Iron Hill brewpub among new attractions

Governor John Carney visited Rehoboth Beach just before Memorial Day weekend to check in with businesses prepping for the onslaught of the summer season.

“We're excited about the start of the summer season,” he said. “It's really important for the state of Delaware and Sussex County.”

According to the Delaware Tourism Office, the First State hosted 9 million visitors in 2016, and those visitors generated over $500 million in tax revenue. Without tourism, most of which is concentrated at Sussex’s beaches, each Delaware household would pay an additional $1,434 in taxes.

Iron Hill at the beach

Carney was joined in Rehoboth with Delaware Division of Small Business Director Linda Parkowski. The two started their day off touring the new Iron Hill Brewery and restaurant on Route 1, which is perhaps the heaviest hitter amongst new businesses at the beach this year. The tourism industry is also the fourth-largest private employer in the state, and the new Iron Hill Brewery adds 100 more jobs to the mix.

The 100,000 square foot Iron Hill opened Memorial Day Weekend. It is the fourteenth location for the Newark craft brewers, their third in Delaware and first in Sussex County. The brewpub seats up to 400 people at capacity, opens at 11:30 a.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. on weekends and has an open-ended closing time.

Despite being a brewpub, regional manager Clint Watkins said their business design is that of a restaurant.

“We’ll serve dinner until 11 or midnight, if there are people here,” he said.

Speaking of brewpubs, Iron Hill is apparently very friendly with Dogfish Head, Rehoboth’s original craft beer destination and claim to fame.

“Sam [Calagione, Dogfish Head founder] has been really supportive of us since day one,” Watkins said.

Iron Hill’s menu style is eclectic modern American, with an entrée price range of $16-30. Between 16-18 beers will be featured on tap, all of which are brewed on site. Cans and growlers will also be sold to-go.

The Rehoboth Beach restaurant scene may be second only to the beach on the list of reasons to visit the area. Joining Iron Hill in the freshman dining class this year are several other restaurants. Azzurro, featuring traditional Italian dining from owners Francesco and Tonya Agostino, has opened in the former Papa Grande’s facility on Second Street. Houston White, an upscale New York-style steakhouse by eminent Rehoboth restauranteur Megan Kee, opened recently on Rehoboth Avenue.

Carney visited some of the Rehoboth Avenue restaurant mainstays during his day at the beach, checking in on construction at the Dogfish Head brewpub and its slightly more upscale sister restaurant next door, Chesapeake & Maine. He also visited Grotto Pizza and spent some time in the kitchen stretching dough and creating the signature swirl.

Shopping small at the beach

Rehoboth Beach is known for its vast selection of one-of-a-kind shops; shopping is another big tourism draw. Carney popped in several stores on Penny Lane, a walkable alley between Rehoboth and Wilmington Avenues. He spoke with business owners at The Sunglass Company, which has been on Penny Lane for over 20 years, and at Electric Fish, a IQ lights vendor that was just preparing to open. Optimism abounded.

“They all have a very positive attitude; they’re very excited about the summer season,” Carney said. “There are some pretty interesting small business owners with unique ideas here.”

From Penny Lane, the governor enjoyed ice cream from The Ice Cream Store, taffy from Dolle’s and – his favorite – fries from Thrasher’s. His last stop in town was the ever-popular Browseabout Books, also a favorite of former Vice President Joe Biden.

According to Carney, the reason the Delaware beaches are so popular is obvious.

“It’s cheaper, we have some of the best beaches in the country and it’s easy to get here,” the governor said. “It’s just a great place to be.”