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Dogfish Head Brewing: Fishing the crafty way

Our Journey

Dogfish Head Brewing, located in the lovely state of Delaware, has an outstanding record that many new craft breweries find it nearly impossible to duplicate.  These folks have gone from the smallest commercial brewery in the United States, to a multi-faceted miracle in the space of just two decades.  While you might think that is a lot of time overall, it is not at all when you consider exactly how far this brewing company has come in their journey.  Starting out with just a brewpub and a couple of kettles, they’ve developed so much that they now have a great variety of areas covered that include:

  • Brewery
  • Brewpub
  • Inn
  • Restaurant
  • Distillery
  • Country-wide events list

Not impressive enough for you?  How about the 20 different craft beers, half a dozen spirits, amazing food cooked on a wood burning grill at their brewpub, and sales contracts in over 25 states across the United States?  Pretty intense for a brewery that opened just two decades ago in 1995, right?

Catching a Dogfish has never been easier!

As we stated, with sales contracts in over 25 states, this company has availability down to a science.  You can catch a Dogfish brew in over half of the United States!  We think that is just great, especially considering the outstanding quality of their craft beer and hand-crafted spirits.  However, let’s go back to the beginning and see exactly where they started and how they got to where they are now.

Small beginnings in a small place

The folks at Dogfish Head Brewing started out small.  When we say small, we mean tiny.  There is a reason they were considered the smallest commercial brewery in the United States.  In the beginning, they were located right in the brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  Local patrons of the pub were drawn by the wood burning grill, the amazing food, and the outstanding brew these folks produced.  However, brewing 12-gallon batches of craft beer that was quickly exhausted by the pub was going to get old fast, and it did.

Within just one year they realized an expansion of the brewpub and the brewing operation were going to be needed, and fast.  They already could not keep up with the demand of the brewpub, let alone the rising demand for bottled brews from local vendors.  An expansion was in order and DFH staff were up to the task.  Their Shelter Pale Ale was already being bottled and they needed room for a bigger production facility.  It was clear that the brewery would have to be moved and that is exactly what they did.

Moving the brewery and bottling production to Milton, Delaware was the easiest solution to a growing demand for their craft beer.  The popularity of the brews can easily be attributed to that wood burning grill back at the brewpub, which drew in so many guests from the start.  People love food nearly as much as they love a great craft beer, and once they realized the people at DFH could produce both, they were hooked.  Soon the brewing company was receiving requests for sales contracts from neighboring states as well, and they would have to expand yet again to meet the growing demands.

Twenty years have seen four expansions, accumulated a total of 20 craft brews sold in more than 25 states, several lovely hand-crafted spirits (prompted by the expansion of the brewpub to include an upstairs distillery during one expansion spree), and a reputation for excellence that is hard to match.  While we realize that many commercial craft breweries can lay claim to large sales lists and more, the beginnings of this company, and their dedication to excellence and innovation, are truly hard to dismiss.

This picture shows the old style for the Dogfish Head labels (Olde School Barleywine featured)New look for great brews and outdoor art that we find to be inspiring

Recently, the folks at DFH undertook the task of a label redesign for all their brews.  The new, more streamlined look, seems to truly set off the classic quality of their brews.  We love the simplicity of their design and look forward to seeing if they will be coming up with any artistic labels in the future.  We’ve seen several breweries turn to this practice in order to show their support of the Arts and we’re pretty sure the folks at DFH have something up their collective sleeves for the future as well.  After all, they must have to be turning out so many delicious brews!

As for the support of the Arts, you cannot miss how well these folks are connected to art.  Right when you arrive, you will find it hard to miss the gorgeous Steampunk Treehouse outside.  The structure is absolutely astounding and we were quite impressed to see such an open invitation to the Art world to “come on in”, as that is the exact feeling you get about this brewery from the grounds and available sights and foods, to the welcoming staff who work here.

In addition, the tasting room of the brewery features an Earth-friendly bar that is made of recycled beer bottles!  Want more proof of their dedication to community, art, and great craft beer?  Look up at the ceiling while you’re tasting their brews, because there is a wealth of history right there on the ceiling, framed and found by local artists and employees themselves.  That kind of support is hard to find in a world that is turning away from the Arts quickly.  They even have what they call the “Off-centered Wall” where you are welcome to add a piece of memorabilia during your visit.  Your addition could be pretty much anything, from a dried flower to a beer coaster from days gone by.  If it’s a bit “off-center” then it’s welcome on the wall!

Dogfish Head's Indian Brown is an outstanding craft beerFishing for Dogfish Year-Round

There are plenty of year-round craft beers that Dogfish Head offers.  Each one was individually created with innovation, interesting flavor, or classic taste in mind and we’ve really enjoyed all the different brews we’ve tried from these folks.  The quality instilled in each craft beer is admirable, as you can practically taste their dedication to great beer and we appreciate their efforts in a big way.  After all, without dedicated people like the staff at DFH, we wouldn’t have some of the amazing and delicious craft brews that we enjoy today.  For that we tip our hats to them, as we plan to enjoy their brews long into the future.

We’ve put together a list of the brews we’ve tried from DFH and we hope you get a chance to try them as well.  All of their offerings have possessed their own unique style notes and we’re looking forward to what they come out with in the upcoming year.  We still plan to try the rest of their already amazing line, one brew at a time, and of course reporting the results to our readers so you can try them too!

60 Minute IPA – Much like its bigger siblings, this brew is hopped over a 60-minute boil and includes over 60 hop additions during that process.  A delicious variety of hops are used in the process and the result is this lovely IPA with plenty of hop character, a delicious flavor, an aroma range that salutes each variety used, and an ABV of 6%, keeping it within the highly drinkable range for longer nights of enjoyment with friends.

90 Minute IPA – The middle child of the trio, this IPA is brewed much like its brothers, but the hoppy kick is obviously ramped up a bit more than its little brother, the 60 minute IPA.  This brew was offered a well-deserved accolade from Esquire Magazine who labeled it “perhaps the best IPA in America” and we’re much in agreement.  The brew is continuously hopped like its little and big brothers and the result is a truly exceptional craft beer with plenty of character, a well-balanced flavor profile, and an ABV of 9%.  We suggest sipping this one folks, as that higher ABV really does kick in after a bit and you don’t want to go too fast.

120 Minute IPA – A hophead’s dream, this brew is the big brother of the trio and is not only continuously hopped during a 120-minute boil and whirlpool, but dry hopped as well, resulting in an unfiltered, highly hoppy brew that Hopaholics have labeled the Holy Grail of hopped up goodness.  Get it while you can Hopaholics, because this brew is only made a few times each year and it disappears fast!

Beer for Breakfast – Welcome to a stout morning full of flavor!  Maple Syrup, Guatemalan Antigua cold press coffee, Tapa Scrapple, and a great host of spices are infused in this delicious brew along with a host of malts, barleys, and other delightful additions.  All of this comes together to make a craft beer that is easily drinkable, full of malty goodness, and really does seem like breakfast in a bottle.  Watch that 7.4% ABV though, as you certainly don’t want the boss to wonder WHERE you had breakfast.

Festina Peche – DFH pulled off this Berliner Weisse-style brew perfectly as a tribute to the over 70 breweries in Berlin that used to brew this style of beer.  With only a few of those breweries remaining, DFH decided they deserved some notice here in the United States and created this perfect rendition of the brew.  It is considered a “sour” beer, which is to say that it has a tart flavor that really sets off the warmer seasons of the year.  At just 4.5% ABV, it is the perfect choice for the dog days of summer and you’ll want to pick up more than one four-pack to enjoy with friends.

Indian Brown – If you’re looking for a Dark IPA with outstanding flavor, an aroma profile that really catches your senses, and the wonderment that can happen when you mix Scotch Ale, IPA, and American Brown, look no further.  You’ve come to the right place, because Indian Brown is the culmination of all three.  With additions of Aromatic barley, organic brown sugar, and DFH’s famous continuous hopping process, the result is a brew that holds all the notes of each style.  We loved the hints of caramel along with the hoppy character and the aroma that many hop additions can provide.  We’re sure you’re going to enjoy it as well!

Namaste White – Another tribute brew, this lovely White Ale was brewed with Leo from Birra del Borgo (before they were acquired by AB-Inbev) and is a tribute to the folks at 3 Fonteinen brewery in Belgium after they experienced a devastating production loss in 2009.  This lovely brew has a great flavor and the notes of coriander and fresh-cut lemongrass really bring out the sentimentality of the brew.  We hope you get a chance to try it and salute those great folks at 3 Fonteinen while you do.

Olde School Barleywine – This small-release brew is worth the wait.  Available only January and February of the year, you’ll want to grab it while you can.  Fermented with figs and dates, the flavor is quite interesting and the idea for the brew was quite literally found in an old cellerman’s manual.  You’ll have to watch the Sip Clip on the brew page for more information on that interesting note, as we’re not telling it here.  Instead, we’ll tell you that if you love to age brews, this one is a keeper!  15% ABV, ageable in the bottle, and a fruit flavor profile that grows during aging.  What more could you ask for?

Punkin Ale – If you love brews that have a backstory, you’ll love this one.  The base is a brown ale and the smooth additions of pumpkin center, spices, and brown sugar have turned it into the perfect Pumpkin brew to enjoy during Delaware’s famous Punkin Chunkin events.  Never heard of such a thing?  Check out the brew page!  This brew received its first gold medal before the brewery had even opened its doors, winning first prize in the recipe contest at the Punkin Chunkin of 1994, thus earning its place in the brewery’s books and on retailer’s shelves later on.  You’ll want to grab it if you see it, as this brew is only released in the fall and is usually long-gone by Thanksgiving.

Romantic Chemistry – Another seasonal release, this brew is available from May to August and was just released in 2016.  This is an interesting take on the IPA, as the apricot and mango infusion, along with a bit of ginger, really seem to blend well with the later triple hops addition during the dry hopping process.  The result is a brew with an outstanding tropical aroma that still finishes off with hoppy style.  We had the chance to grab a few bottles and we’re glad we did, as missing out on this masterpiece would have been sad, to say the least.

World Wide Stout – Last on our list is DFH’s World Wide Stout.  We highly suggest trying the Nitro version in the tasting room if you pay them a visit, as this brew really is worthy of the time.  Keep an eye on that ABV though, as it can range from 15% to 20%!  Our resident Portaholic LOVES this brew and you will too if you’re into brews that are highly ageable and delicious.  She stated, “This one is perfect.  Ageable in the bottle, port-style complexity, super roasty, and the burn of the brew ages out very well.”  Apparently, she has some hidden away, because she seldom turns away from her porters to try anything else unless bribed.  We loved the roasty elements to the brew as well and have a few bottles put away to try after aging, too.

Each brew has its own page at their website and features their infamous “Quick Sip Clip” video for the brew.  We love the videos, as they give us an insight into the brews and make the company feel even more like family, rather than just another commercial brewery.  If you’re tired of the bigger breweries like AB-Inbev and their dated style of advertising and flooding the market, you’ll love DFH, because they really care about the quality of each brew and how their patrons feel about them.

Take a vacation and do some fishing!

The folks at Dogfish Head Brewing are worth making a trip for.  The many brews on their plate, not to mention the outstanding food in their brewpub, are both great reasons to take a couple days’ vacation and head over to pay them a visit.  You can easily call it a fishing trip, though we’re pretty sure that’s just going to gain you requests to join you, as plenty of folks love fishing.  Here’s hoping they love your fishing style and enjoy the catch of the day while you’re there.

We look forward to seeing what else DFH brings about in the coming year.  With so many events already on their calendar, we expect things will be busy round there and across the states where they hold sales contracts.  If you’re interested in what types of events are coming up in your state, check out their events page.  Events are searchable by state, unless you’re in CA, NC, OH, WA, and CT.  Sorry guys, but those few states mentioned do not allow DFH to list events for those states by law.

We send up a salute to DFH from down here in West Palm Beach, Florida, where we’re working hard to make it to our own craft brewery opening later this year.  After some serious tangles of red-tape and delays, we’re hoping to join the ranks of DFH and others by Labor Day, so check back often for updates!

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Mar 30, 2017