Dogfish Head Craft Brewery By Sean Creevey
Not many breweries can meet the stature of Dogfish Head; their style, passion, and dedication to their craft has led them to create impeccable brews, bar none. Their journey through the craft world provided them the opportunity to create some of the most unique and tasty brews the world has ever seen. They’ve paved the way for other craft breweries, all the while being conscientious and benevolent. Like all breweries, Dogfish Head has humble beginnings, and I’m going to tell you about how this little brewpub turned into one of the leaders in the craft beer industry.
It all started in 1995 when Dogfish Head Brewing and Eats opened in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where they wanted to bring something new and original to the community. When the Dogfish Head first opened, they were simultaneously the first brewpub in Delaware and the smallest commercial brewery in the country. Shelter Pale Ale, their very first brew, came from a 12-gallon system that needed to be continuously brewing to keep up with the brewpub’s demand. Naturally, brewing the same exact thing all day, every day started to get a little boring, so they added weird new ingredients to spice things up. Thus began their off-centered philosophy on brewing. When good beer is paired together with good food, people start talking, start drinking, and start eating.
Dogfish Head expanded that same year 30-fold in order to meet demand. Only a year later, in 1996, word spread outside the state and they started bottling their Shelter Pale ale. In 1999 they were up to five different bottle brews and selling in12 different states. In 2002, they had to move their production away from their brewpub, so they migrated first to Lewes, Delaware, then finally Milton, Delaware, into a 100,000-Square-foot former canning facility. It was around this time they opened a distillery above the brewpub where they continue to brew vodka, rum, and gin. Currently they produce almost 20 styles of beer, distribute in over 25 states, and created a handful of hand-crafted spirits. The imagination and creativity are unyielding at Dogfish Head, so don’t expect a shortage of off-centered brews anytime soon!
As Dogfish Head grew as a company, they also grew as a community. With love and support for the arts, and their philanthropic “Beer and Benevolence” program, they had solidified their importance in their community. Ever since the brewpub opened in 1995 they have been hosting live music every Friday and Saturday night, not to mention they have a brew series dedicated to some music legends, including Miles Davis and Robert Johnson. They’re currently working on a Grateful Dead tribute ale called American Beauty that’s due out this October. Dogfish Head’s extracurricular activities don’t stop there though; they are dedicated to providing everything they can to help others. The “Beer and Benevolence” program was started to “creatively collaborate with nonprofit organizations to foster community, nourish artistic advancement and cultivate environmental stewardship”. This means anyone in the state of Delaware who would like beer donations for a fundraiser can apply on their website at http://www.dogfish.com/company/beer-benevolence.htm.
Amazing and thoughtful as it is for Dogfish Head to be so conscientious, we mustn’t forget what has led them to be able to help others in the first place…the brews. There are so many different brews that have come out of Dogfish Head, it would take a couple minutes just to recite them all. There are the year-round brews, the seasonal brews, the occasional brews, the brews exclusive to the brewpub, the music series, the ancient series, and they’re all composed of the most interesting and creative libations you can think of. Below is just a sampling of the myriad of brews they make in an attempt to paint a picture of the types of brews Dogfish Head is all about.
From the year-round group of brews there are:
60 Minute IPA
Probably the most recognizable of all their brews, the 60 Minute IPA is continuously hopped for 60 minutes, which means over 60 additions of Northwestern hops in an hour. This is a very session able brew that will keep IPA enthusiasts coming back for more. The hop-centric IPA is very aromatic, citrusy, and grassy without being overly bitter. This IPA comes in at 6% ABV and 60 IBUs, and you’re right, that’s no coincidence.
This oak-aged hybrid is relatively new to the year-round series. This brew mixes together multiple strains of beers, including an English-style old ale and an imperial IPA. The two styles are brewed separately, and then blended together in large oak barrels where they stay for about a month. Together they form a citrusy, mellow vanilla, woody flavor profile that creates a remarkably pleasant drinking experience. This brew is a solid 10% ABV and 70 IBUs, but the wood tends to mellow out the alcohol flavors, so don’t expect to be constantly reminded that you’re drinking a strong brew and enjoy slowly.
Technically part of the ancient series of beers, the inspiration for this brew was found in a 2,700 year old drinking vessel in the tomb of King Midas. Explorers found evidence of barley, honey, and muscat grapes, creating a hybrid of beer, mead, and wine. Staying true to the“recipe,” Dogfish Head uses saffron as the bittering agent since hops weren’t domesticated until much later. Since there are aspects of both beer and wine in this brew it is perfect for enthusiasts of both, not to mention a great introduction to Dogfish Head’s ancient inspiration. With a 9% ABV think about everything that’s happened since this brew was originally crafted, it’s more enjoyable that way.
Palo Santo Marron
A brown ale unlike any brown ale you’ve had before, this roasty and malty libation is aged in a 10,000 gallon Paraguayan Palo Santo barrel that instills the brew with caramel, vanilla, and a little bit of spice. A fun fact about the barrel, it’s the largest wooden brewing vessel in America since pre prohibition era (they have three oak ones right next to it and are working on another Palo Santo currently!). Similar to the Burton Baton, the wood mellows out the alcohol flavor, and at 12% ABV and 50 IBUs, there’s definitely enough to go around.
The occasional rarities include brews from the ancient and music series and tend to be sold in larger bottles (750ml).
Red & White
At the heart of Dogfish Head’s off-centered philosophy is the idea of combining things that others don’t, including beer and wine. The idea for this brew came during a beer and wine tasting when their brewmasters found that mixing a Belgian wit with a Northwestern Pinot Noir tasted fantastic. Thus, Red & White was born, combining a Belgian-style witbier brewed with orange peel and coriander with pinot noir must, and then fermenting a portion of the batch in their oak barrels. The resulting brew is a dynamic duo of the refreshing citrus qualities of a witbier with the bold, robust qualities of a pinot noir. Drink some now, and drink some later, this brew is perfect for aging. 10% ABV and only brewed once a year, grab a couple when you can!
World Wide Stout
Brewed with a ridiculous amount of barley, World Wide Stout is dark, roasty and complex. Dogfish Head first released this stout in the winter of 1999 and it has only gotten better with age. This Ageable Ale clocks in at 15-20% ABV and has a depth more in line with a fine port than with a can of cheap, mass-marketed beer. After some time in your beer cellar, the heat of the booze fades into the background and the port notes and roastiness take over. Grab a couple for immediate enjoyment and a couple to age in the cellar for a great stout anytime of the year.
From ancient inspiration to modern day techniques, and from rum to pickles, Dogfish Head has something to offer everyone. Check out their website at www.dogfish.com for information on where to find their brews, about those brews, and how to open those brews with a wooden bottle opener. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is proudly distributed throughout Western Pennsylvania by Vecenie Distributing Company, found at www.beersince1933.com.