Pulling off a beer festival is hard enough, but having it in two states in one day is quite the task.
And for Saturday's Brews by the Bay, held in both Lewes and Cape May, things just got trickier.
The six-year-old festival, which will feature 40 breweries including nearly every indie Delaware craft brewery, will keep the festival beer flowing on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry with its first one-time-only specialty brew.
The Delaware Brewers Guild and Garden State Craft Brewers Guild teamed up for the first time to create a special Dutch-influenced golden ale at Dogfish Head -- a brewing collaboration that included a visit and helping hand from Dogfish founder Sam Calagione.
It honors the mercantile history of both states with Indonesian spices like cardamom, along with lemon, lemongrass and hibiscus, giving it a pink hue. It clocks in at 6 percent ABV.
In order to pull off the floating festival, organizers had to obtain a gathering permit from Delaware's Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
"We have to wait until we cross the line into Delaware territory and then we'll tap the keg," says John Klein, president of the Delaware Brewers Guild and Dogfish Head's research and development manager. "It's a gathering permit, but for this it's really like a moving permit."
The unique beer festival has a lot of moving parts. This is how Brews by the Bay works:
The festival kicks off at 11:30 a.m. in Cape May on a manicured lawn near the ferry terminal, running until 3:30 p.m. with festivalgoers getting 15 four-ounce samples before everyone boards the ferry for an 85-minute cruise across the bay.
Once on the other side, the festival rages for another four hours at the Lewes terminal's own posh lawn with unlimited samples and a sunset that vacationers go gaga over. (Different state laws account for the different sampling rules on each side.)
"I'm pretty sure we're the only beer festival that spans a bay with a big frickin' boat in the middle," Klein says.
Festivalgoers can participate in as much or as little of the dog-friendly festival as they want. And while beer fans don't have to gulp on both sides of the Delaware Bay, the majority of last year's 1,000 attendees did just that.
"That's a lot of drinking, to be honest," Klein says, advising festivalgoers to pace drinks, hydrate with water and eat throughout the day. All measures are key to surviving the 8-1/2 hour beer fest.
"No one should be intimated by the festival thinking they have to spend eight hours drinking beer. I don't recommend that for anybody," adds Ryan Krill, president of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild and president and co-founder of Cape May Brewing Company.
Tickets are $40 if you're only doing one side and it's $70 if you're in for the full experience. Only those with the $70 passes will get to taste the specialty ale on the 2:30 p.m.-departing ferry.
On each side of the bay, there will be lawn games like corn hole, food trucks and live music at the bring-your-own-chair festival. Delaware will offer Havre de Grace-based beatboxing songwriter Nate McCormick (4-6 p.m.) and Bear-based four-piece Barrelhouse Blues Band (6-8 p.m.) while New Jersey hosts three sets by Belmar's own Pepperwine, a soul-and-blues-based rock quartet.
With all of the festival's permit-wrangling and organizing behind them, the sixth annual Brews by the Bay is ready to set sail. All they need now is a thirsty crowd.
"Running a beer festival for a guild in one state is already complicated enough. And then coordinating a second state guild with a bi-state governmental entity [Delaware River & Bay Authority] in between is really a lot coordinating," Krill says. "But it's really rewarding because it makes it really is one of the most unique craft beer experiences that we know."
Pike Creek's Lindsey Timberman attended the inaugural Brews by the Bay in 2011 when it was a Delaware-only event and returned last year to double dip on both sides of the bay.
"It's very beachy and a great way to end the summer," says Timberman, publisher of Delaware Hop Scene, an online Delaware beer news source. "You have to remember it's a marathon and not a sprint. It's a long day. We paced ourselves and by the time we got to the Delaware side, we were in much better shape than some people. It's intense."
IF YOU GO
What: Brews by the Bay
When: Saturday Sept. 10, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Where: 1200 Sandman Blvd., North Cape May, New Jersey (11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.) and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal on Cape Henlopen Drive (4-8 p.m.)
Cost: $70 ("Full Experience" access to both Delaware and New Jersey festivals with a walk-on round-trip ferry ticket) or $40 for Delaware or New Jersey only. It costs $5-$20 for designated drivers and is free for all 16 and younger.
Breweries: Delaware (16 Mile, 3rd Wave, Argilla, Bellefonte, Big Oyster, Blue Earl, Brick Works, Crooked Hammock, Dogfish Head, Fordham & Dominion, Frozen Toes, Iron Hill, Mispillion River, Revelation, Stewart's and Twin Lakes) and New Jersey (Backward Flag, Forgotten Boardwalk, Rinn Duin, Screamin Hill, Dark City, Cape May, Brotherton, Slack Tide, Flying Fish, 7 Mile, Trap Rock, Carton, Spellbound, Tonewood, Kane, Lunacy, Flounder, Tuckahoe, Double Nickel, Ship Bottom, Ludlam Island, Jughandle, Iron Hill and Tun Tavern)
Music: Delaware (Nate McCormick 4-6 p.m. and Barrelhouse Blues Band 6-8 p.m.) and New Jersey (Pepperwine)
Food trucks: Delaware (Taco Reho, Vittles Food Truck and Zoggs Raw Bar's Sea Hogg Street Eats n' Catering Food Truck) and New Jersey (Say Cheese, Empanada Mama's, Kona Ice, Rio Station)
Tickets: brewsbythebay.ticketleap.com. Tickets will also be on sale on the day of the event at the gate and each will cost $5 more than the online price.