Sunday, January 15, 2006

Olde School

I told you during the Punkin’ Ale tasting that I would get back to Dogfish Head. So buckle in, we’re going for a ride out East.

Brewery – Dogfish Head in Milton, Delaware
Style – American Barleywine
ABV – 15%
Serving Type – 12 oz. bottle

In the small town of Rehoboth Beach, Sam Calagione first opened the doors of The Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in June of 1995. At that time it was both Delaware's first brewpub and the smallest commercial brewery in America brewing just 12-gallon batches at a time. Their first beer (Shelter Pale Ale) was made in essentially 3 kegs sitting on burners. In the first nine months Sam brewed 3 times a day, five days a week! I can't even find the time to brew once a month.

Based primarily on their unique and delicious beers, although the wood-grilled seafood and pizzas was also a draw, Dogfish Head became more and more popular and needed to expand. I guess I should also mention that aside from the food and beer the place was, in the words of the Washington Post, "Not only...a fine restaurant, but it has staked it's claim as the Eastern Shore's finest live music venue." Jason Kennedy became the head brewer (leaving Wild Goose Brewery in Cambridge, MD) and worked with Sam to convert dairy and cannery stainless steel vats into a 300-gallon brewery. The upgrade also allowed them to start bottling and distributing the Shelter Pale Ale. By the way, this all happened within 10 months of opening the doors.

With the beer bottled and a thirsty public willing to pay good money for a Dogfish Head brew, there was just one problem; it was illegal for Delaware brewpubs to distribute their products. Drafting a bill and pushing it through the House and Senate, they were finally able to get the governor to sign it into law. This wasn't the last of the legal issues however. In 1997 they needed to expand again, this time into an empty warehouse in Lewes where they could have a separate brewery. But guess what, Delaware's laws did not let owners of a brewpub have a separate microbrewery. Once again Sam was back in front of the legislators and the new bill was unanimously approved. It was signed into law a mere 3 weeks after being introduced. In 2002 they outgrew the Lewes building and moved operations to its current location in Milton.

This particular beer was released in September of 2006 and "inspired by a tale of a cask doctor who brought sluggish ales back to life by suspending a fig in them." This beer is fermented with dates and figs.

Glass – Dogfish Head Pint Glass that reads “Off-centered ales for off-centered people”

Aroma – I detect the pleasant aroma of musky fruit. More specifically, it’s like smelling earthy herbs and plumbs. I’m fairly sure the plumb fruitiness comes from the malt, and the earthiness from the hops. I think I can also pick out some yeastiness from the nose.

Appearance – This pours sparkling clear with a small bubbly crown. This crown is to be expected, since there an inverse relationship between the amount of alcohol in the beer and the size of the crown (i.e. the more it f***s you up, the smaller the head). It was a pale orange color that allowed me to see the tinny little bubbles going up the center of the glass.

Flavor – The first thing I pick up is a molasses type of sweetness. Right behind that I can taste the alcohol and feel the alcohol warming in my mouth. I also get some breadiness and yeast flavors. Finally there is some fruitiness that is lingering in the background of the palate in the form of plum, raisons and just a hint of apple. In the finish there is a lingering alcohol sweetness that evaporates and then becomes even more apparent.

Mouthfeel – Full bodied and chewy, just like a good barleywine should be. It seams to leave a sweet film coating my mouth that is counter pointed by the moderate amount of carbonation that really shows it self after I swallow.

Final Thoughts – I do love a full flavored barley wine. I’ve read some reviews where they say the beer does a good job of hiding the alcohol, but I’m not sure I know what they are talking about. They might be trying to say that it’s not overpowering, which I would agree with, but for me the alcohol flavor profile is front and center. That being said, this is a very good beer and one that would probably age really well. I think I’ll grab some more of this, and if I’m still doing this blog in 3 years, I’ll let you know how it did.


Blogger ChuckSuede said...

Hey Ben! I went to Memphis this week! AND I GAVE BEER TO A GOAT! YEAH!! Actually, it was two goats! YEAH!! If you ever go to Memphis, go to Silky O'Sullivans and give beer to goats. YEAH!!

7:12 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Sounds like Clay Henry in Lajitas, Texas. Did you feed them a bock beer? That would be funny.

11:51 AM  
Blogger ChuckSuede said...

Nope, just Rolling Rock because it was cheapest. The Brews were spendy. With the two bottles of Rolling Rock for the goats, and the two pints of beer that I drank, I ended up dropping 25 bucks.

8:55 PM  

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