Dogfish to Expand

Local officials approve major expansion plans

After hearing residents’ complaints about noise and traffic, local officials unanimously approved a major expansion of Dogfish Head Brewing in Milton, Delaware.

The brewery, which began as a 100,000-square-foot facility in 2002, has grown in sales by an average of 40 percent per year since it was founded, say its owners. Today, the brewery produces 75,000 barrels of beer a year. In 2009, it added 26 more jobs.

To continue to grow, more brewing tanks are needed, along with larger office space for its 70 employees and still-growing staffing needs, owners say.

But local residents of say that while they don’t oppose the nearby brewery, trucks roar by their homes daily, and compressors hiss in their back yards. A sparse stand of trees needs to be beefed up, they say, to help cut down noise. They say contention has been brewing for years.

Complaints led code enforcement officers to check noise levels, but the brewery has not violated town code or been found to be operating outside the law. Supporters point out the brewery is located in a light-industrial district where such business is permitted. They say the business was established before the gabled, craftsman-styled homes nearby were built.

After a three-hour discussion, the local zoning commission unanimously approved preliminary site plans – with some conditions, including the planting of 7-foot tall leyland cypress trees – before expansion plans for an office building and an outdoor tank farm move ahead. Dogfish executives have said all along they’ve been proactive on responding to residents’ complaints as a good neighbor in good faith.

Dogfish Head brewery Chief Operating Officer Nick Benz unveiled plans for Phase 1 that include a two-story wood, glass and metal office space. The first floor includes a visitor entrance and beer-tasting bar, similar to current floor plans. Unlike the current building, however, the second floor would overlook an outdoor pedestrian plaza. Inside, it would contain cubicles for the administrative, marketing and executive offices. “Everything we’re attempting to do is make this a first-class destination,” said Benz.

Plans for Phase 2 call for building 18 fermentation tanks, each 46 feet high, that would line the front of the new façade. Only six of them would be built in Phase 2. All of the tanks would be partially covered by a decorative scrim.