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First State Brewing Company nears opening after six years of planning

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

Paul Hester and his team at First State Brewing Company have been waiting for this moment for six years.

During the last decade, craft beer has soared in popularity and First State was hoping to be among the first microbreweries in Delaware to follow the trend. But delays caused it to not open when planned. Now in 2020, the brewery is finally getting ready to open its doors in Middletown.

“It has been quite a long adventure for us to get to where we are,” Hester, the founder of First State Brewing Company, said.

First State Brewing Company will open its 3,500-square-foot taproom at 109 Patriot Drive in Middletown in the Levels Business Park, off Route 299.

He said they want customers to have a “true brewery experience” when they come into their taproom, as opposed to a brewpub — a restaurant that brews its own beer.

First State will have a full kitchen that will provide food that will compliment their beers, which will range from hoppy IPAs to Belgian style beers, but the focus is on the beer rather than the food.

Juicy New England IPAs, traditional West Coast IPAs, blondes and triple Belgians are just of the beers First State Brewing plans to sell.

“We want to offer our guests a variety of beers and there are such vast array styles out there, that we don't want to pigeonhole ourselves into one particular focus,” Hester said.

First State Brewing Company will open its 3,500-square-foot taproom at 109 Patriot Drive in Middletown in the Levels Business Park, off Route 299.

While they don’t want to focus too heavily on one style of beer, he said they want to make “beer-flavored beer,” referring to sours and pastry stouts that have fruity and dessert flavors that stray from the norm.

“I think the industry has gone a little too far in the sour direction, getting away from more traditional stuff,” he said. “We want to be very innovative and experiment. We will do some sours, but it just won't be our focus. We might dabble with some of the trendy pastry stouts where everybody is putting Oreos and fruity pebbles in beers, but again, we want to make beer-flavored beer.”

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As for the food, Hester said it was important for them to have options that pair well with their beers, but also incorporate them in the recipes.

For First State Brewing, this meant lots of cheese.

Cheese boards, fried cheese curds and cheeseburgers are just a few of the items featured on the menu for customers to have with their favorite beer. Hester said they will have pre-curated beer and cheese pairings, so people will know what cheeses go best with their beer of choice.

“We have a big focus on general beer education. We want to give folks a true craft brewery experience through educating them on beer styles to beer serving approaches,” he said. “We are very passionate about beer education and we want to pass that along to our guests.”

Sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches and a few desserts will also be on the menu.

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Hester said the serving style will be different from other breweries in Delaware. Instead people being waited on by serves, customers will order at the counter and then seat themselves.

“We have a modern industrial kind of vibe. We are absolutely family friendly, but at the same time a lot of places in our general area are more of brewpub. We are more of traditional microbrewery,” he said. “It’s family friendly, but more of a beer-garden style.”

First State Brewing Company will open its 3,500-square-foot taproom at 109 Patriot Drive in Middletown in the Levels Business Park, off Route 299.

First State Brewing is not the first brewery to pop up in Middletown during the past decade, with Volunteer Brewing Company and Crooked Hammock in the area, but he said they have a specific plan to set them apart from the other businesses in the region.

“We have just created an atmosphere and products that reflect what we want out of a brewery if we were there as guests and patrons,” he said. “There are a lot of folks making great beer in the state in the broader region, so we are kind of just going to do our own thing.”

First State is nearly ready to open: they have most of their permits, their kitchen and taproom is ready, and they have all their raw ingredients to brew beer. They are just waiting on their permit that allows them to make the beer. Hester said they submitted for it in August, but it has taken much longer to get than they expected.

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Until the permit is in their hands, First State will not have an official opening date, but he said they should be ready to open about one month after they receive the permit.

For more information about First State Brewing Company, visit firststatebrewing.com.