The 20-year backstory behind Newark-area's new golf-themed brewery
It was about 20 years ago when then-Citibank cybersecurity co-workers Dave Markle and Matt Found first kicked around the idea of opening a brewery.
Dogfish Head was only 5 years old at the time, and small nanobreweries were still rare. In the end, it seemed like they would need something close to a $1 million investment to open a production brewery if they wanted to get in the game.
"We did a lot of beer drinking. We had a lot of goals, and Matt homebrewed some amazing beer back then, but it just seemed like a bridge too far. Not realistic," said Markle, 50, of Landenberg, Pennsylvania.
Over the past two decades, microbreweries have swept the country (and Delaware) as Markle and Found continued on with their lives and raised their families.
A couple of years ago, the brewery discussion bubbled up again. With more discretionary income and facing a different brewery market, they decided it was time, and the old golfing buddies began work on Twisted Irons Craft Brewing Co., which opens this weekend near Newark.
"All of a sudden it wasn't a bar napkin anymore. It became a real idea," said Found, 49, who lives in New Castle.
Reservations for the new brewery, located in a converted industrial space at 303 Ruthar Drive in Ogletown, are posted at facebook.com/TwistedIronsCraftBrewingCo in the grand opening weekend event listing. Nearly all of the two-hour blocks were filled.
Twisted Irons' logo is a green hop with a golf flagstick atop with a red flag, a nod to their many afternoons playing their home course, Delcastle Golf Club in Milltown.
Found, the head brewer, said he will have eight beers available when they swing their doors open for the first time, including an IPA, stout, porter, German wheat and a blueberry saison.
The duo hosted a pair of 50-person tasting parties at Found's home in 2019 with each guest ranking the beers, giving them the feedback that led to this weekend's initial selections. Markle even graphed the results and posted them to the brewery's Facebook page.
Found is also COO, and Markle is the CEO, the "head of the spreadsheets" and the one who hammered out the business plan.
While the name Twisted Irons doesn't have a specific story attached, Markle does have one tale about hitting a ball so hard with a new Big Bertha club that the clubhead broke off and flew even farther than the ball. Found fell to the ground laughing.
"It's really just a play on having a sh--ty golf game and deserving a better beer. That's our slogan, 'Your game deserves a better beer,'" said Markle, whose brewery joins Dewey Beach Country Club as one of a few golf-themed beer spots in the state not located on a course.
He stressed that the brewery isn't exclusively for golfers – it's just their favorite sport to play. Visitors can also expect to find sports playing on the five large-screen televisions.
A glowing version of their logo is centered on a wall made of reclaimed wood and brick that makes up the backdrop of the bar, which will host food trucks and live music.
They have also partnered with 2ndKitchen, a business that helps breweries and bars without kitchens to team up with local restaurants. Beer-drinkers will be able to scan a QR code on their table and order food from the nearby Capriotti's Sandwich Shop — orders that will be delivered directly to your seat.
Twisted Irons is cannonballing into an increasingly busy brewing scene in the state, which now boasts more than 30 breweries, ranging from big boys Dogfish Head and Iron Hill to small microbreweries like Middletown's Volunteer Brewing Co. and Dewey Beach's 38º-75º Brewing.
According to delawarebeerhistory.com, three additional breweries are slated for a 2021 opening in Delaware: JAKL Beer Works (Middletown), 1937 Brewery Co. (Delaware Park Casino, Stanton) and Dewey Beer Co.'s new location in Harbeson. Dogfish Head will be opening a new brewery this year as well, but not in the First State. It's located in Miami.
So did Markle and Found have a massive case of fear of missing out as they watched the state's brewing world explode over the past two decades? Not quite.
"I don't remember a specific FOMO thing, but I do remember thinking two or three times, 'I could do that,'" Found said.
When they finally decided to pull the trigger, the pandemic hit during renovations, causing a ripple of delays and expenses.
"It was a great learning opportunity for patience," Found said before Markle immediately interjected: "And spending an exorbitant amount of money.