Happy Hour: Dark Horse Will Not Look At That Photograph

Darkhorse And Nickleback?

Chad Kroeger


So… a couple years ago Nickleback or some representative approached Dark Horse Brewery about some sort of promotional agreement. Apparently, Nickleback’s sixth studio albums (srlsy? they have six?!) is called Dark Horse. Some marketing intern probably got a synergy stiffy and sent off an email. Dark Horse’s marketing director asked what they should do in the blog post linked above. The owner of Dark Horse, Alan Morse, stepped in and made the executive decision to decline the offer because Nickleback is “shit rock.”

This story got posted up on Reddit on Wednesday and blew up Twitter. As Michigan Brewing Company has taught us, hitching your wagon to mediocre musicians is not a good long term solution. That and you should probably pay your bills every once in a while…

(h/t @BeerAdvocate)

Zymurgy’s Best Beers in America

Pliny the Elder


Zymurgy, the magazine run by the American Homebrewers Association, released the results of its 2012 Best Beers in America survey. Pliny the Elder gets the four-peat. I got to taste about 2oz of Pliny at a tailgate this past fall. It was very, very good, but I think the relative difficulty of acquiring it has raised its profile higher than the beer itself. Two Hearted is the first runner up. I’ve written about this previously,  but Two Hearted is a damn good beer that I always overlook because I can always get it. The reverse Pliny, if you will.

Eight of the top ten are some form of IPA1. Thirty-two of the top fifty are between pale ales and hop-bombs. Tim and Nate make fun of me for always getting hoppy beers, but I’m not even this focused. Four Michigan beers made the list, Two Hearted, Hopslam (4th), Founders Breakfast Stout (23rd) and KBS (T37th lolwut?). Bell’s and Founders both rank in the top ten breweries at 5th and 10th respectively.
This may eventually be a full post in the future, but I’m not sure I quite agree with these choice.

Dogfish head Is officially everywhere


Trying Weird Beers

Hopcat Turkey Tears

Seriously. Turkey.

When most people turn 21, they start out drinking the American macros (OK, many of them before they’re of legal age). Some may move on to a limited selection of craft brews, and even some home brews. Few, however, probably move into the realm of trying things that are downright off-the-wall.

As I’ve grown – both in age and as a beer lover – I’ve become more likely to try something new. Though that doesn’t apply just to beer (I was a pretty picky eater as a youngster, now I’ll try just about anything at least once), I’m most interested in it from that perspective. There have been plenty of inspirations for the change, at least from a beer perspective:

  • Homebrew clubs – The Ann Arbor Brewer’s Guild was where I first started trying truly new things. Whether it was a creative adjunct or an extreme style, the first few meetings I went to really started expanding my horizons.
  • Dogfish Head – Yes, I know the brewers from Delaware aren’t the be-all and end-all of creativity in craft brewing, but that doesn’t prevent them from being a huge influence. For example, before watching Brew Masters (flawed though the show may be), I doubt I would have tried a beer that was made from chewed corn.
  • Other Creative Brewers – I’ve had a beer literally brewed with turkey, and one that was designed to be an homage to bacon, even if it wasn’t brewed with any of the savory stuff.

I’ve probably grown to the point where I’d try anything that could be classified as “beer.” Whether it’s to post about on this site, or just for the experience, I’m all about trying new things.

That willingness extends not only to drinking, but to brewing. I probably never would have been willing to brew a chili pepper beer, or have tried to craft a brew that was s’more flavored had it not been for my expanding horizons. Though it’s been quite a while since I’ve brewed (sadly), when I get back into the game, I plan to primarily experiment with off-the-wall ingredients or processes.

I encourage you to branch out, and be creative (even if it’s just in what you choose to drink). There’s a lot of good beer out there, and I can’t drink it all.

TV Show Review: Brew Masters

Brew Masters on Discovery Channel

Brew Masters

Now that the Discovery Channel‘s “Brew Masters” has a few episodes under its belt, we have a pretty good picture of what it will be. Sam Calagione, founder and owner of Dogfish Head, talks about the inspiration for his beers, the methods behind creating them, and delves into the history of brewing traditions around the world.

There have been four episodes so far. Two of them seemed like pilot episodes—the actual pilot, about Bitches Brew, and the Punkin Chunkin episode—almost to the point of feeling like an incomplete product, but the others have been quite good. My speculation is that the Punkin Chunkin episode was supposed to be the pilot, but they chose to run it for Thanksgiving, and wanted a more interesting episode for the pilot.

The general premise of the show is following the creation of a special Dogfish Beer, including everything from the inspiration, to Sam’s travels to a foreign land to research authentic brewing methods, all the way to the actual workings of the factory. The two pilot-esque episodes have spent a little too much time focusing on the “OMG things are going wrong in our factory!” aspect, dumbing the show down to a standard workplace docu-drama, rather than focusing on the parts that are actually, you know, interesting.

However, the Chicha episode was a step in the right direction, and if the show wants to succeed, it needs to focus on what makes it different than everything else. The inspirations and history of each beer, and Sam’s travels to research them, should be by far the focus. If the producers want to focus on the “characters” who work at the brewery, that’s fine, but “Oh noes, our machine broke” and “crap I spilled glue” and “uh oh, quality control error” warrant barely more than a passing mention. Forced drama = bad, information = good. The workplace stuff just isn’t interesting, and if the show fails, that will be its downfall. Even in the most recent episod,e the drama was brewing-related and informative rather than drama for drama’s sake.

Also on the information end of things, the discussions of the brewing process are interesting, but they’re over-referenced (as I mentioned above, I think part of this might be due to airing two “pilot” episodes so far), and there either needs to be one small segment per episode where the whole process is discussed. We shouldn’t see the hokey CG graphics breaking down the process each time it’s discussed.

Alas, it doesn’t seem as though the show is drawing good ratings, as it’s already been shuffled around the Discovery Channel’s lineup, starting on Sunday nights, then appearing on Monday for one week, and currently moved to Thursday. I think the show is just starting to hit a stride, so canceling it anytime soon would be doing it an injustice.

Brewery Tour: Dogfish Head

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Dogfish Head is the 16th-largest craft brewer in America, located in Milton, Delaware

On my recent vacation to Philadelphia, I took a day trip down to Milton to get my first tour of a bigtime — or medium-time, as it were — brewery. As it turned out, a great time was had by all. Even though I didn’t learn much about the brewing process (aside from “this is what enormous versions of brewing equipment look like”), I enjoyed it.

Dogfish Head Treehouse. Not pictured: bocce courts

This artistic treehouse is outside the entrance to Dogfish Head. Not picture: bocce courts.

If anyone plans to visit from Philadelphia, I would recommend stretching the trip over more than one day. Traffic getting into and out of Philadelphia was a hassle, even though we were traveling at non-peak times, and Delaware – apparently unaware that it is, in fact, Delaware – had some surprisingly bad traffic. I would recommend making a weekend trip of it, and spending some time at the beach in Delaware. The brewpub in Rehoboth Beach (which I unfortunately was unable to visit) has tastings on Thursday nights, and you can easily take the main brewery tour in Milton on Thursday or Friday afternoon.

The Brewery

Dogfish Head Availability Calendar

Dogfish Head Beer Availability Calendar

The year-round beers for 2010 are 90-Minute, 60-Minute, Raison D’Etre, Indian Brown Ale, Midas Touch, and Palo Santo Marron. I’ve cut off the bottom of the poster, but there are several more brews listed. There are seasonal beers, limited-release beers, and much more.

Dogfish Head Whiskey Barrels

Whiskey Barrels used for aging

These whiskey barrels were labeled as coming from Old Granddad Distillery, but actually had a wine-line scent on the inside, and I’m not sure if they were ever used to age whiskey. They were used to age an upcoming beer that was made in collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewery in Indiana (outside of Chicago). The tour guide didn’t know a whole lot about the specifics of the beer, but has tried some, and said it’s delicious. From what I could dig up on the internet, the Poppaskull is a Belgian golden ale. It was supposed to come out in October, but hasn’t quite been released yet. If I see it in any stores, I’ll certainly check it out.

Dogfish Head Brewpot from afar

Brewpot (20,000 gallon, if I recall correctly) and a holding vessel that the hot wort is transferred into during the cooling process

Dogfish Head uses a counterflow chilling system, but obviously on a much larger scale than that used by homebrewers. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of the mash and lauter tuns, which are located to the right of that control tower.

The Original Dogfish Head Brew Master "Brewery"

The Original Dogfish Head Brew Master brewing setup.

Sam Calagione and a couple of his friends brewed on this Brew Magic system in the early days. They experimented with new ideas on this system in the early days of Dogfish Head, when it was merely a brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, DE. This system is capable of 14-gallon (half-barrel) batches, and the current infrastructure at Dogfish Head produces around 100,000 barrels of beer each year.

The entirety of the original Dogfish Head Brewery

The entirety of the original Dogfish Head Brewery

The fermentation “cellar” isn’t much of a cellar, as it’s on the ground level along with the brew room. It’s a temperature-controlled room with stainless steel fermenters on the left, and wood fermenters/aging barrels on the right. In the background, you can see a huge tarp separating this room from the area that is under construction as the facility continues expanding.

Dogfish Head fermenting and aging room

Dogfish Head fermenting and aging room

Dogfish Head Aging Barrels. Palo Santo on the right.

Palo Santo oozing sap on the right

Behind me in this picture is the yeast lab. Dogfish Head is making a transition to only using house-strain yeasts. A better view of the enormous wooden barrels. On the far right is the custom-made barrel made from Palo Santo wood. Sam Calagione heard about this wood from a friend who was vacationing in Paraguay, and Dogfish Head invested in making a commercial-scale barrel from it. This barrel should be in use for approximately 20 years.

The Tasting

Tasting at Dogfish Head Brewery

Tim tasting at Dogfish Head Brewery

After spending all my energy on the tour (not really), it was time to relax and try a couple free samples in the on-site pub/gift shop.

The four beers that were available for free samples were the 90-Minute IPA, the Indian Brown Ale, the Olde School Barleywine, and Palo Santo Marron.

Since the 90-Minute and Indian Brown are standard Dogfish Head brews that you can get pretty much anywhere, I won’t spend too much effort talking about them. The 90-Minute is a standard IPA with citrus and pine hops. It’s fairly bitter, but the hops are more notable in the aroma and the flavor. The Indian Brown Ale is a three-way blend between a Scotch Ale, a Brown Ale, and an IPA. It tastes pretty much like you’d expect, as a slightly fuller-flavored brown. There isn’t as much hop flavor or bitterness as I expected, and it had the dry finish that you expect from an American Brown Ale.

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine

Yeah, I took an artsy photo.

The Olde School Barleywine is a strong beer at 15%, and is mostly what you’d expect from a good barleywine. As a lover of the style, I had no complaints with this beer. Not particularly bitter or hoppy to balance out the malt flavors, but there was some fruit flavor in there. It had a thick, almost viscous texture, and the alcohol was definitely apparent in the nose and taste. The alcohol flavor wasn’t overwhelming, especially given the high ABV, and this was an all-around enjoyable brew.

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron with Palo Santo wood stave

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron with Palo Santo wood stave

The Palo Santo Marron is an interesting taste, and the wood-aged qualities are a little distinctive due to the unique wood used. The beer is pictured in front of one of the staves of Palo Santo wood that was cut to create the barrel. Though this piece wasn’t used, identical ones compose the enormous barrel seen above. This bad boy was surprisingly heavy, probably around 15 pounds despite only being a couple feet long.