Dogfish Head Brewery – Milton, DE
The first word of our latest guest post is the perfect word to describe the boys at Eat a Duck lately. Not to worry, our good friend Lisa from Bird in Sea has us covered with a great write up of the Dogfish Head Brewery. Enjoy!
Procrastination. “They” say it’s one of the most desirable traits in a human being (They do not). I have truly mastered the art of procrastination. With years of practice and dedication I can skillfully move things to the back burner to the point where they get good, crusty, and burned (figuratively speaking). No amount of mixing or seasoning will remedy that. I’ve made peace with this “less than ideal quality”, but tend to feel bad when it affects others. So, I’m stirring up the junk in the bottom of the pot and cracking down on this post I should have written 3 months ago. Thanks for your patience, Logan and Jimmy, at Eat A Duck. In my defense, it did need some time to simmer (char?). I mean, how do you effectively describe the creative genius behind one of the best breweries in the country? And, in a prompt manner, at that? Impossible.
My crush on Dogfish Head Brewery started several years ago. It was one of those pick you up by your ankles, shake your heart out of your mouth, and pulverize it between your hands moments. (Dramatic enough?) The infatuation started, for me, with Raison D^Etre. A deep, mahogany, Belgian style ale brewed with beet sugar and raisins and heaping helpings of love. (be still my beeting heart…) It’s just strange enough to be complex and holds up well with some serious food (steak, burgers, whatever meat you so desire). I’ve been hooked ever since. I will admit, I don’t know the ins and outs of craft brewing and I probably never will (although I’d love to learn how to brew my own….Bird in Sea Brewery has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?… Oh look! Something shiny!….focus, Lisa…) but I love their creativity and pretty much everything they stand for. Also, any brewery where the creators do their conjuring atop a metallic structure they call the “steampunk treehouse” is more than OK by me…
When the Discovery Channel came out with their series “Brewmasters”, which followed Sam Calagione, founder, creative genius, and heart & soul behind Dogfish Head, my husband and I watched every episode! We were disappointed when it was cancelled but the publicity really helped launch this already stellar company into the atmosphere. At this point, my Dogfish crush has grown to exponential proportions. So, when my family and I made our annual trek to the brewery in Milton, Delaware and the brewpub in Rehoboth Beach ,Delaware, I decided it needed to be documented in all of its creatively crafted glory. What I did not count on was how a couple of “high octane” beers might affect my photography. So, I apologize in advance since these photos are not perfect. But, who likes perfect? Not me. (…said the craziest photo perfectionist ever)
On my visit to the brewpub I was joined by 9 members of my family and the following pairing extravaganza ensued. The chefs and beer experts incorporate their brews and spirits (this place is also a distillery) into a good portion of the dishes on the menu, so it’s a dream to pair. The beer battered pickle spears with 60 minute IPA truffle mustard made the perfect starter. We also ordered the rosemary Parmesan fries, served with the same beer infused mustard and bacon mayo. I started my meal out with an old favorite, Theobrama, which is surprisingly light for a “chocolate” ale. It’s brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and a lot of ancient history. It paired perfect with the toasty, nutty flavor of the fries and the brine of the pickles. And, it’s a great starter with 9.0 ABV. Now we’re going places.
What I (also) love about Dogfish is that they use their fans as guinea pigs and test out some brewpub exclusives with the masses. If the brew is well received at the pub they’ll consider bottling it. So, now I make my official plea to please please please (please) bottle the DNA 2012 (Delaware Native Ale) that we tried. It’s a fermented masterpiece that drinks like wine. (news flash, I like wine!) It’s brewed from locally sourced honey, barley, and blueberries from local orchards. They use the “Delaware Native” strain of yeast in this one, so to answer the age-old question, “Is it local?” Yes. It’s local. This brew paired amazingly with the heartier menu items, like the ribs, which my husband devoured and the Indulgence burger, piled with a beer battered onion ring, cheddar, and house made bacon, which my brother demolished. To quote my brother Matt, “Tonight, we eat like Vikings.”
I took a lighter approach and paired a Positive Contact ale with one of my all time favorites, fish tacos.Would you expect anything other than dogfish in those tacos? It’s buttermilk battered and served with an apple slaw, chipotle aioli, and hearty helping of cilantro. The char on the tortilla gives them a rustic, smoky flavor that pairs perfectly with the fuji cider, slow roasted faro, cayenne, and fresh cilantro that makes the Positive Contact positively rock star. With 9.0 ABV it also packs a punch… (and now my photos are fuzzy…)
[Insert “POSITIVE CONTACT” and “FISH TACOS” ]
My mom downed a Palo Santo Maron, which I failed to photograph. This one is in my top 5 favorite Dogfish Head brews. It’s brewed in a handmade wooden vessel, which I did photograph on our subsequent trip to the brewery.
The wood was sought out and shipped in from South America. Palo Santo means “holy tree” …which is probably what you’ll exclaim after consuming this ale with a 12% ABV. My mom is not a goat cheese fan (therefore I’m not sure we’re actually related…)but I would have paired this with my favorite dish at the brewpub, the mushroom mac and cheese. In fact, on our next trip to the brewpub, I did. Made with 60 minute IPA, porcini and wild mushrooms, truffle oil, local goat cheese, and sharp cheddar, it just elicits all of the yummy noises one can muster up in a single sitting. I dream about this mac and cheese. I think this is love.
If you’re not filled to the gills (pun intended) with handcrafted ale and hand created dishes at this point, then might I suggest finishing the meal with a chicory stout paired with bacon chocolate cheesecake. (How many amazing things can I pack into one sentence? A lot.) We came back later in the week for this treat. This cheesecake is dense and tangy and downright decadent. Crumbled bacon inside and scattered on top adds the perfectly crisp, salty finish. Since this dessert is made with chicory stout, we naturally paired them together and it was a match made in heaven (via Delaware)
In order to truly appreciate the genius behind Dogfish Head, we had to check out the brewery for the second year in a row, and my how it has grown! It is definitely worth a visit to both the brewpub and the brewery. Their concept is simple, and summed up by their slogan. “Off-centered ales for off-centered people”. Their creativity is unmatched, in my opinion. And, I love how they work towards being sustainable and local as much as possible. The water they use at the brewery gets recycled and they deliver some of it to the local farmers for irrigation. They also recycle the grains used in their brewing process to a local farm in Delaware. The grains are given to the cattle there to eat and frolic around with and they actually buy this beef back to use for burgers (and other delectable deliciousness) in their brewpub. There were a lot of other hippie, tree hugging, Willy Wonka type things that they were doing but, perhaps the free beer given throughout the tour has clouded my memory slightly. (bad blogger…) Our tour guide, Matt, with the fedora and a million dollar smile, could tell you all about it. All I know is that this is a stand-up company with enough creativity to keep things interesting and keep me (and most of the masses at this point) coming back for more. Don’t procrastinate! Pay them a visit if you’re in Delaware!
Did I mention the free beer? Free beer.