Motivated in part by the success of Dogfish Head in Milton, several craft breweries have popped up in southern Delaware over the last few years. In fact, you can now taste a different version of locally brewed beer every day for nearly a month, without ever trying the same one a second time.
Today, we’re going to feature one of these locally owned and operated southern Delaware breweries, this one located just a few miles west of the beach in the Sussex County Seat of Georgetown.
16 Mile Brewery was founded in 2009 by Georgetown natives Brett McCrea and Chad Campbell and has since achieved quite the following in the southern reaches of the nation’s First State.
Their brewery and tavern on South Bedford Street, in the heart of Sussex County, has become a gathering place of sorts. Many events are held on 16 Mile’s grounds every month, and the Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce’s farmer’s market now calls the brewery home during the summer and fall months.
Click below for a Virtual Reality tour of 16 Mile's Tavern on South Bedford Street in Georgetown.
But before we talk too much about the products offered by 16 Mile Brewery, or the community’s support of it, let’s talk a bit about the name.
What does it mean? It seems like such a strange name, after all. There's no “16 Mile” marker on the local road, no local band named “16 Mile,” seemingly no reason to tag your home town brewery with such an odd name.
Ah, but there is a reason! And if you were born and raised in Georgetown, or possibly even elsewhere in Sussex County, you know the meaning and the history behind it. In the end, it was really a brilliant choice by McCrea and Campbell, one that resonated immediately with the locals.
As many local history lovers already know, Sussex County’s original seat of government was located in Lewes, on the very eastern fringes of the county. That changed in the late 18th century after more than 900 residents of central and western Sussex generated a petition urging local leadership to move the County Seat to a more centralized location.
It was a pretty difficult drive in those days, especially if you were coming from Seaford and Laurel, or other towns in the western third of the county.
Legislators finally agreed and the Sussex County Seat was officially moved to Georgetown in 1791. And there couldn’t be a more centralized location for county government than in "Pettyjohn's Old Field," as it was originally called in documents of the time. There’s no question about that.
An author by the name of William Wade later did a little homework, took some measurements and wrote a book called “Sixteen Miles from Anywhere,” all about Georgetown.
In essence, the claim was made and affirmed that the Sussex County Seat was located “about 16 miles” from anywhere in the county. Thus the name of the book and, generations later, the name for the town’s only brewery.
Back in 2009, during the early days of 16 Mile Brewery, the staff was very small (really just McCrea and Campbell, for the most part) and they produced just three local brews, each of which had a bit of local history behind it.
Amber Sun Ale bottles feature the Lewes area’s Breakwater Lighthouse, silhouetted against a rising sun. Old Court Ale displayed the old Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown and Blues’ Golden Ale was named after Delaware’s Revolutionary War regiment, the Delaware Blues.
Below, 16 Mile founders Chad Campbell, left, and Brett McCrea in 2010, years before the popular tavern on South Bedford Street became a reality. Today, McCrea is the sole owner of the Georgetown brewery.
The company’s innovative bottle designs have even won national awards and been featured on the Las Vegas Strip and even on the big video board in, of all places, New York’s Times Square.
The company’s bottles are so unique that they’ve been found in such far-reaching places as Australia and the Philippines, bought by collectors on the Internet. And on every bottle are the words “Brewed and Bottled by 16 Mile Brewing Company in Georgetown, Delaware.”
The brewery has grown by leaps and bounds since those early days, now producing nearly a dozen regular, seasonal and limited edition local brews. And it’s connection to Georgetown has grown as well, with the community descending on the brewery grounds for a multitude of special events, or just to sit and enjoy a beer on a Friday or Saturday night.
The brewery plays host to musical events during the warm weather months, hosts the aforementioned Georgetown Farmer’s Market and conducts tours of it’s facility on a regular basis. They even host a crazy event every January, where Christmas trees are collected from community members and burned in glorious fashion.
16 Mile Owner Brett McCrea at January's tree burning event in Georgetown.
At every event, of course, 16 Mile’s brews are readily available and eagerly consumed by the masses.
And that, at the end of the day, is really what it’s all about for this locally owned and operated brewing company.