Delaware Today magazine 302 Reads: Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton and owner Sam Calagione develop an all-Delaware beer made from local peaches and pears
Peach Buzz: The first all-Delaware beer uses local peaches, pears and a secret ingredient. Like everything else Dogfish Head does, it’s more than just a beer.
(page 4 of 5)
While explaining to his young daughter Grier and son Sammy how all the land in the world was once one mass, he hatched the idea for a beer that included an ingredient from every continent. Pangaea, released once a year, includes water from Antarctica. The name of Punkin’ Ale, flavored with pumpkin and pie spices, is a nod to the great Sussex tradition we know as Punkin’ Chunkin. When Sam heard a biomolecular archaeologist speak at UPenn about a recipe for a beer-like beverage found in a tomb believed to be that of the mythical king Midas, he decided to make it. When Midas Touch, a dry ale with notes of honey and melon, hit the market, it showed adventurous drinkers that beer could be every bit as complex as wine, which fit right in with Sam’s mission of changing people’s minds about what beer can be.
Inspiration for Dogfish Head brews comes from every quarter, and everyone, employee or consumer, is welcome to contribute ideas. Prall concocted Son’s Love at the pub when his boy was born two years ago. Mariah Calagione, Dogfish Head’s vice president and Sam’s wife, daydreamed the idea for Namaste after yoga class.
Dogfish is also known for the great lengths it will go to to find unusual ingredients. Sometimes that means a 30-mile drive to Wyoming for peaches and berries for its seasonal ales or a 15-minute drive to Lewes Bake Shoppe for coffee beans to use in its Chickory Stout. Sometimes that means journeys to the selva of Paraguay to harvest Palo Santo trees to build a special wooden tank to flavor its Palo Santo Marron. Sam makes two to three trips to far-flung places a year in search of ingredients and ideas.
That’s not to mention the famous collaborations, with both external partners—ethically kindred spirits—and within the company. Inside, Housley got to build her own yeast management lab, Ryan Mazur got to build his own tasting lab, and brewmaster Tim Hawn, fresh from Pabst six months ago, got to create his own beer during his first week at Dogfish Head.
Externally, Dogfish Head has joined with other craft breweries to create unique beers. They include Golden Revolution with Herold Brewery in Prague in 2006, Old Odense Ale with Anders Kissmeyer from Norrebro Bryghus Brewery in Copenhagen in 2007, Portamarillo with Epic brewing of New Zealand last year and, closer to home, Saison du Buff with Victory Brewing Company of Downington, Pa., and another brewery, also last year. After Sam made a presentation about business and marketing to the gang at Google recently, the two created a limited edition brew for its employees. URKontinent (named for the landmass that existed before Pangaea) was a Belgian dubbel that incorporated input from hundreds of Google employees around the world. What’s next—Mark Zuckerbrew?
Collaborations extend past beer. Clothing designer Billy Reid recently released two T-shirt designs painted by Sam. Dogfish has hooked up with Patagonia, long known for its pioneering approach to business and life, to produce high-tech outerwear. And distinctive original artists have designed Dogfish Head labels, such as Jon Langford, a member of alt-band Mekons (a Calagione fave), who designed the labels for four limited-release brews, and rock poster artist Tara McPherson, who did the labels for the brew Fort and Chateau Jiahu. That’s not to mention labels painted by creative Dogfish Head employees, who count a fair number of music geeks among their ranks.
The music geekdom has led to some of Dogfish Head’s most notable collaborations. With Sony Legacy Records, Dogfish Head produced Bitches Brew to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the seminal Miles Davis album; Hellhound on My Ale, to commemorate the 100th birthday of blues man Robert Johnson; and, just a few weeks ago, Faithfull to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s debut record.
All the collaborations are quintessential expressions of Dogfish Head’s philosophy of beer, business, story and creative expression. Sam was listening to “Bitches Brew” when he made his first batch of homebrew. The beer celebrates African roots by using gesho root, brown sugar from Mauritius and Ethiopian honey so raw, it still included bits of bee. (Gross? Not so much. The Dogfish Head team has been known to chew mint leaves or blue corn for some experiments—picture medieval Japanese virgins masticating rice for sake—which has been known to freak out the consumers a little, until they taste the result.)
continues on page 5...