4.  Dogfish Head, Milton, Delaware

Founded:  1995
Production:  approx 35,000 barrels


Extreme.  Fire up the frickin taste buds, because these guys are doing some funky, bold beers.  Using such ingredients as fresh oysters, arctic cloudberries, green raisins, st johns wort, and beet sugar, they’re off to the races..and running like mad greyhounds.  Sound interesting?  How bout their Malt de Liquor; a bottle-conditioned malt liquor served in its very own brown paper bag.  Now that’s street-swilling in style.

They seem to be everywhere in the media at the moment, their classic fish-shaped icon appearing so much you’d think you’d popped your head in the aquarium, and they deserve to be.  The American Homebrewer’s Association has picked their 90-Minute Pale Ale as their top-voted beer two years in a row (and who ain’t gonna listen to the legions of home chemist/hop geeks/brew monks/flavor-craving-crowd of die-hards when they sound their collective horn).   Like all the other brewers in my top 5 list, founder Sam Calagione is passionate.  But his passion lies in pushing the limits of imagination and what’s possible to capture in liquid form.

I got it in my craw to make a Pumpkin Ale a couple of months back (“Praise the Gourd”), and did a lot of reading and tasting to get familiar with what’s out there.  I found a number of approaches to this style, some over-spiced messes that wiped the spit off your tongue, and many in which no pumpkin could even be detected.  I wanted pumpkin… and was happy when I got a solid backbone of gourdy goodness in my final beer (I baked fresh pumpkin sprinkled with brown sugar until caramelized and placed in a hop sack during the boil as opposed to with the malt extracts–believe it or not, a much-debated question of timing in the homebrew community).

Of all those I tasted during my ride down gourd lane however, I most dug the Dogfish Punkin Ale.  It was hearty, well-spiced and evocative of children wearing spit-filled rubber masks greedily running from door to door through the brisk Colorado air.  It brought me back to my childhood and the details you remember:  A chill in the air.  Strange cutouts of witch silhouettes in the windows.  Yards filled with thick spider webs capable of swallowing children whole.  I think you get the picture…  That power was what hooked me to Dogfish.  That “style”, and how it took you on a ride.  Their beers are rich and full of depth like dark Syrahs from the Northern Rhone–embodied with soul.

Favorite brews:  90 minute pale ale, Punkin Ale, Raison d’ Etre



6 Responses to “My top 5 favorite breweries: Number 4”

  1. David H. says:

    Wow man – very interesting! Couldn’t bring myself to try oyster beer with my overall seafood aversion, but the others sound interesting. Keep lovin’ those libations.

  2. Doug Hamilton says:


    I really like some of the Dogfish Head beers. The 120 minute IPA is strong but good. Also the 90 minute IPA is quite good.

    I’ve always liked Sierra Nevada. Their products are all tasty and consistent.

    Have you tried Full Sail LTD (Recipe 1). Last year it was excellent! Full bodied extremely well balanced malt, hops, and sweetness.

    Doug Hamilton

  3. Joe F. says:

    Love the ingenuity of Dogfish Head! I agree with the review of the Punkin Ale. That beer blew me away and I don’t normally love pumpkin beer (I do now!). I’m excited to try the Palo Santo Marron which sounds super interesting and was just released out here in Seattle. I have a bottle waiting in my fridge as we speak. There is a nice video about that beer on the Dogfish website that is worth watching. Here is the link:


  4. sharon says:

    delicious. i don’t even like beer (really), or pumpkin. i’m sold!! (specially since they spell it ‘punkin’.)

  5. Rollo says:

    Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.

  6. loopdoop says:

    Any information on your sources though?

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