Monday, May 14, 2012

Dogfish Head - An Off-Centered Jaunt

For many craft beer enthusiasts, heading to Delaware to visit those crazy kids at Dogfish Head is quite similar to a pilgrimage to Mecca. Given their growing popularity they are often one of the first breweries embraced by people just entering the wonderful world of real beer. Of course that kind of popularity, i.e. success, has brought some backlash from those who consider themselves to be real "hardcore" and what not. These are the types of people who turn against something they once loved only because too many people now share that same affection.

This happens with music, movies and sports but what the hell is this attitude doing in our fun-loving craft beer world? No matter how over-saturated, popular or gimmicky the disenchanted folks find Dogfish Head, they are still innovating, still brewing stellar beers and still know how to show a beer lover a damn good time.

I had been down to the brewery once before with college friends but more recently I headed down to Rehoboth Beach with the girlfriend for the weekend. Actually, we first stopped in Milton to tour the actual brewery which is undergoing some renovation and expansion. As expected, the tasting room was packed this Saturday morning with fellow beer geeks and  of course some people who just wanted something free to do.

We milled about the extensive gift shop while waiting for the tour and I quickly realized that I have no will power when it comes to badass brewery merch, sue me. The tour group gathered to get our first of four samples the first of which was Sah'tea, one of the most unique beers out there in my opinion. We got a sample of My Antonia before going into the brewery and I got that same "Willy Wonka" feeling that I did  the first time I visited. The tours have gotten a bit bigger and the guides use a mobile speaker but they still manage to keep the intimate and off-centered charm that makes Dogfish so appealing.

We ended up in their large cellar where there are pallets of fresh beer awaiting their departure but the real intriguing part of the room is locked up in a massive cage which houses founder/president/mad-man Sam Calagione's stash of vintage Dogfish Head bottles. They have quite a collection here and I was drooling at the thought of what treasures might be sitting patiently in there. I asked our guide what the most interesting vintage he had tasted, he said that a 2-3 year old Sah'tea really surprised him and was definitely his most memorable. The tour wrapped up and we all wandered back to the gift shop where the samples continued with the brand spanking new Urkontinent. Meridith was most fond of this one and I was equally impressed with its complex individuality. While I debated what I would take home with me the samples ended with some good old Indian Brown which finished things up quite nicely.

The brewery is truly something to see for those of us who enjoy looking at shiny steel or get a little thrill at the sight of barrels sitting in a room. The east coast doesn't have too many of these destination-type breweries so it's just cool to see something on this scale. The creative environment that they've established there seems genuinely ingrained in the people that work there and the laid-back yet passionate attitude is infectious.
For those of you just getting into craft beer Dogfish Head lives up to the reputation that you've built up in your mind. For those of you that have lost that loving feeling I would give them a visit, forget about how pissed you were that you couldn't get a bottle of 120 last year, give the guys another chance to court your tastebuds and focus on the thing that brought you there in the first place...the damn beer.

The weekend continued at the brewpub a short drive away but you're not interested in that, are you?

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
6 Cannery Village Blvd.
Milton, DE 19968


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a fun trip. I went to the brewpub a couple years ago and had a great trip. If you get lucky, they'll have some pub exclusives too which are usually good or at least bizarre.