So I have a confession to make. Despite being a long-time Sussex Countian, living around the corner from the brewery and having been inside the brewery at least a dozen times, I had never been on the official Dogfish Head Brewery Tour. So when the occasion arose to take the tour during the annual Weekend of Compelling Ales and Whatnot at the invitation of my friend Phil Hagen, I finally took the plunge.
And I’m glad I did. I’ve known DFH VP Mariah Calagione since I was but a wee lad, and I’ve written about the brewery, interviewed Sam at the brewery about Beer Wars, and have been immersed in the brand like everyone else in the Cape Region over the last dozen years.
But the tour, particularly with outgoing Brewmaster Floris Delée as the guide, was very enlightening. Floris covered a wide array of topics on the tour, far beyond the “here is this, there is that” tour I expected. He dove into the quality control issues that a large-volume craft brewer faces and offered many nuggets of wisdom to the homebrewers on the tour, like the difference between cask-conditioning and bottle-conditioning, and the value of yeast.
Oddly, I was struck a few times along the tour at how un-hip and un-romantic parts of the facility appeared. When you are immersed in the Dogfish brand, you can get swept up in the David-vs-Goliath, off-centered people, and general craft beeriness of the company. But when they’re kicking out 160,000+ barrels of beer per year, they have to install a lot of 400- and 600-bbl stainless steel tanks, and a lot of it looked so, umm, industrial.
Finally, like all good tours do, we ended up in the DFH tasting room/souvenir shop. Sam was signing autographs and taking photos with fans while people tasted the flight-of-the-day, which included my two personal DFH faves, Palo Santo Marron and Burton Baton (the greatest beer on the planet.)
And based on my observations, I’ll say DFH brought in quite a bit of revenue selling clothing, growlers, books and posters.
DOGFISH, ALWAYS AN INSPIRATION
As a friend of the DFH family and a noted booster of all things local and all things Delaware, I’m awestruck and proud at what Dogfish Head has become. (I can remember back to the days when they had to change the law just to open the brewpub.) The company is a source of pride for many people in the area, and is a great example that you can create a vibrant, thriving business and employ hundreds right here in coastal Delaware if you have a great idea, the right support and an insane amount of determination. Dogfish Head continues to be a tremendous asset to the area and a true inspiration for up-and-coming Delaware entrepreneurs.