Last Saturday, I went on a trip to one of my favorite breweries, Dogfish Head. This was was organized by probably my favorite NYC beer bar, Rattle N Hum. We had to meet at RnH by 7am. Only other time I get up to Manhattan on a weekend this early is for a race, so this would be quite different. After some technicalities at the bar with registrations and such, we were on the road at about 7:30. There were about 50 people, almost filling a big tour bus. In the front of the bus was beer; a lot of beer. Including a full keg of Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale. After a 3 to 4-hour bus ride down, we arrived at the brewery. On our way inside, which starts in the gift shop area, we were personally greeted by none other than Sam Calagione, President and founder, as well as super nice guy. A real class act in every way. Fortunately, Sam also gave us the brewery tour, and due to the nature of our group being beer geeks and all, he said beforehand that it would be much more technical and dense than the usual tour. And indeed it was. Really fantastic tour. I almost felt like I was in Willy Wonka’s factory. I mentioned this to Sam, and he said not to eat the blueberries. One thing that sticks out in my mind is that whenever Sam would speak about other breweries, he’d precede the name with, “Our friends at.” He said that it’s more of a camaraderie than competition. I guess the real competition to all of the microbreweries is The Man, being Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors, which together roughly make up a staggering 85% of beer sales in the US. The American craft breweries in 2009 added up to only 7.2%. These may not be exact, but they’re pretty accurate. So anyway, we ended the tour back around at the gift shop, where we sampled the four beers on tap, and of course bought cool stuff. The beers were:
- Festina Peche – good, but very tart
- My Antonia – Double Pilsner – very nice and bold
- Theobroma – Too much going on, need to try on its own
- Palo Santo Marron – Great beer – I’d had it before
After all that, we got back on the bus and headed over to Dogfish Brewings & Eats, their restaurant. This was the only real disappointment of the trip for me. Sam had told us about some really interesting limited brews that we could try at the restaurant, but when we got there and sat down, we were informed that we had to pay $25 for a home style meal. This included two beers; nice in theory, but we only had the choice of the Lawnmower Light, Shelter Pale Ale, 60 Minute IPA, and 90 Minute IPA. The 60 and 90 are two of my favorite beers, but not exactly anything hard to find. After those two beers, I really had no more alcohol tolerance to deal with more beer. I would have gladly taken one of the special brews for two of the regular ones. I did get to have sips of others people’s, but not enough to really get to know the beers. Oh well. Maybe they’ll still have some of these when Christina and I go back down for the Dogfish Dash in Sept. To their credit, the people from Rattle N Hum felt really bad about the $25 thing, which they had no idea about beforehand. They said they’d make it up with free beer and appetizers when we got back to the bar, but we got back so late that I really just wanted to get home and pass out. There was also a mystery gift for each of us that Sam said would be waiting for us at the restaurant. We saw nothing, and eventually I joked that the gift was the $25 charge for dinner. Turns out he gave us each a bottle from a test batch of their Punkin Ale, not due out until October. We got these when we got back to the bar. Thanks, Sam! Their Punkin is by far my favorite pumpkin ale.
Overall a great time and I can’t wait to get back down there. Many thanks to Rattle N Hum and Dogfish Head for a great day.