Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May in English, has become a day to celebrate Mexican culture with food, drink, and a gathering of friends. But what exactly does this holiday celebrate and how did German- and Austrian-inspired beers get to be brewed in Mexico?
What is Cinco de Mayo?
From History.com: “During the French-Mexican War, in 1862, a poorly supplied and outnumbered Mexican army under General Ignacio Zaragoza defeats a French army attempting to capture Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. Victory at the Battle of Puebla represented a great moral victory for the Mexican government, symbolizing the country’s ability to defend its sovereignty against threat by a powerful foreign nation.
In Mexico, 6,000 French troops set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles. Juarez rounded up a rag-tag force of loyal men and sent them to Puebla. Led by Texas-born General Zaragoza, the 2,000 Mexicans prepared for the French assault. On the fifth of May, 1862, Lorencez drew his army before the city of Puebla and began their assault from the north. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated they had lost nearly 500 soldiers to the fewer than 100 Mexicans killed.”
After the battle, the Mexican Army gained a significant moral victory that inspired American soldiers fighting in the Civil War and helped the Mexicans endure long enough to eventually win the war after the withdrawal of France from Mexico, six years later.
Cinco de Mayo is often mistakenly thought of as Mexican Independence Day, but in the United States, it is a day to celebrate Mexican culture, especially food and drink.
Cinco de Mayo Beers – History
The most popular beers imported from Mexico today are all heavily influenced by the German and Austrian brewing traditions. Ironically, the same European influence that caused the Battle of Puebla also caused German and Austrian brewers to come to Mexico to start brewing beer.
According to Garrett Oliver’s Oxford Companion to Beer, Mexican beer gets its start during the reign of Maximilian I, the Austrian-born emperor appointed by Napoleon III of France. After the French invaded Mexico, brewers relocated to the country in order to serve the European population. These brewers had knowledge and training of Old World traditions, and so they brewed the beers that they knew best. German light lagers in combination with the hot Mexican climate made these beers event more popular and their popularity continues through today. While Corona and Corona Light are the most popular Mexican imported beers, the brewers that came to Mexico in the 19th century also brought recipes for Vienna lager from their home countries. These lagers are called “dark” beer since they maintain a darker color than the light lagers. These Vienna-style lagers also give a plethora of food-pairing options during Cinco de Mayo, as their darker malts will pair well with earthy dishes like molé poblanos and carne asada – giving earthy chocolate and roasted meats a playmate during this festive holiday.
See chef Rick Bayless (winner of Bravo TV’s Top Chef Masters and owner of Frontera restaurant at Disney Springs) talk about how he uses Modelo Negra in his cuisine.
Cinco de Mayo Events
There are a plethora of Cinco de Mayo events happening from Brooksville to Gainesville, from Lake City to Tallahassee – check out our Events Page to find a few!
Cinco de Mayo Beers
While many beers pair well with Mexican food and particularly spicy Mexican foods, a few beers rise to the top of the pack when it comes to Mexican culture.
Modelo Negra(5.3% ABV): One of the beers that may seem strange to include with a list of beers that go well with Mexican foods, never underestimate the power of a dark lager in a Mexican fiesta. Modelo Negra has some toasted malts and a nice carbonation that will clean the palate and refresh it especially in the face of darker meats, like beef, that will challenge a lighter beer. Try Modelo Negra with molé poblanos or a chocolate dessert to see how versatile this beer really is. Modelo Negra also has the power to stand up to spicy foods (more so than its cousin Corona or lighter beers) because the beer’s dark malts will help soften the impact of capsaicin spice.
Coppertail BrewingFree Dive IPA (5.9% ABV): While an IPA is certainly not a traditional Mexican beer, Coppertail Brewing has come up with a hop profile for this beer that makes it the perfect companion to Mexican dishes. Free Dive IPA is on the lighter side of this hoppy beer style, clocking in at only 5.9%ABV. The white grapefruit and citrus character of Free Dive make it dance with fish tacos and sing with guacamole – don’t believe us? Try it for yourself.
Sierra Nevada Otra Vez Lime & Agave (4.5% ABV): One of Sierra Nevada’s newest year-round offerings that has taken ideas from several cultures and made it uniquely theirs. Otra Vez is made in the style of a German gose, so it will carry some wheat flavors and some tartness. Lime and agave are then added to make this beer a margarita-like refresher. Pair Otra Vez with arroz con pollo or fresh goat cheese for an added fiesta of flavor.
Dogfish Head Brewery’sSeaQuench Ale (4.9% ABV): Made in a style typical of Dogfish Head, this beer is a hybrid of several different types of beer with the kind of off-centered ingredients that the Delaware brewery loves. A mildly tart ale, SeaQuench Ale is a blend of a light Kolsch, a salty gose, and a tart Berliner weiss and is made with the addition of sea salt, coriander, and black limes. Try a SeaQuench with chicken fajitas or even chips and a light queso fresco for a salty, tart start to any meal.
In the spirit of unexpected victories this month, hop on over to our Beer Finder and find out where to find your favorite beer or a few other choices for pairing them with the tasty and piquant dishes of the U.S.’s southernmost neighbor.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! No matter which beers come to the party, please enjoy responsibly (and with friends).
Fat Tuesday is upon us again, and our teammates are going to be around Ocala, Gainesville, and Tallahassee spreading Mardi Gras cheer for Fat Tuesday tomorrow!
Tomorrow, March 5th, 2019, is Fat Tuesday – the traditional day before 40 days of fasting in the Catholic season of Lent. In the past, Mardi Gras was a way to get all of the partying out before repenting around Easter time. Whatever your reason for celebrating, we will have the spirit and the beer of New Orleans Mardi Gras with us!
Look for our account managers out on the prowl tomorrow, tapping some kegs of Abita, Louisiana’s finest craft beer in the spirit of Mardi Gras! Will there be beads? Of course, there will be beads! Will there be beer, New Orleans-inspired food and the “good time” spirit of a Cajun holiday? Come, see for yourself, and taste the history in every sip!
Our teammates will be out and about tomorrow evening pouring some fine Abita ales and lagers at the following locations across Ocala, Gainesville, and Tallahassee:
Brick City Lodge Ocala (36 South Magnolia Avenue Ocala) – we will be featuring Abita Mardi Gras Bock, Abita Strawberry Lager, and Abita Grapefruit Honey on draft with Abita’s classic Purple Haze in bottles.
Harry’s Ocala (24 SE 1st Avenue Ocala) – we’ll be pouring up some classic Abita Amber.
Kelly’s Half Shell Pub Crystal River (390 North Suncoast Boulevard) – we’ll be pouring up some Abita Mardi Gras Bock.
World of Beer Brownwood in the Villages (2751 West Torch Lake Drive The Villages) – we’ll be pouring up some Abita Amber, Mardi Gras Bock, and Strawberry Lager.
Harry’s Tallahassee (301 South Bronough Street Tallahassee) – we’ll be tapping some Abita Purple Haze.
Coosh’s Woodward (6267 Old Water Oak Road Tallahassee) – we’ll be serving up Abita Purple Haze, Amber, Strawberry Lager, and Mardi Gras Bock.
*Find a Team Cone rep and MENTION this post and get your set of Mardi Gras beads!* It won’t just be beads that we’re serving up, but you’ll have to come and see us to find out all of the details!
We will have some other surprises at each place, so stop by for some food and beer and Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Open That Bottle Day was created, according to the Wall Street Journal, as a day for wine lovers to drink the bottles that they are saving for the perfect moment, a special occasion, or just never got around to drinking. That holiday is especially relevant for beer lovers also, since many beer enthusiasts cellar beers that they can enjoy at a later date. The problem with life is that it continues to happen, despite any beer lover’s best intentions, so oftentimes bottles are left to mature past their prime and that perfect occasion never happens.
Beer can be cellared
It may come as a surprise, but beer can be aged and many beers age gracefully developing additional character as time passes. NOT ALL BEERS ARE IDEAL FOR CELLARING, and aside from some unique Belgian lambics, there are almost no beers that can be aged indefinitely.
Which beers are ideal for cellaring
Beers that are ideal for cellaring are those that have a higher alcohol content and/or ones that are bottle-conditioned so that the yeast can continue to ferment the beer. Over the course of months and years, the seal on their bottle allows small amounts of oxygen in. That oxygen will oxidize the beer and the beer will take on notes of sherry and wet cardboard. While these flavors seem undesirable, the changes add to the profile of the beer and the end result is a beer that is quite different from its younger self.
Like wine, each beer has its own threshold for aging and if aged too long, it will be “past its prime” meaning the flavors will be tainted by oxidation and a shadow of their former selves. Cellared beer should be aged in a cool, dark area that has consistent temperatures (specifically an area that does not get too warm). Warm temperatures can encourage oxidation and make beer age more quickly than it would normally under consistent temperatures.
One of the prime cellar candidates is Dogfish Head Brewery‘s 120 Minute IPA. 120 Minute IPA has a high alcohol content and a large number of hops. Both of those aspects together will allow the beer to change over time. 120 Minute IPA will continue to age for many years, in fact, the brewery has been known to pour 120 Minute IPA that is up to 10 years old at the brewery. The enjoyment of beer is different for everyone, so the flavor of 120 IPA with a few years on it may be just what the doctor ordered to mellow out the hops and let the immense amount of malt shine through.
Another prime candidate for cellaring is Sierra Nevada Brewing’s Bigfoot Barleywine. When this malty monster comes out every year, it is young and immensely hoppy. With time, the hops fade and the malt character begins to shine through. With more years, the hops will continue to mellow until they are a small part of the malt profile and the beer’s malt profile mixes with the sherry notes from oxidation. While it is still Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot, it does not have the same features that it started with.
Take care on “Open That Bottle Day”
That bottle that you open on “Open That Bottle Day” does not have to be one from the deep recesses of the cellar – it can be that bottle at the local bottle shop that always looked interesting.
Whichever bottle gets the honor, Open That Bottle Day is best enjoyed with friends.
Suggestions for Open That Bottle Day:
Infinite Ale Works West Floridian Quadruple: Ocala’s Infinite Ale Works has made a name for itself making unique Belgian-inspired ales from their Marion County home. This quadruple won big in 2018’s Best Florida Beer Competition and continues to turn heads around the state. Keep an eye on this beer, as its 10.5% alcohol content can sneak up quickly. Available in 500mL bottle four pack, West Floridian’s unique character loves the company of friends.
Swamp Head Brewery’s Barrel-Aged 10-10-10 Imperial IPA: Gainesville’s original craft brewery began aging their locally loved 10-10-10 Imperial IPA in bourbon barrels many moons ago, and sometimes the beer can be very bourbon-forward when the beer is fresh. There is nothing wrong with bourbon-forward, but a few months or a year or two can change the profile of the beer with a little sherry character.
Samuel Adams Utopias: One of the most unique beers available, Samuel Adams Utopias is only made and available every two years. This beer is a blend of many ales that have been aged in spirit barrels and it presents itself more like a fine spirit than a beer. Utopias is one of the few beers that can be resealed and enjoyed later, as it does not have any carbonation. Any who have tried this beer can say for certain that they have never had any beer like it. Best savored among friends, Utopias also carries a hefty alcohol content (28%) from all that contact with spirit barrels.
Last summer’s Red Bull Coconut Berry was such a crowd pleaser that it’s coming back again and this time it’s here to stay! February will see Coconut Berry launching cans across Team Cone’s distribution footprint and to celebrate, we’re throwing launch parties to celebrate!
Come check out Red Bull Coconut Berry at one or more of these parties:
Come spice it up a bit with world-class chicken wings and a Coconut Berry at:
Monday Launch Party at Island Wing Company Grill & Bar
1370 Market Street in Tallahassee Monday, February 4th Starting at 7pm
Come shoot some pool and enjoy Coconut Berry in a delicious rum cocktail at:
Tuesday Launch Party at Corner Pocket Bar & Grill
2475 Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee February 5th Starting at 7pm
Come enjoy a premium cigar with friends or simply get some extra energy at:
Wednesday Launch Party at Suite 306
3131 Southwest College Road in Ocala February 6th Starting at 5pm
Come sip a Coconut Berry and enjoy the breezes off of the Rainbow River at:
TGIF! Launch Party at Swampy’s Bar & Grille
19773 East Pennsylvania Ave in Dunnellon February 8th Starting at 6pm
Red Bull Coconut Berry – giving you the same wings with the flavor of coconut and berry you’ll love!
On Tuesday, December 18th, Team Cone Human Resources Department along with professionals from the Ocala Human Resource Management Association held their annual Christmas luncheon at Team Cone’s hospitality room. The point of this luncheon was not to simply celebrate the year’s successes but to feed those in need in the community.
Together, the human resources professionals teamed up with The Pack Shack organization were able to fill 5,265 meals of cheesy rice and vegetables for donation to and distribution by Brother’s Keeper of Ocala.
“This event was a great opportunity to live our company Core Value of Giving Back With Caring,” said Team Cone H.R. Director J.J. Jarrell. “This event was a fun way to come together with the H.R. community in Ocala and give of our time. We had fun and we did something to help our neighbors.”
About OHRMA The Ocala Human Resource Management Association is a nonprofit organization of human resource professionals from the Marion County community. Affiliated with the Society for Human Resource Management, an international organization of more than 180,000, OHRMA provides the information you need to make today’s decisions and to formulate and implement effective Human Resource Management programs. OHRMA helps expand professional competence, keeps members informed of federal and state legislative actions, and maintains standards of excellence in the Human Resource Management field.
About Cone Distributing Founded by Douglas P. Cone, Jr. in 1985, Cone Distributing (Team Cone) began business with selling five brands of beer in four rural counties. Less than two years later, the company began expanding territory and suppliers and has not stopped since, building the largest geographic footprint in the state for a Florida beer distributor. Today Team Cone sells beer from over 40 suppliers in 22 Florida counties from a state-of-the-art facility in Ocala and a facility in Tallahassee. Cone Distributing’s goal is to operate a World Class company, distinguishing itself by doing the Right Thing the Right Way All the Time.
Last year, Team Cone gave away some really special items to our community for Christmas 2018.
Santa has really been loving his breakfast this year, though.
In his newfound love for all things breakfast, Santa has rather enjoyed Maple Bacon Coffee Porter from Funky Buddha Brewery, and he had a new idea – what better way to enjoy this beer than at the brewery fresh from the source??? It’s time for MAPLE BACON CHRISTMAS 2018!
In that spirit, Santa wants to see how much everyone enjoys the beers from his friends at Funky Buddha Brewery! To enter for a chance to win a trip to Funky Buddha Brewery for Maple Bacon Coffee Porter Day on January 12th, 2019, all you have to do is post a picture of you and your favorite Funky Buddha beer between now and December 23rd! Every unique post on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM with the hashtag #maplebaconchristmas2018 between now and December 23rd will be considered an entry – limit one per person per day! On Christmas Eve, while Santa is getting ready for his worldwide work, we will announce the winner of the sweepstakes. The winner can then come to our office and pick up what he or she has won!
WHAT COULD YOU WIN??
TWO (2) VIP Tickets to Maple Bacon Coffee Porter Festival
TWO (2) nights lodging in Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Friday and Saturday
TWO (2) cases of Maple Bacon Coffee Porter (included with ticket)
The winner will be chosen randomly FROM TWITTER OR INSTAGRAM, so the more UNIQUE posts you make, the better your chances to win! Just REMEMBER to have your privacy settings set to allow others to see your posts and tag each daily post with the hashtag #maplebaconchristmas2018.
Happy Holidays, Happy Posting, and GOOD LUCK!
Want to learn more about Funky Buddha Brewery? Click here.
Want more info on Maple Bacon Coffee Porter Day? Click here.
In our recent interview with Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione, Sam discussed how his idea for continual hopping in the India Pale Ale (IPA) style of beer helped put the brewery on the map and establish Dogfish Head’s reputation as an innovative brewery.
What’s in a number, anyway?
While conventional wisdom says a brewer should add hops to an IPA at specific intervals while wort is boiling, Sam decided to tinker. Sam grew an idea one day after watching a cooking show. On the show, the chef added pepper to a soup a little at a time, instead of one large addition. Sam decided to test this idea and instead of adding all of the hops to his IPA in one massive dose, Sam tried hopping the wort continuously while it boiled. He Macgyvered up a vibrating football game and a bucket of hops so that while the beer boiled, it received continuous doses of hops, hoping that the finished beer would have all of the aroma and bitterness that beer drinkers want from an IPA. When the first batch of 90 Minute IPA premiered at the brewpub, Sam remembers that “continual hopping provided a beautiful balance to our Imperial IPA – allowing us to add a foolhardy amount of hops throughout the boil without making 90 Minute crushingly bitter.”
Once 90 Minute IPA was established, a shorter hopping schedule was established, and 60 Minute IPA was born. Once a lighter IPA was born, the crew at Dogfish set about making the strongest IPA in the world.
How many hops can a beer hold?
The brewery dubbed 120 Minute IPA ‘the holy grail for hopheads’ and the beer’s reputation grew from there. “120 Minute started off at 20% alcohol, but we’ve dialed it in now to come in right about 18% alcohol. We’ve found over the last 7-8 years that is where its balance is best,” Sam says. “Unlike bigger beers that drink like a liquor, 120 Minute still drinks like a beer. Our huge beers are meant to drink more like beers – they’re carbonated like a beer, they just have way more flavor, complexity, and hoppiness. We sell the beer in single-serve bottles, but it’s best when split between two people or drank over the course of an evening,” Sam admits.
It’s been a minute, but 75 Minute IPA is coming back
After 120 Minute IPA was well established, the crew at Dogfish Head noticed that taproom co-workers were creating a new beer, calling a blend of 60 Minute IPA and 90 Minute IPA “75 Minute IPA.” The brewery then made a cask-conditioned version and released it back in 2011. The brewery has decided to bring back this iteration of IPA with an addition of maple syrup for the 2018 holidays.
Pick up one of these packs today and see just how hoppy the holidays can be!
60 Minute IPA (6.0% ABV): It’s hard being the sequel, unless you wrote the original story. Inspired by the continual hopping process we invented with 90 Minute IPA, 60 Minute builds on that one-of-a-kind process and flavor, crafting a solid gold hit that’s found its own identity. Brewed using a boatload of intense Northwest hops, we boil this continually hopped IPA for a full 60 minutes, adding more than 60 hop additions continuously to create a bold and timeless flavor. Continually hopped to deliver a pungently, citrusy, grassy hop flavor without being crushingly bitter, 60 Minute IPA is a surprisingly sessionable IPA for the craft enthusiast
75 Minute IPA (7.5% ABV): Now in our latest iteration, this classic IPA is again brewed with maple syrup from Sam’s family farm in Massachusetts, while being continually hopped throughout the boil, and then dry-hopped with a slew of cascade hops. The result is a malty and earthy brew with citrusy-pine aromas, balanced by subtle maple notes.
90 Minute IPA (9.0% ABV): The brainchild of Sam Calagione’s continual hopping innovation, the process provided a beautiful balance to this Imperial IPA – allowing the addition of a foolhardy amount of hops throughout the boil without making 90 Minute crushingly bitter. With rich pine and fruity citrus hop aromas and a strong malt backbone, 90 Minute IPA created pungent, unapologetic flavor that led Esquire to call it “perhaps the best IPA in America.”
120 Minute IPA (15-20% ABV): 120 Minute IPA is continuously hopped with a copious amount of high-alpha American hops throughout the boil and whirlpool, and then dry-hopped with another pallet of hops. Unfiltered and abundantly hoppy, it’s the Holy Grail for hopheads! We brew 120 Minute IPA a few times a year, but it goes fast. If you find some grab a few bottles — some to enjoy and some to age.
60, 75, 90, or 120? Try one or all to see what your favorite hopping number is! Head over to our Beer Finder to see where these packs can be found near you!
When Sam Calagione and his wife Mariah founded Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, they started the smallest brewery in America in one of the smallest states in America. In 1995 Dogfish Head Brewery co-existed with Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats in a small storefront in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Sam was the head brewer and he made beer 13 gallons at a time. In his beer, Sam’s focus was on using culinary ingredients in the brewing process. Beers like Chicory Stout, Aprihop, and Raison d’Etre each had a featured ingredient to show the versatility of beer and the “off-centered” nature of the company. In his business, he noticed that his beers were slightly different than any other brewery in the country because of this culinary focus, so Sam worked his unusual focus on beer into his brewery’s motto, Dogfish Head’s has made “Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People” ever since. There were only 600 operating breweries operating in the United States and the Calagiones had dreams of one day making it big. “In my business plan,” Sam remembers. “We were going to have a seven-barrel brewery someday with 14-barrel tanks. That was my biggest aspiration.” Never in his wildest dreams would Sam foresee Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s current growth – Dogfish Head has grown into the 12th largest brewery in the United States and is distributed in 42 states. Dogfish Head now makes batches of beer larger what Sam used to make in one year. While they are brewing larger than Sam’s initial business plan could fathom, some of the brewery’s recent cult favorite beers have pushed the growth into overdrive and the “off-centered” brewer does not plan to stop anytime soon.
In the current Dogfish Head brewhouse, Sam’s original 13-gallon brewing system stands as a monument to the company’s humble roots while the brewery’s 200-barrel brewhouse fills massive fermenters full of off-centered ales. Sam, Mariah, and their hundreds of co-workers stayed true to the spirit of experimentation that inspired Sam, and from those first batches sprung a brewing philosophy that Dogfish Head calls “Off-centered ales for off-centered people.”
Paving a new way with an IPA
One of the first “off-centered ales” that Dogfish Head became known for was an innovation on the India Pale Ale (IPA) style. While conventional wisdom says a brewer should add hops to an IPA at specific intervals while the wort is boiling, Sam decided to tinker. Sam grew an idea one day after watching a cooking show. On the show, the chef added pepper to a soup a little at a time, instead of one large addition. Sam decided to test this idea and instead of adding all of the hops to his IPA in one massive dose, Sam tried hopping the wort continuously while it boiled. He Macgyvered up a vibrating football game and a bucket of hops so that while the beer boiled, it received continuous doses of hops, hoping that the finished beer would have all of the aroma and bitterness that beer drinkers want from an IPA. When the first batch of 90 Minute IPA premiered at the brewpub, Sam remembers that “continual hopping provided a beautiful balance to our Imperial IPA – allowing us to add a foolhardy amount of hops throughout the boil without making 90 Minute crushingly bitter.” Thus 90 Minute IPA was born and a short while later, a younger sibling was conceived: 60 Minute IPA. Once 60 Minute and 90 Minute were alive and beloved, 120 Minute IPA came along and broke the record for the strongest IPA in the world. The brewery dubbed 120 Minute IPA ‘the holy grail for hopheads’ and the beer’s reputation grew from there. “120 Minute started off at 20% alcohol, but now we’ve dialed it in to come in right about 18% alcohol. We’ve found over the last 7-8 years that is where its balance is best,” Sam says. “Unlike bigger beers that drink like a liquor, 120 Minute still drinks like a beer. Our huge beers are meant to drink more like beers – they’re carbonated like a beer, they just have way more flavor, complexity, and hoppiness. We sell the beer in single-serve bottles, but it’s best when split between two people or enjoyed over the course of an evening,” Sam admits.
The vibrating football game broke after a few batches (its electronic parts weren’t meant to be held over a steaming kettle), but the idea for continual hopping lives on. Today, the ka-woosh sound of a pneumonic cannon shooting fistfuls of hops into 200 barrels of boiling wort echoes through the wood-paneled brewhouse every few minutes. That’s the sound of innovation in the off-centered way that Dogfish Head loves.
The Dogfish Head idea train
While Dogfish Head initially made their reputation on 60, 90, and 120 Minute IPAs, those beers were just the breakout beers for this enterprising young brewery. The Dogfish Head idea train kept rolling and picked up steam along the way. Sam admits that innovating gets harder every year when you have so many bright bulbs in the American craft brewing industry. “With 7,000 breweries and most of them looking for creative ideas, it gets harder and harder to find white space where no one else is playing,” Sam explains. For example, Sam points to naming new beers. “10-15 years ago, I wouldn’t have to think about it. Oh, Raison d’Etre. No one else is going to use that crazy name! And now, today, we come up with a great name and you enter that word with the word ‘beer’ after it on Google and press enter and hope for the best, but odds are that some tiny little brewery in Spokane or Austin, Texas is thinking of that same name. So, coming up with names, let alone recipes that are unique and viable and exciting is hard.”
For Dogfish Head, staying faithful to their creative muse becomes increasingly challenging but vitally important. Sam tells his co-workers who are working on the latest round of off-centered ales, “don’t copy anybody.” Sam is explicit about his desire to remain original or keep working. “Try to come up with our own inspirations. There are a lot of breweries who made a good run of it for 10, 20, sometimes 25 years by being fast followers. You can just draft (in the bicycling sense) behind the leaders and make a living out of being a fast follower, but that has never really excited me.” Sam candidly admits, “I would rather we take risks and go for it and do some exotic things. Sometimes they don’t work and sometimes they work.” He points to a few examples like “in the case of Piercing Pils, we made a beautiful crisp pilsner with pears, but we decided to do it as a winter beer, and it turns out people don’t really want to drink a pilsner when its ten degrees in New England. That one didn’t sell well, so we hiatused it.” Experimentation has its upside, too, and while not every beer may be a home run, the road to the company fastest-growing beer was paved with test batches and chances taken.
The best-selling beer in the company’s history came from innovation – a collaboration beer with the National Aquarium. “With SeaQuench Ale, five years ago if you tried to say ‘Hey, I’m going to make 40-50,000 bbls of a beer that’s a mashup of a kolsch, a Berliner Weiss, and a gose with black limes and sea salt, people would have thought you were crazy, but now it’s the fastest-growing beer in the history of our company.” Looking for innovations has been the path that Dogfish Head has carved for itself and Sam wants the brewery to keep going down that path.
Sam feels that SeaQuench’s multilayered appeal is key to inviting new drinkers to the world of great beer. “We know that we have a winner in SeaQuench and especially in a hot climate like Florida, we see that SeaQuench will be a viable year-round beer since it appeals to margarita drinkers and pinot gris drinkers alike.” Sam says he sees long-term success with SeaQuench, and the brewery is going to continue to bet on it. “I think the runway is super long for SeaQuench, so I think in 2019 we’re going to do a complimentary beer very different from SeaQuench sour that we think will do really really well.” Sam says that Florida can expect to see this new beer from April through the summer as long as it lasts.
Being one with the music while marching to their own drummer
Each year, Dogfish Head supports Record Store Day, a day celebrating independent record stores nationwide. In recent years, that support has included collaborations with well-known musicians. Sam prefers collaborations that have a “karmic resonance” – when brewer and music-maker each contribute their talents to the project. As an example, 2018’s collaborator was Flaming Lips frontman, Wayne Coyne. Coyne was so inspired by the project that he wrote two original songs for the project. The beer that resulted from the collaboration, called Dragons & Yum-Yums, was part of the brewery’s Art Series in 2018 and has a rumored return in the future.
The next collaboration is already in the works, and Sam says the drinking public will find out soon. “We have a love for music as much as for beer, so without giving too much away, they’ll be a big announcement of a really internationally famous band that’s famous with a few different generations that we’ll be doing something with next year.” This spirit of collaboration is not just limited to national bands. “We’ll be doing stuff with more local indy bands as well – lower profile but still super cool. We’re going to still go hard at the music front.”
What’s after IPA?
Despite his success with 60 Minute, 90 Minute, and 120 Minute IPA, Sam thinks long and hard about what beer could replace IPA in the hearts and minds of beer drinkers. When asked ‘what’s after IPAs,’ Sam furrows his brow and says, “IPAs are what’s after IPAs.” We’re a bunch of wily vets in this room, so we think everyone is getting sick of IPAs. As we all know, independent craft beer still has less than 13% market share, so 87% of the folks out there drinking beer are hopefully getting interested in craft and with IPAs, there’s never been so galvanizing or scalable a style in the 35-year history of the craft brewing renaissance as IPAs.” Part of the beauty of the style is how many different nuanced flavors it can accentuate. “That being said, the fragmentation of the IPA styles is going to accelerate as some sections from session IPAs to fruited IPAs to New England IPAs get more traction and get more dynamic.” Sam believes that the IPA style has so many facets and layers that it will continue to be the most favored beer style among beer enthusiasts for years to come.
More than a fishing story
As Dogfish Head continues to grow and size up, Sam says that the brewery’s current size “feels right.” While his 200-barrel brewhouse is considerably larger than the seven-barrel brewery Sam had previously aspired to, the scale of the brewery fits with its current portfolio and the number of beers that resonate with the beer-loving public. Sam reflects, “here we are in a room with our original half-barrel system on one side and our 200-barrel system on the other. This equipment is surreal to me, how big it is, but it doesn’t feel wrong or awkward, it still feels right.” Sam admits that he is not overwhelmed by how big the brewery is because of the organic growth it took to get there. “I would be freaked out if we got to the scale that we are and only made 60-minute IPA. But the fact that there are tanks outside that hold 1,200 barrels of beer and some of them are filled with Punkin Ale, some of them are filled with SeaQuench, some of them are filled with Flesh and Blood, some are filled with 60 Minute, it feels right to me that we got this big because we didn’t have to change our business model and our off-centered approach to brewing to get to this size.”
Sam smiles at the impact that Dogfish’s love of culinary ingredients and off-centered approach has had on the beer industry as a whole. “We were the original that said in our business plan that the majority of beers we make will be made with culinary ingredients and that was true when we were the smallest brewery in America and it’s still true today when we’re a top 12 brewery. The majority of the recipes that come out of this building are made with culinary ingredients.” While the winds of change have blown through the entire brewing industry in recent years, Sam says he’s proud of the way Dogfish Head has grown. “If anything, the brewing industry bended towards what we were doing, which was being more creative, more flavor-forward, more adventurous with our flavor profiles. The scale is admittedly big for an independent craft brewery, but it still feels right, still feels good.”
More than beer: Dogfish Head’s mission
While all of the beer Dogfish Head has made continues to open minds about craft beer, Sam says that his biggest point of pride in the company is how the mission has evolved to its current state. “We’re really proud of the fact that (as a company) we’re about people first and product second. Our mission statement is: We are off-centered goodness for off-centered people.” Dogfish Head may have grown beyond its original location, but the company works hard not to forget its roots, Sam insists. “That mission statement serves to remind everyone that it’s the people that make Dogfish Head special, not the equipment or the recipes first.”