I had the idea for The Beer Bucket List when I was thinking about some of the world breweries I wanted to drink at, but had never visited before. There were many in the US and Dogfish Head was at the top of the list.
A decade ago, as I was just getting interested in beer and looking beyond the local selection, Dogfish Head was the ultimate symbol of difference. It was an “extreme” side of things that most appealed to me, the way in which they were brewing beers unlike anyone else—beers toward the extremities of brewing in terms of strengths and ingredients—but also how they made their Ancient Ales or how they barrel-aged beers or used unusual ingredients. The idea of “Off-Centered Ales” made them the antitheses of boring British beer and I was desperate to drink them. Finally, I’ve now been there.
Go To The Home Of Extreme Beer Dogfish Head: One Of My Top Beer Bucket List Ticks Photo Gallery
The brewery is not the most convenient place to get to, being around a three-hour drive from the nearest major airport, but it’s worth the effort. A steampunk treehouse stands in front of the vast brewery and leads you into the bright, glass-fronted tasting room. Inside, anyone who visits can get four 3-oz (85-ml) tastes of any beers on tap and there’ll be around 20 taps to choose from. You can also buy pints and additional tasters, or get growlers filled. Next door is a store selling bottles, growlers, and merchandise, and there’s also a food truck. The tasting room is where you begin. You go, have a beer or two, go on the tour, and then move to their pub, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats (320 Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware 19971).
This is where Dogfish Head started in 1995, brewing on a tiny kit (then the smallest commercial brewery in the country) and only after changing local legislation—it was The First State’s first brewpub. It’s now a classic, all-American, all-star quarterback of a bar, the kind of place you’ve seen in a hundred movies, but never quite experienced in real life, somewhere with soul, characters, stories. There are 25-plus taps of Dogfish beers, including rare vintages and brewpub exclusives. The food is also really good and you’ll want to eat it.
I started with a 60 Minute IPA—I might initially have been drawn to the extreme beers, but I wanted their hero brew first. It’s a 6.0% ABV American IPA and has that proper old-school, citrus peel and pith quality. It’s a classic beer that deserves attention and, by the end of the night, it’s what I wanted to drink more of, going through the extremities and back to the grounding of this fine IPA. There’s also 90 Minute, their 9.0% ABV Double IPA and one that shares a family resemblance with the 60 Minute. It’s deep gold, with a toasty malt sweetness that smothers the ABV; there are hops all through it, but not the bursting, vibrant kind of modern hops—it’s more oily and rich with flavor and bitterness. These were beers I had loved reading about years ago; I loved the story of Sam Calagione, the brewery’s founder, developing a machine that could add hops continuously to these IPAs for 60 or 90 minutes. It’s easy to get complacent about important older breweries, focusing more on the newcomers, but Dogfish Head is one of America’s most important breweries.
After the IPAs, I wanted some of the extreme beers. Palo Santo Marron, their 12.0% ABV Brown Ale, is aged in 10,000-gallon (45,000-liter) vessels made from Paraguayan Palo Santo wood. It’s like a truffle, deep with dark fruits and chocolate, caramel, and vanilla. The wooden barrels—there are two—are the largest ones made in the US since Prohibition. World Wide Stout was also on when I visited. It’s a monster Imperial Stout, high-teens in ABV, thick, rich, and voluptuous, and yet with the smooth drinkability of a bold red wine.
Dogfish Head was right at the top of my must-visit Beer Bucket List destinations. It was one of the original breweries that showed me how interesting and different craft beer could be and it’s now rightly regarded as a classic American craft brewery. It’s an essential stop, where you should plan on visiting the tasting room before going to Brewings & Eats and staying and drinking there all night long. (And if you’re in need of a lie down after all that great beer, you can get a room at the Dogfish Inn, just a short cab ride away in nearby Lewes.)
THE BEST BEER HOTELS
• Hotel Oberpfalzer Hof, Windischeschenbach, Germany (see post 114)
• Hotel Purkmistr, Pilsen, Czech Republic (see post 130)
• Dogfish Inn, Lewes, Delaware
• Brewhouse Inn and Suites, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (see post 36)
Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione.
WHAT: Dogfish Head Brewery and Tasting Room
HOW: Free tours Monday to Saturday (11am-7pm, hourly) and on Sundays (12-7pm, hourly). Go on a Saturday for a special tour that gives extra details and gets you into the steampunk treehouse (www.dogfish.com).
WHERE: 511 Chestnut Street, Milton, Delaware 19968, USA.