This Saturday, the second year of the Smyrna Craft Beer, Wine and Food Festival will hit the streets of downtown Smyrna, bringing lip-smacking, local eats, Delaware-brewed beer and wine to foodies from near and far.
The event was cooked up in 2012, in part to bring people downtown but also to highlight some of the ethnic food within the community. This year, the festival also plans to give back.
"It's not just about showcasing Smyrna for residents and visitors," said Shirley Sheridan, one of the event's organizers. "We're also giving back and are happy to announce that we'll be able to share some of our resources and profits with the local food pantry and the Boys and Girls Club as well as two other local charities that we're still finalizing the details for."
"Finalizing the details" has taken over Sheridan's life in the last few weeks as she nails down the last elements that she thinks will help make the sophomore year of the festival a success.
"We were really happy with how last year turned out but we've added a few things that I hope people will be pleased with," said Sheridan. "For one thing, we've got a bigger shaded area so that people can get out of the sun if they want to. We've also got some new vendors who I think will compliment last year's vendors nicely."
Some of those vendors include locals like Larry Master's Glass and Hohman's peanuts but organizers have also managed to entice out-of-town artisans, too. Maurice Williams, who participated in last year's inaugural event, will be back this year with his alcohol-infused cigars; Jazzy Glass from Milford will have painted wine glasses; the Home Craft Brewing Company will be on-site with home-brewing supplies and answers to the most pressing questions about making beer at home and Pop's Rock Candles will display and sell a variety of slate rock candles. There will even be a portrait caricaturist this year, literally drawing out the best qualities of people.
And, because the kids seem to like actually having their faces painted on, there will actually be two face-painters this year. There will also be a "bouncy house" and a performance of "Jungle John's Reptile Show."
"The children are really going to enjoy the kid's corner," said Sheridan. "Aside from the face-painting and Jungle John, we've also got Ice Cream Creations set up right next to the inflatables. They'll have lots of ice cream and water ice for everybody."
However, most people will be strolling the streets for the beer, the wine and the food. Like last year, there will be several local restaurants participating. American fare from the Smyrna Diner and SportZone, traditional Irish pub choices courtesy of Sheridan's Irish Pub, Italian cuisine from Trevi Ristorante and the exotic spices of Karibbean Link will help keep bellies full.
Page 2 of 3 - "The food is the same this year," said Joe Sheridan, Shirley's husband and co-organizer. "All our great local restaurants agreed to come back, which means people can sample a lot of what the town has to offer in food."
Another similarity to last year is the wine selection, which will be provided by Southern Wine & Spirits and United Distributors. Last year, they were able to provide wine samples from Auburn Road Vineyards and St. Michaels Winery. This year, Shirley said that people will still be able to sample a great variety of wines.
"The wine list is our last bit of business," said Shirley. "But, I know people are going to get a great selection."
Tapping the Delaware keg
This year's festival also features six regional beer companies as well as several national names like Leinenkugal and Weyerbacker. Nationally, craft beer and home-brewing has exploded in the last several years and people now talk about and experience beer in a way that was once reserved for wine connoisseurs. People want to know about the alcohol content, the locally grown ingredients and, of course, the hops. They always want to know about the hops.
One of the six beer companies making the trek to Smyrna is 16 Mile Brewing Company, which is located in the county seat of Sussex County, Georgetown. Owned and operated by homegrown boys Chad Campbell and Brett McCrea, the guys have seen a lot of growth in the last 3 and ½ years since launching the company within the walls of the 100-year-old barn that also serves as the brewing headquarters.
Both men grew up in Georgetown and it was important to them to add to the local economy but to do something they loved as well.
"We wanted to open a small business in our hometown and we wanted to bring an original product to market," Campbell said last year. "Plus, we had strong interests in the craft beer industry that we combined with our skill sets to put together a business and make beer."
Part of the success of the business might be attributed to the number of local charities and events that the brewery tries to be a part of. The brewery provided the beer for the annual Oyster Eat and they also created a beer, Responders Ale, that gives back to gives back to the National Fallen Firefighters Association, a charity close to the heart of head brewer Michael Pfaffenhauser, who is also Assistant Chief at his firehouse in Slaughter Beach.
As the name of the company increased, so did its services. 16 Mile added a tasting tavern and holds Happy Hour from 5 to 7 p.m. every week. Billed as an indoor tailgating event, for a couple of hours at the end of every week, people can come by, drink a few beers, listen to some live music, and put the work week in the past.
Page 3 of 3 - "There's no pretension here and it's nothing fancy," Campbell said. "It's a very relaxed environment where people can come in, put their guards down, and shoot the breeze with their friends."
Campbell also said that every brewery has its own story and some level of authenticity but he is particularly proud of the developing story of 16 Mile.
"It goes back to us being from here. We're putting our names on the line and naming our business for our local history," Campbell said. "That's the backbone of what we have here. It's exactly who we are."