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Crooked Hammock heads south as Burley Oak arrives in Delmar

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Artist rendering of the Crooked Hammock campus at Barefoot Landing in South Carolina | PHOTO COURTESY GINA VASSELLI

Two craft breweries are making major moves, with one Delaware beach favorite expanding operations in South Carolina and a small but popular  Delmarva brewery tapping into the First State.

Crooked Hammock Brewery in Lewes is headed to North Myrtle Beach, S.C., with a restaurant and brewery that will be twice the size of both of its Delaware locations. With three buildings, Crooked Hammock will have a 5,500-square-foot brewery, an 8,000-square-foot restaurant surrounded by its backyard and a 1,800-square-foot island bar. It is on target to open this month.

“We’re excited to enter a new market, and it’s a great fit for our vision and strategy, as well as our brand,” Crooked Hammock owner Rich Garrahan said in an emailed statement to the Delaware Business Times. “When we first opened, we envisioned heading south with the concept … North Myrtle Beach offers a rare situation to establish Crooked Hammock beers as one of the first craft beers in the area, offering a great opportunity in a market craving for craft.”

Garrahan first launched Crooked Hammock in 2015 after leaving behind a career in finance, and the brewery later expanded to Middletown to “grow more roots.” But while Delaware will always be home, he said Crooked Hammock needed to look beyond the First State if it wanted to achieve his dream of becoming a regional brand.

“Brewpubs are currently restricted to only three in the great state of Delaware, so we want to take our time to decide where the last brewery could be located,” Garrahan said. “We’ve always envisioned ourselves as a regional brand from the Mid-Atlantic to the Southeast.”

North Myrtle Beach makes sense in terms of great demographics and its warmer climate, he added. 

Crooked Hammock will be the latest addition to Barefoot Landing, a retail center with waterfront restaurants that blends the walking paths of boardwalks and breweries that is owned by real estate investment trust Burroughs & Chapin. The brewery’s island bar will be floating over a lake on the property.

Meanwhile, Burley Oak Brewing Company in Berlin, Md., is branching over the border into Delaware. The Eastern Shore brewery has taken over the lease of the former 3rd Wave Brewing Company in Delmar, a town that is split on the Maryland-Delaware state border. 3rd Wave closed its doors in the fall of 2020.

“To be honest, it wasn’t as if it was considered a Delaware expansion. It was an opportunity for a second location that we took,” Burley Oak Brewing Events and Promotions Manager Arie Hantske said. “But there are some benefits with increased distribution and a foothold in the Delaware market.”

The location, dubbed the Loakal Branch after Burley Oak’s motto “Drink Loakal,” opened for business in December after renovating the taproom to fall more in line with the brewery’s feel. Delaware food trucks are also there, doubling down on that local business identity.

The Delmar location also comes with a canning machine, so Burley Oak can also start canning if and when it wants to start further expansion. Throughout the pandemic, Burley Oak has turned to shipping cans of its beers overseas to Japan, China, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, according to Hantske.

“When COVID happened and closed the taproom and distribution limit, shipping full containers overseas probably helped us keep the lights on those months,” Hantske said. “Nothing will beat the profit margins in the taproom, because those are just insane. But I would imagine that adding the canning in Delmar really makes distribution potentially limitless.”

Started first as a homebrew operation by Bryan Brushmiller in 2009, Burley Oak has exploded as a regional business, drawing thousands of craft beer fans from all over. Since the brewery opened in Berlin, it has since grown its footprint, and later opened a cafe and retail store in town. Burley Cafe has since closed, but Brushmiller then bought The Globe, a historic restaurant in town. After renovations, Brushmiller reopened the restaurant in September.

When asked whether Burley Oak had plans to invest in Delmar as it had with the Eastern Shore town, Hantske said that would depend on the market. However, the brewery is planning to open a taco eatery Uno Mas Taco in Delmar.

“The Delmar location really gives us the chance to return to our roots to make funky, cool beer in smaller batches and be a little more flexible with what we brew, and Uno Mas Taco could provide something a little different in Delmar,” Hantske said. “If the opportunity came [for future investments in the town] I’m sure we would be open to it.”

By Katie Tabeling

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