Written by VA Homebrewer
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The DFH Experience
A visit to Dogfish Head in RehobothMay 1, 2002
Portsmouth, VIRGINIA -
I came to the realization that there was more to beer than the American Standard or Pale Ale about a year and a half ago as a result of a desire to improve my homebrewing. It didn’t take me long to realize that there were some eclectic and eccentric breweries and personalities in the beer world. One of these breweries caught my attention early on. I was, and still am, entranced by Dogfish Head’s insane recipes and ingredients. I had to see what kind of place made wacky beer like theirs.
I managed to convince Melissa (my very understanding girlfriend) that a weekend on the coast of Delaware would do us some good, and off we went to spend St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Rehoboth, Delaware for the sole purpose of partaking in some DFH brews straight from the source.
Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats is on Rehoboth Avenue - the main drag - about 5 blocks from the ocean. The building’s visual impression leaves something to be desired, with paint peeling from the wood siding façade and the large Dogfish Head shark logo hanging over the door. There is a small outdoor patio that would be appealing in the summer months.
The décor is beachy, with wooden john-boats and old fishing nets jutting from various walls and corners. There are also interesting pieces of memorabilia such as the old "groceries" sign strategically hanging near the bathrooms and the kitchen entrance. The rafters are exposed overhead and the wall behind the bar is covered with DFH merchandise.
An experience at Dogfish Head shows you that this brewery’s flair for the unusual extends well beyond the beer. Sam and the boys recently began distilling their own rums on the 2nd floor of the pub. One of these, Wit Rhum, is spiced with coriander and orange peel. This produces a dry, spicy finish similar to that of a wit beer (duh!). For eccentricity on a plate, DFH uses unfermented wort in their pizza dough and grills the pizzas in a wood-fired oven, producing a wonderful crust and plenty of smoky flavors to go with their various toppings. The house specialty pizza includes crab meat and asparagus on top. Heck, even the entertainment is one-of-a-kind. They brought in a local couple presenting their "film", which consisted of clips taken from old B movies and commercials. For the most part, the film was entertaining even though the couple was not.
Alright, alright! I know you’re out there hollering "For goodness sake - get to the beer, man!" On with the important stuff!
The usual suspects - Shelter Pale Ale, Chicory Stout, Indian Brown Ale, Raison d’etre, and Immort Ale - were all available on draught. But what I was really interested in were the special selections only available at the pub. The following 3 were available.
60 Minute IPA, which isn’t distributed, is brewed in the same manner as their 90 Minute IPA, which IS distributed. The process involves continuously adding hops to the kettle over the course of the 60 minute boil. The resulting brew possesses a fresh, floral hop aroma. It is very hoppy and fairly malty, but it is considerably less of both when compared to the 90 Minute. The finish is quite bitter, but the beer proved a perfect compliment to my wood-grilled pizza. Incidentally, the 90 Minute was also on tap and I found it to be a great deal better than the bottled version. Incredibly hoppy and malty, I’d drink this stuff every day if possible. I maintain my assertion that this is the absolute hop monster.
Kelley’s Irish Red Ale, specially brewed for St. Patty’s Day, turned out to be a red IPA with great floral hops and a little less malt than expected. Nothing out of the ordinary here except that brilliant ruby color. Hmmm... Kelley’s IRA. Any Sinn Fein members in Delaware?
Raison d’extra, a weird spin-off of Raison d’etre, caught my fancy as a great after dinner drink with notes of cognac and brandy. Sweet without being cloying, it is a complex and heavy beer with a spicy component is presumably a product of the alcohol. This deep auburn beer would’ve gone great with a Gloria Cubana (which I left in the humidor back home) or a raspberry cheesecake. Watch out though - it’ll knock you flat on your hind parts at 20% abv!
I also tasted all but one of the usual suspects and found them to be comparable to the bottled versions we are accustomed to. I did not taste the Chicory Stout because it was nitrogenated. I wasn’t about to order an already sub-par stout that had been subjected to the damaging affects of nitrogen! No way, no how. Not when there were 9 OTHER beers (plus the truly whacko Midas Touch) to tickle my taste buds!
In conclusion, a Dogfish Head experience of your own is recommended if you’re going to be in or near Delaware. The pub is as original and eclectic as Raison d’etre, and it’s a great place to eat, drink, and be merry. You’ll likely find something new on tap, and there’s plenty of other stuff to do for a day trip or a weekend. The only drawback to a weekend visit is that the DFH Brewery in nearby Lewes doesn’t offer tours on the weekend. Now, off to convince Melissa that a weekday trip...
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