As much of my misspent youth was on the Delaware shore, I was excited to see the First State’s favorite beer finally available in our area. When Dogfish Head Craft Brewery opened in Rehoboth Beach in 1995, it was the smallest brewery in the nation (in the second-smallest state), according to founder Sam Calagione, who was recently in Mobile to promote the launch of his beers in Alabama.
From its humble beginnings, Dogfish Head (the name of a peninsula in Maine) has become one of the country’s most successful and creative craft breweries, and Calagione has become a celebrity in the beer world. He was recognized as the Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional in 2017 by the James Beard Foundation — often referred to as the “Oscars for food” — and is the author of three books, including his most recent, “Project Extreme Brewing.”Dogfish Head first came to the Mobile area in March, and Calagione visited recently to meet with those in the bar, restaurant and retail industries to get their feedback to how his beers have been received at an event hosted by Gulf Distributing Holdings, which is the provider of Dogfish Head beers throughout Alabama. Gulf Distributing’s Amy Baldwin said Calagione chose to move into the Alabama market at this time because of the growth of the craft beer movement here.
Dogfish Head offers a wide variety of beer styles — some year-round, some seasonal, some occasional — but the heart of its offerings are a broad selection of different types of IPAs, including some that are very strong, and others with uncommon tastes.
The Burton Baton oak-aged IPA has a really rich flavor and is surprising at 10 percent ABV, as it doesn’t taste that strong. The Indian Brown Dark IPA, on the other hand, is like a mix between a stout and a pale ale, with a nice malt finish.
The 60 Minute IPA, a very nice session beer, is Dogfish’s best seller. It is a smooth and light IPA, with a nice head and good color. The stronger 90 Minute IPA, at 9 percent ABV, has been hailed by Esquire magazine as “perhaps the best IPA in America.” It is excellent, and available in the Mobile area.
Dogfish’s 120 Minute IPA, clocking in at a shocking 18 percent ABV, is a triple (quadruple??) IPA that is one of the strongest beers produced. I’ve not had a chance to try one yet, and don’t know if I’ll remember it if I do!
While it has now become expected, even passé, for craft brewers to put all kinds of unusual and often exotic ingredients in their brews (not always with positive results), Dogfish Head and Calagione have long been at the forefront of experimental brewing, going back to the early days of the original brewpub in the 1990s. The brewery’s slogan, “Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People,” is manifested in the wide variety of unexpected flavors Calagione puts in his beer, usually to fantastic effect.
Two of Dogfish’s more distinctive beers I’ve tried are IPAs that, in many ways, don’t even taste like IPAs — the Flesh & Blood and the Lupu-Luau. Neither is very hoppy, and both have fruit flavors — orange in the Flesh & Blood and coconut in the Lupu-Luau — that create light, smooth finishes. Even if you don’t like IPAs, you may enjoy these.
Another unique offering from Dogfish Head is the SeaQuench Ale, one of its newest and most atypical brews. Touted as a session sour, it tastes more like a limeade than a beer, but it somehow works very well — perfect after a long run, yard work or just another hot day on the Gulf Coast. It has also been very successful — Calagione said he’s never had a new style sell as fast as SeaQuench Ale has since its introduction in 2016.
So grab a Dogfish Head, and experience a bit of that Dewey Beach lifestyle here in Lower Alabama.