by Jason Jugenheimer, Mahoning Valley Flight Crew
Vacations have a way of warping your thoughts of long travel times into something totally normal. Two plus hour one way trips at home give you pause. Two plus hour trips when you’re on vacation seem doable. But when it’s a chance to scratch a craft beer brewery bucket list visit off your list, you’re already in the car.
While visiting our departed Flight Crew member and his family in Baltimore, we discovered it was only a little car ride to Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. The wives had a day planned of manicures, pedicures and pool lounging with the kids, so we jumped at the chance to visit one of the top independent craft breweries.
Dogfish Head is the 14th largest production brewery in America. More importantly it produces the highest average ABV any brewery at 9%, while the for everyone else is 4.5% ABV.
The facility is amazing. The brewery includes a 200 barrel and and a 100 barrel system, a massive fermentation room, a yeast lab, a barrel room containing three 10K gallon white oak barrels and two Palo Santo wood barrels at 10k gallons.
The old bottling warehouse now houses a distillery producing gin, vodka and rum. If you can find it, the Roasted Peanut Vodka is phenomenal.
The new bottling warehouse is state of the art. It included massive keg, can and bottles lines that ensure that all vessels are cleaned, filled and prepped to the optimal quality you’d expect. A complex conveyor of equipment, robots and wrapping machines work hand in hand with employees to ensure everything runs smoothly, and you receive the best beer possible.
Their commitment to using only quality natural ingredients and bypassing artificial additives keeps Dogfish Head as one of the top craft beers in the world. You may pay a little more for some Dogfish Head beers compared to other brews, but trust me, it’s money well spent for the satisfaction of know that only the best goes into your beer.
All of this grandeur is a far cry from the early days of Sam Calagione brewing on a 10 gallon brew system with an electric football game rigged to provide continual hopping to his brew. What Sam couldn’t buy... he made.
The brewery itself is named for the family vacation spot in Dogfish Head, Maine where he broke the news to his parents that he was bypassing his English degree to brew beer. It’s Delaware location happened because he followed his high school sweetheart and wife to where she wanted to be. Add that all up and it equals an ever expanding beer franchise built on the importance of family. A sentiment echoed by our wonderful tour guide Nikki.
As part of the tour we sampled four great beers and a couple others for “research” purposes.
Namaste White 4.8% ABV 20 IBUs
This is a full flavored Witbier with tastes of citrus, clove and coriander.
60 Minute IPA 6% ABV 60 IBUs
This beer is readily available and one most craft beer geeks have tried. It’s loaded with Northwest hops creating a citusy and woody flavor. It has a smooth finish and is not an overly bitter IPA.
Punkin Ale 7% ABV 28 IBUs
This one hasn’t hit store shelves yet this year, although we got to see it packaged in ready to go. Named for Delaware’s Punkin Chuckin, it’s a brown ale brewed with pumpkin meat and brown sugar.
Oak-Aged Vanilla World White Stout. 17.5% 70 IBUs
This is definitely a symphony in your mouth. The World Wide Stout is an excellent beer in its own right. Now amp that up by aging it in oak barrels with real vanilla beans. It’s boozy goodness in a bottle.
Port Barrel Alternate Take #5
This sour made with blueberry and raspberry is a taproom exclusive served on nitro. It was dry, creamy and slightly tart. All the things you’d want on a hot August day.
Palo Santo Marron Imperial Brown Ale 12% ABV 50 IBUs
This ale us aged in Palo Santo wood barrels to age to add a unique quality to the flavors of chocolate, vanilla and a hint of brown sugar. It finished with a slight bitterness to cut through the sweet.
So if you are ever in Delaware or close enough to take a day trip to Milton and Dogfish Head... you must. You can find unique exclusive beers, Take a free tour, enjoy your four free samples and visit a great merchandise store. You can also visit the original brewery and restaurant in Rehoboth Beach.