I’m a longtime fan of Dogfish Head Brewing in Milton, Delaware. I feel like I’ve watched a child grow and mature into a fine adult with a promising future.
The first time I visited Dogfish Head, it had just moved to its present location in Milton. It was so much smaller, only a few fermenting tanks in an oversized garage. Sam Calagione, the owner, gave me a tour of his new, still-under-construction facility.
I remember thinking back that his ideas about beer were, well, different. I mean, who puts raisins in beer? Sam does and people drink it up.
On a visit just as spring was hinting it might really arrive, the joint was jumping. Wow had it grown, too. Some 30 fermenting tanks stood at attention outside the main building — a handsome place with modern facade, a couple of old trucks parked on the lawn and the famous treehouse at the front door. A couple of new additions made the “off-centered” place even more fun: corn hole and bocce games were ready to go — in fact, a couple of kids were playing side by side with a couple of 20-somethings — and a smoking lunch truck added a tempting aroma to its surroundings. I came thirsty but I soon got hungry.
We arrived around lunchtime and a tour of 20 or so was making its final lap around the place while another tour group was sipping its samples awaiting its turn. We would have to wait three hours to get on a tour. This time, we declined. We had heard the Dogfish Head philosophy before and would be happy with the free samples. Stop at the tour desk and get your hand stamped. You’ll get a slip of paper to write down your five choices (from about 15 or so) and the bartender will keep filling your sample-sized cup from lightest to darkest.
If your heart is set on a tour, come early, relax and wait for the chance to see Dogfish Head’s brews coming to life.
If you don’t know Dogfish, make sure you try your samples. Their IPAs come in several varieties. Midas Touch is based on an archaeological sample of beer found in the tomb of King Midas. You can taste beers flavored with saffron and jalapeño, pear and pumpkin. Bring your most adventurous taste buds. This is going to be an interesting ride.
A visit to Dogfish Head is always fun and flavorful. I know I’ll be back soon.
BTW, an interesting way to tour the brewery is on Quest Kayaking’s Pints and Paddles tour. Take a leisurely kayaking trip down the quiet Broadkill River and then catch the van over to Dogfish Head for a sampling and tour. (It’s worth doing twice.)
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman