every time we’ve been to Iron Hill (this was our third visit in recent years), we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how good the beer was, and this visit wasn’t an exception. I started out with an Octoberfest (as an aside, why can’t American brewers spell Oktoberfest correctly?), which wasn’t a bad start: it was a pleasant beer with sweet toasty reddish malts, some caramel notes, and tasting like a nice lager. A bit on the American end of the Octoberfest spectrum, it was pleasant nonetheless.

I followed up with a Pig Iron Porter on cask, which was quite a pleasant, slightly smokey, and very malty porter. Carol opted to start with the Red Dawn, which was a nice Saison brewed with Elderberries. This actually worked quite well, with a mild elderberry taste accompanying the underlying saison.

Foodwise, I opted for the Alpine Burger, a fairly straightforward swiss-cheese burger with bacon and onion rings. The bacon was nicely crips, the burger cooked correctly, and the onion rings decently done (but applied a little heavily). I wasn’t disappointed by this burger, it was decent enough, but, really, this reminded me that the action at Iron Hill was more about the beer than the food. And Carol’s salad elicited similar comments from her. If anything, the only disappointment I had with Iron Hill was the price point. My Alpine Burger was $12, which is a bit steep for such a straightforward burger, and Carol’s fairly basic salad rang in at $15.

Add to that the fact that by getting dinner we weren’t eligible for the Happy Hour beer prices, and this dinner cost us a fair bit more than we would have expected. But they certainly make up for a lot of this with the beer, which remains excellent. We’ll be back, but I’m not sure we’re doing dinner next time.

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