Friday, May 29, 2015

Off-Centered With Dogfish Head

The recent craft beer popularity explosion affords beer drinkers more quality choices than ever before. Sam Calagione and his Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware, is one of the best of the microbreweries. With a name like Dogfish Head, you know this has to be good stuff, and Sam and his team produce an incredible array of unusual and extremely interesting craft beers. "Off-centered ales for off-centered people," is the official description.

I first heard of the brand on the Discovery Channel's Brew Masters show in 2010. The show only ran for six episodes, but I was intrigued about this company that used ingredients I would never have thought would be found in beer. Unusual ingredients that appear in Dogfish Head brands include green raisins, spirulina algae, basmati rice, coffee beans, honey, saffron, juniper berries, lemongrass, coriander, many different fruits, and a number of other different natural flavors, along with a spectacular array of various hops from around the world.

After seeing the first episode of Brew Masters, I started looking for Dogfish varieties to buy, but none were available in my area for quite awhile. Finally, one of the local liquor stores had a small supply of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. It was expensive, about $12 for a six-pack, and I stood in front of the cooler thinking about spending that much for beer I had never tried.

"Can I help you with anything?" said a store employee.

"I'm thinking about buying this Dogfish Head beer."

"Oh, that's good stuff."

"It's the first time I've seen it in a store anywhere around here."

"We've only had it for a few months," he said. "I don't know about any of the other stores in the area, but we can only get a little at a time, and it always sells out quickly."

"Do you get any of their other flavors?"

"We've had the 90 and 120 Minute IPA's, but that's it. Their stuff is limited, so we're lucky to get what we get."

"So I better buy this while I can," I said with a smile.

"It sounds like a bad sales pitch, but it's true." He looked in the case. "There's only three six-packs left. They'll be gone before we close tonight."

I bought one of the six-packs. Before I finished the first bottle later that night, I wished I had bought all three, because when I went back the next day they were gone. This 60 Minute IPA was one of the most refreshing beers I have ever tried. It has a distinctive hint of citrus, and is such a smooth, tasty beer that it immediately became one of my favorites.

The next Dogfish Head flavor I tried was Midas Touch. I read about this one on the web site, and was intrigued. Who wouldn't want to try a beer with a 2700 year-old recipe found in King Midas' tomb? Who else makes stuff like this? No one but Dogfish Head.

A few months later, I was astonished to find a four-pack of Midas Touch at my local store. As mentioned, it is unusual to find any Dogfish Head products locally, and to find one I had read about and wanted to try was a pleasant surprise.

The next one on my radar was the seasonal brew Aprihop. I can't explain why reading about this beer brewed with apricot juice caught my attention, but I had to try it. Only available in spring, I didn't think I would find it in my town, but the store where I bought my first six-pack of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA came through for me. This almost orange colored beer proved that yet again, the Dogfish Head folks have a great imagination about new and interesting flavors. Much different and fuller tasting than the 60 Minute IPA, Aprihop is unique, fascinating, and well worth picking up a four-pack.

The interesting Namaste is a light, tasty Dogfish Head brew. This Belgian style witbier is brewed with dried organic orange slices, lemongrass, and coriander. It sounded intriguing, so I couldn't pass it up when I found it in the store cooler. This flavor is further proof that Sam and his crew at Dogfish Head are masters at brewing great, unique beer and ale. It is different, yet it's still beer and is as satisfying as any of my favorite brands.

Now, I am pleased to see that in my area, six or more Dogfish Head varieties are regularly available. It is much easier to buy my favorite, 60 Minute IPA, and to try as many different flavors as I can. Check your local stores and hopefully you will have a chance to sample many of the Dogfish Head products. Although they tend to be more expensive than other brands, in my experience, they are well worth paying a little more for the incredible taste sensations from these truly unique American brews.

This would be a good time for you to think outside the normal six-pack. Pick up whatever Dogfish Head products you can find and give them a try. You will enjoy some fantastic new taste combinations from these exceptional craft beers.

Larry Manch is an author, teacher, guitar player, freelance writer, and columnist. His books include: 'The Toughest Hundred Dollars & Other Rock & Roll Stories', 'A Sports Junkie', 'The Avery Appointment', 'Between the Fuzzy Parts'.

He also writes about baseball for Climbing Tal's Hill, food and travel on Miles & Meals, and music/guitars on The Backbeat.

He lives in Central Texas with his wife and family.

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