Cheesetoberfest promises a Gouda time in Dover

Dwayne and Gina Havens, of Dover, toast to Cheesetoberfest at Fordham & Dominion Brewing in Dover last year. Saturday’s event lasts from 1 to 5 p.m. (Delaware State News file photos)

Dwayne and Gina Havens, of Dover, toast to Cheesetoberfest at Fordham & Dominion Brewing in Dover last year. Saturday’s event lasts from 1 to 5 p.m. (Delaware State News file photos)

DOVER — The annual battle for all the cheddar is set again for Saturday as Fordham & Dominion Brewing will hold its Cheesetoberfest at the brewery at 1284 McD Drive off Horsepond Road in Dover.

About 20 Delaware and Maryland restaurants will compete to take home the Grand Cheesemo trophies in both grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese.

The event was declared sold out as of late Thursday. It is the first year that no tickets will be sold at the gate.

In a new wrinkle this year, it won’t just be the panel of judges who will get to decide the coveted title. Patrons will also get a say in this, the festival’s fourth year.

“In the past we’ve had a fan favorite category and then the judges decided the Grand Cheesemo prize. We wanted everyone to control the fate this year so we’re doing a gold, silver and bronze category and eliminating the fan favorite category,” said Ryan Telle, Fordham & Dominion vice president of marketing.

Judges, who include area food and beverage experts and media members, will have their votes counted as 10 points while patrons will have their vote counted once.

Participating restaurants include 33 West, 1861, Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House, Grey Fox Grille, Fromage Cheese

Cheesehead Sarah Bradley of Wyoming enjoys a beer last year.

Cheesehead Sarah Bradley of Wyoming enjoys a beer last year.

Boutique and The Greene Turtle.

Last year, Doc Magrogan’s, The Little Grocer, Meding’s Seafood and Farm a Sea Bistro took home the top prizes in the judged and fan categories.

Mr. Telle said the competition among area eateries has heated up as the event has grown.

“What it really boils down to is people leaving their business on Saturday when it’s really busy. It’s a tough time to sometimes make it over here but they realize it’s a great marketing opportunity for them and a lot of fun,” he said.

Along with all the gooey goodness, brewery staff and volunteers will be pouring Dominion’s Octoberfest and Oak Barrel Stout, along with Fordham Spiced Harvest Ale, Gypsy Lager, Copperhead Ale Cask beer, a 100-pound pumpkin tap and other seasonal brews.

Folks who wear their German finest can dance to the music of the Philadelphia German Brass Band.

The event was started four years ago as an offbeat nod to Oktoberfest.

“We just really just talked about it over a bunch of beers and it was more of a joke. We knew that everyone has a traditional Oktoberfest and we wanted to figure out a way to put a unique, quirky spin on it with our own rendition of German beer, lederhosen and cheese,” he said.

“It got such great feedback the first year, we knew we’d be stupid not to try it again the following year. And now we’re happy to keep putting it on as long as people still want it.”

The first year drew about 500 people with last year’s attendance reaching 1,200. About 650 tickets have already been snapped up this year with VIP tickets sold out.

From left, Shaun O’Brien, Rebecca Armstrong, Magda Torres and Chris Ellenbecker, of Newark, dress the part at last year’s Cheesetoberfest at Fordham & Dominion Brewing in Dover. This year’s event is Saturday at the brewery off of Horsepond Road.

From left, Shaun O’Brien, Rebecca Armstrong, Magda Torres and Chris Ellenbecker, of Newark, dress the part at last year’s Cheesetoberfest at Fordham & Dominion Brewing in Dover. This year’s event is Saturday at the brewery off of Horsepond Road.

Mr. Telle says the brewery would like to keep attendance under control to make it more fun for all involved.

“We want this to be big but not too big where there are long lines for beer and restaurants are running out of food,” Mr. Telle said.

“You start getting more and more people and the harder it is to manage. We want to keep the event as intimate as possible and we think with the big tent that we have out there, that we can do that.”

The giant tent, Mr. Telle said, adds to the feel of a German Oktoberfest.

The event is rain or shine, which earlier in the week was posing more of a problem than it looks likely to now, with Hurricane Matthew expected to veer west of the area.

“We can have it as long as the tent company feels comfortable with putting the tent up and the generators are working. For a while, it didn’t look too good but I woke up this morning at 4 a.m. and saw the radar had it moving right and the tent company called to say they were coming to put it up, so I could breathe a little easier,” Mr. Telle said Wednesday afternoon as he was in the back of the brewery watching the mammoth structure go up.

In another new twist this year, trophies will be awarded to winners of the various activities, which will include a German costume contest, stein hoist and keg toss.

Gates for general admission patrons will open at 1 p.m. and the event lasts until 5 p.m.

For more information, visit www.cheesetoberfest.com.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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