Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pink Boots at Dogfish Head

"Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day's work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your widest ambition." ~Sir William Osler

Photo above, L to R: Andy Tveekrem, Jon Talkington, Teri, Brent Baughman and Bryan Selders.

September 16-18: Drove from Mount Laurel, NJ to Milton, DE, where Dogfish Head has their production facilty. Milton has a population of about 1,400 people, with 2,000 more houses going up outside of town soon. Milton is a really cute little town. I drove down Chestnut Street to get to the brewery and there were lots of cute old houses along the way.

Lead Brewer Bryan Selders met me with a mixed six-pack and got me set up in their parking lot. Bryan also let me into the brewhouse so that I could work on the Internet for awhile.
Then I walked down to one of the two good restaurant/bars in town, called Irish Eyes. There I met up with Bryan, Dogfish Head's National Sales Manager Claus Hagelman, and Jim Boyd who is General Manager at the Rehoboth brewpub. Jim will also be G.M. for Dogfish Head's new restaurant that will go into the production brewery in about a year. Some of you may remember Jim Boyd from his hoppy Yakima Chief days. (Photo above, L to R: Bryan, Jim, Claus and Teri.)

The next morning I joined brewer Brian Connery in the brewhouse. Brian has brewed all over the country including stints in San Francisco, Colorado and Las Vegas. Dogfish Head's brewhouse office is a well air-conditioned room with the largest process monitors that I have seen so far. Brian told me that he's seen larger screens at Coors in Shenandoah.

The photo above shows Brian monitoring six processes on two giant screens at once. And the brewhouse office is at the top of an ivory tower inside the big old cannery that Dogfish Head occupies. I kid you not.

The brew ran into a spot of trouble when the cold liquor back sent some ice crystals into the heat exchange, and I got to help by monitoring the flow meter and reporting back to the brewhouse office via walkie-talkie.

After hanging out in the brewhouse for most of the day, and seeing how the hops are added to the boil using the "Sofa King Hoppy," I wandered around to visit other departments.

Cellarman Jon Talkington demonstrated dry-hopping a 200-barrel fermenter using the "Me So Hoppy" unit and CO2. These Dogfish Head boys are very clever. Oh, and "Dogfish Head" is named after some headlands on the coast of Maine where Owner/Mastermind Sam Calagione spent his summers as a child.

Then I hung out with QC Supervisor Chad Collier in the lab, or should I say "labs." Chad demonstrated a nifty $32,000 testing machine that sucks up beer through a straw and spits out a receipt with O.G., F.G., Calories, and other information printed on it. (Chad, if you email me the name of this machine, I will post it here.) We tested my Calorie Calculation formula against the machine and Chad was impressed with how close the numbers were.

We discussed the importance of brewpubs and other small breweries doing basic labwork like HLP (Hsu's Lactobacillus & Pediococcus media). Click here for my pre-publication Brewpub HLP Lab Manual. Chad showed me some nifty machines that may be cheap enough for a brewpub to afford, including the Spectrophotometer and the Bio-Illuminator. Very cool!

A few weeks ago "Joe Sixpack," also known as freelance writer Don Russell, interviewed me for his article on Collaboration Brews that will be published in the Philadelphia Daily News and in Draft Magazine. Don arrived in the afternoon and Brewmaster Andy Tveekrem gave us the detailed tour of Dogfish Head's facilities. Dogfish Head is in a continual state of expansion, and Andy leads all the brewery expansion and construction projects. (Photo at right is of Sam Calagione and Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell.)

A contingent of eight Canadians, all employees or owners of Toronto's famous Beer Bistro arrived and Sam gave them his VIP tour. Chef/Proprietor Brian Morin and his staff had driven about 12 hours from Toronto to Milton in order to convince Sam to come to Toronto to do a beer dinner at the Beer Bistro.

Sam was so impressed with their passion and perseverance that he hosted a mini beer dinner for them at Dogfish Head's Rehoboth Beach brewpub. "Joe Sixpack,"Andy Tveekrem, and I joined the boisterous bunch upstairs. I rode with Sam, which was a treat, and we talked about marketing, Steelhead, and Michael Jackson.
Sam was instrumental in arranging the world wide Toast to Michael Jackson that will occur on September 30th at 9:00 pm EST, 6:00 pm PST. Be sure to get a pint or bottle of something that Michael could appreciate in your fridge so you are ready for your toast that Sunday night!

Upstairs at the brewpub is where Dogfish Head's distillery is. Sam and General Manager Jim Boyd showed me their homemade system. I just love little distilleries. I tasted the Chocolate Vodka and it was good.

The tables were set up in a T-shape. Andy and I sat across from Brian and "Tweedy" from Canada. Tweedy wants to become a professional brewer. Andy and I were happy to have him pick our professional brains and we filled him to overflowing with all the advice he could handle.

We tasted most of Dogfish Head's standard beers, like the 60-minute IPA, and some of the unusual beers, like the Midas Touch with 1/3 honey, 1/3 Muscat grape juice, and 1/3 malted barley. We also tasted a very smooth and silky Chicory Stout, and Chateau Jiahu made with honey, hawthorn, grapes and malt. The food was good and I managed to drink moderately in spite of the strong beers that were served.
Claus Hagelman gave me a lift back from Rehoboth Beach to Milton. The night was warm and humid. Claus drives a classic 1968 Buick Riviera. It's a big car and with front and back windows down, there's a huge open space where the air can flow in. Riding in a big Buick like that makes you step back in time and enjoy the ride for the sake of the ride. Claus espoused his marketing philosophies and I enjoyed his input.

The next day I worked on scheduling my trip, photos and this blog until about 4:00 pm. A big Thank You to Dogfish Head for letting me take over a corner of their brewhouse office (and trip the brewers with my ethernet cable) in order to work on the Internet. Dogfish Head also gifted me a mixed case of their yummy strong beers, including a big bottle each of Fort (with raspberries) and Chateau Jiahu. Sam himself signed a hardback copy of his book, "Brewing Up A Business" for me. I can't wait to devour every word!

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