The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is not your average brewery. To be cliché, they play by their own rules. They brewed an Imperial Pilsner called “Golden Shower” which they were promptly told that they couldn’t sell unless they changed the name. They settled on “Golden Era”, but the fact that they even tried to market the original name shows just how quirky and fun they are.
If you saw Anat Baron’s beer documentary “Beer Wars” you were introduced to Dogfish Head’s founder and President Sam Calagione. Just based on the interviews in the documentary alone, you can tell that Sam is passionate about beer and passionate about pushing the envelope. He will even sacrifice profit to be able to make the beer that he wants.
Calagione wasn’t always one of America’s most famous brewers, though. He worked at a brewpub in New York City during the early 90’s and became fascinated with the quickly growing world of craft beer. He decided to start home brewing and eventually got so good at it the he decided to open up a brew pub of his own in Rehoboth Beach back in 1995.
When the doors opened, they were the smallest brewery in the U.S. Their first brew, Shelter pale ale “was brewed on a system which was essentially three little kegs with propane burners underneath”. Due to having to brew so often (in small batches) to quench the thirst of vacationers and citizens of Rehoboth Beach, they were able to mix it up and experiment with new and exciting recipes. This was where Calagione began his mindset as the mad scientist of the craft world.
The food and drink became so popular that for Dogfish Head, the only possible next step was massive expansion. In 1996, they opened a new brewery attached to the restaurant to fit the demand. In 1999, they finally opened a larger brewery away from the restaurant in order to fully commit to the craft brewing portion of the business. At this time they were bottling five year-round brands in over a dozen states.
In 2002, they moved again. This time into a huge 10,000 square foot brewery and even added a distillery to make rum, vodka, and gin.
Right now, Dogfish Head has eight year-round brews. They are: 60 minute IPA, 90 minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale, Lawnmower, Palo Santo Marron, Raison D’Etre, Shelter Pale Ale and Midas Touch (Brewed with the oldest known beer recipe in the world. It’s an ancient Turkish recipe found in the drinking vessels of King Midas’s tomb from 2700).
At different times in the year, they will also have: Aprihop, Festina Peche, Punkin’ and Chicory Stout. Other random brews with crazy names that are available in some bottles and on top in random magical places: 120 minute IPA (I’ve had this and oh momma!), Burton Baton, Red and White, Black and Blue, Immort, Sah’tea, Theobrama, Chateau Jiahu, Pangea, Olde School, World Wide Stout, Fort, Squall and My Antonia.
Even if you don’t know what all of these brews are (I don’t), you can tell that Calagione and his people are extremely creative and are always trying new and inventive things when it comes to brewing. I love it because it’s only going to open doors for other brewers to do the same and it also makes it so I can imbibe these new and delicious treats. I’m glad people are out there willing to go against the status quo and do things the way they want. Keep it up, I look forward to the next great, strange brew. Sadly, I still don’t know what a dogfish head is though.
*What’s the strangest beer you’ve ever had? Throw me a comment below or throw me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow me on twitter twitter.com/chrisosburn to hear me rant about my lack of suspension of disbelief about teen wolf.
30 year old freelance writer and The Father Life‘s resident beer columnist and sports editor. He also writes about fine beverages for drinkingmadeeasy.com and Chilled Magazine. On top of that, he writes about college and professional lacrosse for insidelacrosse.com. He’s also written for Genesee Valley Parenting Magazine, the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper and ESPN.com. “Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, throw him an email email@example.com. Also, follow him on twitter http://www.twitter.com/chrisosburn