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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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
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.
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.
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
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.