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Interview with Sam Calagione

Matt Abdoney investigates the present and future of Dogfish Head
Interviews December 8, 2006      
Written by matta

Tampa, FLORIDA -

Hello, RateBeer! Today I offer the reader a brief interview with Sam Calagione, the proprietor, brewer, published author, rhyming linguist, and mad scientist behind Dogfish Head Brewery. The interview covers a short Dogfish Head 2006 year in review, and some answers regarding what the future holds for this innovative craft brewery. Enjoy!

These initial questions are to assist us readers in better understanding the man who is Sam Calagione.

Q#1.) Which animal would you most prefer to have as a pet?

Sam) A dog, but not a fish.....or a head.

Q#2.) For dinner, you would most likely order an entree of?

Sam) Steak frites with a Raison D’Etre

Q#3.) Other than brewing, “You Would Rather Be” … as the license plates suggest, doing what?

Sam) Painting, reading, writing, or listening to music.

Q#4.) Hypothetically, you are stranded on an uninhabited island and you have only one case of beer; what case of beer is it and why?

Sam) Our World Wide Stout.....18% abv and 666 calories per 12 oz. bottles would keep me buzzed and nutrient-rich until the rescue ship appeared.

The Real Q’s

Q#1.) If you have to choose one, for you personally, what has been the most frustrating and problematic aspect of building Dogfish into one of the elite breweries in today’s Craft Beer industry?

Sam) There is a double-edged, perception-challenge that we get hit with regularly: The big retail accounts, restaurants, chains, etc. voice frustration that we don’t have a flagship which we focus on. That we are too small, our 60 minute is too hoppy, our 90 minute is too strong, or Raison is too wine-like. At the same time we are explaining that we have no intention of dumbing down our beers to this faction. We get called-out by certain militant beer enthusiasts who claim we are too big, too corporate, too whatever. All the while we continue to brew exactly the kinds of beers we want to drink better and better and hope more and more people will find their way to them. We want to grow but we don’t want to sacrifice our integrity or off-centered outlook to anyone in an effort to grow. Growth is secondary to supporting the community of Dogfish Head. That starts with our co-workers, moves on to our loyal supporters, and outward from there.

Q#2.) I know that Dogfish Head has had some major life changes in 2006. Can you elaborate a bit on the company’s most excessive alterations of the year?

Sam) We have jumped to 100 bbl brewhouse and are now 103,000 sq ft under roof with a capacity of 220,000 bbls. But the average case of beer from Dogfish is still 9% abv as it was when we opened 11 years ago so our mission of making off-centered ales for off-centered people is still in tact. Our second alehouse opens in Northern Va. in a few months. Bigger batch sizes but we are still approaching our work as homebrewing on a grand scale. We plan to keep putting the where in Delaware and the mental in experimental.

Q#3.) Some of us have started to notice the disappearance of Shelter Pale Ale and Chicory Stout from the store shelves. Where have our old friends gone and are they ever returning? What could be the cause of vanishing?

Sam) We can’t keep up with demand and Shelter and Chicory (at roughly 5% abv each) don’t have the shelf life of our bigger and more happy beers. Shelter will still be available in the mid-Atlantic and Chicory will become a Nov. seasonal for us next year.

Q#4.) What does 2007 hold for Dogfish Head Brewery?

Sam) We hope to open new markets for the first time in three years. Hopefully Georgia in the spring and Cali in the fall but only if we are satisfying demand from existing markets. We have a few new beers coming out in February, too. Red & White, a strong Belgian wit (12% abv), fermented with pinot noir grapes and aged on pinot noir wood. And Black & Blue, a big Belgian golden ale dosed with black and blueberries throughout primary fermentation (10% abv).

Q#5.) Where do you see Dogfish Head in the next 3 years? Deeper into the chain of Brewpubs, a mega National craft beer brand with brand placements in every large-scale supermarket, both mentioned, neither?

Sam) That’s a good question. Our bank asked that too. We will have our second Alehouse opened in a few months and a few more opening in the greater DC area over the next three years. We’ll have our pub at our Milton brewery opened by the spring of 08. We will have opened at least two new markets - Georgia and California. I’m halfway through writing another book: He said beer, She said wine - which comes out in the spring of 07 - I write half and a female master sommelier writes the other half - it’s kind of a war of the sexes/beverages in the context of food pairings. We might be at 60,000 or 70,000 bbls by then - that’s not up to us so much as it is our customers though. The one thing I do know is that we’ll be continuing to push the envelope and experimenting with freak-flag-flying specialty and seasonal beers. Our Red & White and Black & Blue beers come out in a few months. We have another exciting one coming out in the summer. I don’t spend too much time thinking about where our beer will sell. We’re not going to change who we are to get into more/bigger accounts. I know that there are dozens of other strong, growing, regional craft breweries who will be right next to us fighting to expand the better beer category - I know they are allies more then they are adversaries and that there is no good reason 3 breweries control 85% of the beer sold in a country that is 1400 breweries-strong. -best, sam

So, there you have it friends and folks! A bit more insight into how one of RateBeer’s favorite Craft Breweries, Dogfish Head, struggles yet strives into growth as we venture into the New Year!



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start quote Hopefully Georgia in the spring and Cali in the fall but only if we are satisfying demand from existing markets. We have a few new beers coming out in Feb too. end quote