This past Monday, Franklin & Company, the neighborhood gastropub in Franklin Village, hosted a Dogfish Head pint night with DFH owner and founder, Sam Calagione. The event did not seem to be widely publicized, but I’m guessing maybe this was a conscious decision because of the limited space that Franklin & Company has to utilize. The event was scheduled to last from 5 to 7, and I arrived at 5 pm sharp, because I had a feeling it was going to get incredibly busy. Within about 30 minutes, there was barely an inch to move.
Sam arrived promptly at 5 and began greeting customers and handing out Dogfish Head key chains. The first 50 people to purchase a pint for the night also received the new Dogfish Head IPA glass that was designed in conjunction with Sierra Nevada and Spiegelau earlier this year.
I had a hunch before coming to the event that the reason Sam Calagione was spending time in Los Angeles had to do with the upcoming sitcom, written by Ken Marino and his wife Erica Oyama, loosely based on Sam’s life and his book, Brewing Up A Business. You can read some of the press about it here. Fox recently bought the show, and Sam is being tapped as a consultant for the project. To provide some context, Ken Marino (“The State”, “Party Down”) and Sam were actually roommates in New York City at one point, so it makes sense that Ken Marino would be the person to lead this project, since he has seen Dogfish Head built from the bottom up. About 45 minutes into the event, Ken and Sam asked for quiet in the room and, without getting into too many specifics, mentioned the project and thanked everyone for coming out to the event. They both mentioned they “believed the project would be good for craft beer.”
The event had 5 Dogfish Head beers on tap: Indian Brown Ale, 90 Minute IPA, 120 Minute IPA, 61 Minute IPA, and Burton Baton. I was pretty excited to try out 120 Minute IPA, because it was the only one of the five I had not yet tasted. I was also looking forward to having some of the 61 Minute IPA, which is a pretty interesting beer/wine style hybrid. I think it’s really cool the company is pushing the envelope by trying to appeal to wine fans. Of their beer/wine hybrid experiments, the 61, in my opinion, is the most drinkable and best tasting. The 120 Minute IPA is every bit as big as I thought it would be. Clocking in at 18% alcohol, it was served in 6 oz. snifters. Although I like big beers, I think the problem with some beers with more than 10% alcohol is that they tend to be fairly hot, and the alcohol can overshadow the more subtle flavors. Not the case with 120. 120 Minute IPA is extremely well balanced, and I honestly would not know it was 18% alcohol in a blind taste test. Overall a very enjoyable couple of brews.
It was exciting to meet Sam Calagione. I recently read his book, Brewing Up a Business, and over the years I have found Dogfish Head to be pretty inspirational. Like every creatively driven company, Dogfish Head has had it’s share of successes and failures but I think it makes them a better company for taking the risks. They have done a lot to push the boundaries of what the public considers beer, and they stay fiercely independent in a world where investors are constantly looking for the next company that will make them a quick buck. Sam still hasn’t caved to the generous offers that have come his way, and I respect him for that. While talking with Sam, I asked about the Randall Jr., a mini version of Randall the Enamel Animal, a device that can infuse any beer with a dose of fresh hops or any other item you would want to throw in, like coffee beans. Sam suggested to use the Randall Jr., on “beers above 7% alcohol, because they tend to pick up the hop flavor more.” Looking forward to trying this out.
All in all, it was a really fun evening. It was awesome to meet Sam, get a new Dogfish Head IPA glass, and try out 120 minute IPA. It’s small, grassroots events like this that have gotten Dogfish Head to where they are today. I’m interested to see how a sitcom based on Sam’s life will turn out. A few years back, a thread erupted on Beeradvocate.com about which breweries were overrated. Many people said Dogfish Head, because they had gotten “too big”. You can read some about the thread and Sam’s response here. I thought his response was perfect. When the owner of a company that has been around since 1995 still attends pint nights, hands out key chains, and is more than happy to thank every single customer in the place, I can say for sure in my book that Dogfish has not gotten “too big”, sitcom in the works or not.