After a good night's rest in Delaware, we set off for the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton. Having watched all of the Brew Masters episodes and read Brewing Up a Business, this was what I was looking forward to the most.For me, Sam, the founder of Dogfish Head, defines the exquisite creativity and adventure of craft brewing. It always puts a smile on my face when I visit breweries and hear about their collaborations with Sam (Sierra Nevada, Three Floyds, Victory, etc.), because it somewhat makes me feel as if I am following his beer trail.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
My beer sample tokens
The Palo tank (10,000 gallon capacity)
My Palosanto sample, a dark and high-alcohol year-round brew
After the brewery, we traveled to the brew pub in Rehoboth Beach for a taste of the pub-exclusives. Our self-designed flight consisted of the World Wide Stout (18%, 70 IBUs, dubbed "world's strongest stout), Pangaea (7%, 28 IBUs, a spice ale with ingredients from each of the 7 continents), Cask 75 Minute IPA (a blend of the 90 and 60 Minute IPAs with a special whole leaf dry hop in the Johnny Cask), Romantic Aromatic (a douple IPA flavored with lemon), and Hardtack (a barleywine with Tibetan barley, rhodiola rosea, and agave nectar aged in a port barrel with sour morello cherries). All of these thoroughly blew our minds with flavor, but perhaps most of all it was the Hardtack that left us head over heels.
The Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach
I did get to learn some interesting things, though, like how it cost the brewery $16,000 to ship the steampunk treehouse you see outside the brewery, but only $1 to buy the treehouse itself.
On the brewpub tour, I learned that they dumped 5 barrels of their 120 IPA the other day and were trying it again as we were touring. The problem with the previous batch was that the yeast pooped out at 12%, when the beer is supposed to be at least 15% (and a glorious 120 IBUs!). This beer, albeit extremely delicious, proved to be quite difficult to replicate. From what I understand, they last distributed the beer in 2009 and only got a new batch bottled this past September. So, theoretically, if you live in one of the states to which Dogfish Head distributes, you should be able to find a bottle. Sadly, though, this past year, they had to withdraw from a lot of their markets (like Wisconsin) because the demand was just too high to meet.
As I quickly found out at the Rehoboth Beach Brewpub, Sam doesn't just do beer; he also has been distilling since 2002. The story goes that Sam, upon wanting to start a brewery, quickly realized that it was illegal in Delaware to brew your own beer (with a penalty of up to $5,000). So he lobbied to legalize it. Likewise, he had to lobby to legalize distilling, and he once again succeeded. Currently the brewery puts out a quad distilled vodka and gin and double distilled rum on their $900-bought system. The vodka flavors I tried were blood orange, peanut butter, and toasted marshmallow alongside their regular. The flavors were prevalent and relevant, but I'm not sure I would ever buy one.
What made the adventure to the brewery especially interesting was my bold gesture to ask to see the lab room. There, I met Katrinka, who is by far one of the most awesome females I have ever met. She showed us Dogfish Head's 33 strains of yeast and the tests they do for viability, volatility, and IBUs. We then received an overview of the taste testing procedure, where I found out only about 5 out of 30 picked people are valid tasters -- this is something they find out by spiking the beers with different flavors and evaluating the tasters' responses.
Brewery (★★★★) - Everyone I met who works at Dogfish Head was very generous and informative. As I found out when I visited the brewpub, I had just missed Sam, Bryan, and Floris, proven by the picture another patron showed me of her with them on her phone. Although it was a shame I missed out on such an opportunity, I think I still felt their presence. Sam continues to lead his brewery into interesting directions and fascinating partnerships. It's a shame Brew Masters didn't get picked up for another season, but I think the brewery will do just find without that extra Discovery Channel advertising of just how awesome is this off-centered place in Delaware.