Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
GORDON KENDALL | Special to The Roanoke Times
There’s a Steampunk-style metal treehouse at Dogfish Head, which views beer as an art form and makes more than 30 brews with a wide variety of ingredients.
GORDON KENDALL | Special to The Roanoke Times
Duane, a tour guide, explains the brewing process. The tours are popular, so booking online in advance is recommended.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
I recently found myself in Delaware. Because I was only a few miles from Milton, home of the innovative Dogfish Head brewery, I cruised over to visit it. The tours are popular, so booking online in advance is recommended.
We drove through bucolic countryside with dairy cattle and emerald fields of corn, grain and other crops. We knew we were approaching the brewery when we saw a group of tall, corrugated metal tanks gleaming in the sunlight. A large portion of the brewery is covered in natural cedar panels, and ongoing construction was evident. As we entered the facility we walked past a peculiar metal treehouse rendered in a Steampunk style.
We gathered around our tour guide, Duane, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable fellow who greeted us with samples of deliciously hoppy 60 Minute IPA served in soy-based biodegradable cups . Dogfish Head is concerned about its carbon footprint and makes an effort to minimize it.
A notebook was passed around that listed the rank of brewers in the United States. It pointed out that large commercial brewers such as Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors control 93 percent of the American beer market. Sam Adams is the largest craft brewer (defined as those producing less than 6 million barrels annually). Dogfish Head weighs in about 13th among craft brewers. The American Homebrewers Association named it Top Ranked Brewery in America in 2011.
Duane recalled the brewery’s early days. Owner Sam Calagione earned an English degree in the early 1990s and worked at a New York City bar that served microbrews. He became fascinated with craft beer and began brewing his own. Soon he was using his degree to write his business plan for a brewery. In 1995, he opened Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats at Rehoboth Beach, Del. He got the name from a small jut of land in Maine where he vacationed as a kid. When lobstermen there retrieve their traps, they often contain more dogfish (small sharks) than lobsters.
While Duane passed around a vial of hop pellets so we could savor the aroma, he shared this bit of Dogfish Head lore: In the mid-’90s, Calagione needed a device that could continuously add hops to the beer boil to capture the hoppy aroma, bitterness and flavor. Calagione rigged a plastic tabletop football game to a bucket filled with hops and placed it over the brew kettle. As the game vibrated, hops fell into the brew. Eventually, the health inspector shut this process down, and in 2002, the brewery moved to Milton, 16 miles away.
Back on the tour, everyone put on safety glasses, and we entered the brewing facility. Duane greeted busy co-workers by name. The first room was filled with large tanks and a huge bin where incoming malted barley is placed into a tank and sprayed with water at 140 degrees so that enzymes can convert the grain starches into fermentable sugars. The grains are crushed and boiled in water . The water is strained from the spent grains, and a wort chiller, resembling a frosty radiator, cools the wort to a temperature that yeast finds amenable. Through a glass window we viewed a yeast room with shiny tanks, metal pipes and gauges that looked similar to the controls of a nuclear submarine. They propagate and maintain several strains of yeast, some of which are exclusive to Dogfish Head.
We entered another room containing massive 10,000-gallon wooden tanks. The tanks were constructed of oak planks perpendicular to the floor wrapped together by tubular metal bands. No nails, screws or glue are used. One tank was made of a darker colored wood called palo santo. Meaning “holy stick,” palo santo grows in Paraguay and is nine times as dense as oak. The folks who built the palo santo tank destroyed 17 diamond-tipped saw blades in the construction process. Palo santo sticks are often burned as incense, giving off a sweet smelling aroma.
We proceeded to the bottling line where bottles of 60 Minute IPA were whizzing by, being filled, labeled, capped and placed into holders and boxes. A worker flexed his muscles for us as he built stacks of cases on pallets to be shipped to thirsty beer drinkers in the 27 states where Dogfish Head is distributed. We walked through the warehouse where shelves stacked with cases of beer towered overhead. Behind a fence, Calagione maintains a special stash where he ages past vintages such as his Worldwide Stout. These potent brews can last for years.
Dogfish Head views beer as an art form and makes more than 30 brews with a wide variety of ingredients. For example, an archaeological find was the inspiration for Midas Touch. A 2,700-year-old drinking vessel that contained residue of a liquid was discovered at an ancient tomb in Turkey. Analysis revealed the presence of barley, honey, grape must and saffron. Midas Touch is brewed with these ingredients. The brew is floral, ages well and has an ambrosia note in the aroma.
Dogfish Head claims to brew “off-centered ales for off-centered people.” Calagione says that means defining goodness for yourself instead of letting the market and media do it for you. That must be why I like his brews so much.
Tasting notes from Dogfish Head
*Prices are approximate and subject to
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPAMilton, Del.
This is a well-made IPA with a light amber color and a foamy white head. The brew displays aromas of citrus and pine cones with a crisp hoppy bite and is very refreshing when served cold. The beer weighs in at 6 percent alcohol by volume, which is light by Dogfish Head’s standards. Try it with a chipotle cheeseburger. $10.50/six-pack
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
If you are looking for a standard by which to judge Imperial IPA’s, this is it. Hops are continuously added during the entire 90 minutes the wort is boiled. The result is profound hop aroma and flavor. The brew has a deep golden color and aromas of caramel malt and citrusy pine cones. It is very rich on the palate, balancing copious amounts of malt with massive hops. Pair it with a rich blue cheese. 90 international bitterness units, 9 percent ABV $10/four-pack
Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu
Calagione believes that beer should tell a story, and this one does. He used the knowledge of a molecular archaeologist to emulate the oldest known recipe of a fermented beverage. Based on residue found in 9,000-year-old jars in China, the brew employs rice, sake yeast, hawthorne fruit, honey and muscat grape juice. The beer is aromatic, light, fresh, slightly sweet and not hoppy or bitter. Try it with sushi. 10 percent ABV $13/750 ml. bottle (Limited)
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
This extremely dense ebony brew has about the same consistency as motor oil that has been in your engine for 20,000 miles. The brew is aged in exotic Palo Santo wood tanks. Exotic aromas of caramel, nutmeg, cocoa and spice waft from the glass. It glides across the palate with a great richness, reminiscent of chocolate chip cookie dough except that it is not sweet. Serve at the end of a meal with dark chocolate. 12 percent ABV $14/four-pack (Limited)
Gordon Kendall’s column on wine and spirits runs monthly in Extra.
Weather JournalComplexities of ice accretion