A Very Dogfish Vacay: The Brewery
Where beer is made. Brewery tours vary in size, location, and even in stories (and in free samples). I’ve noticed that some breweries just tell you how beer is made and dump you off at the pub for you to buy any of the beers. Others give more personalized tours and offer plenty of free samples. Dogfish Head was the best brewery tour to date. Of course, that may be because we got a private tour from an off-centered employee (thanks Senovia!) But before we get started, just imagine what you think the brewery looks like. Now, imagine that times ten. The brewery is part of a large amount of land that is practically becoming the dogfish campus. This includes an insulated pipe line that runs the beer from the brew house to bottling. Oh yeah, and an industrial-aged tree house where they hold their administrative meetings.
As you enter the brew house, you can smell the cereal-like scents and see plenty of bearded men strolling around on a mission. You’ll get to see Sam’s first brewing system and equipment, ranging from the three-tiered system, to the Randall “the Enamal Animal” prototype. If you don’t know what the Randall is, it is a tool only designed by Dogfish Head that infuses flavors into the beer. First used for hops, bars and pubs can now purchase Randall and put in anything they want. Our tour guide explained that Dogfish has tried a range of items – some good, some bad. Fruits work well in the Randall as well as hops. As you reach the Randall, you’ll also notice an old table football game. The vibrations of the electronic table football game served well for continuous hopping. Sam actually used this to brew his beer. Eventually, this actual item inspired the tools used today to continuously hop the beers we like such as the 120, 90 and 60 minute.
If you get a chance, try to go to a brewery while they are brewing. Every kettle was filled and working hard to turn sweet wort into delicious beer. We passed through the barrel room, which is a TALL room housing three large barrels of wood shipped from around the world (yes – FILLED with beer). Sam takes trips around the world to learn about how they make beer and what ingredients they use to do it. Apparently, when he finds certain techniques and ingredients that he likes, he brings them home with him.
Finally, you end in the tasting room with a Dogfish label to pick out a flight of FREE samples for you to choose from. Here’s a tip – pick the beers you haven’ t had before. Or, if you’ve had most of them before – have the bartender pick. Believe it or not, I taught the bartender something. I asked for a “Namastina.” When I received a blank stare in return, I educated her about the contents of the drink – half Namaste, half Festina Peche. If both beers are on tap there – request it. I’m sure they will know what it is now!
The description alone does not do the size of the brewery justice. And in fact, odds are it will be even bigger next time you get back. The thing to appreciate about the size of the Dogfish Head brewery is that even though it is massive, Dogfish is still making high-quality, unique craft beers. While it continues to increase in size and profits, it refuses to sell out to big beer and continues to intrigue us all with crazy strong brews. Check it out!