Dogfish Head Brewery

Dogfish Head logo

6 Cannery Village Ctr
Milton, Delaware 19968


(302) 644-2621

First Visited

July 1, 2020

Dogfish Head Brewery is based in Milton, Delaware founded by Sam Calagione, and is America’s 12th largest craft brewery. The brewery was featured prominently in the documentary Beer Wars. Sam’s unique approach to brewing led to the creation of Brew Masters, a weekly show that ran on Discovery Channel in 2010 and revolved around the creation and production of unique beers inspired from imaginations around the world. Dogfish was named  Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional at the James Beard Awards in 2017.

Dogfish Head Brewery beginings can be traced back to when Sam Calagione left Allentown with a bachelor’s degree in English and a dream of authoring the next great American novel. He moved to New York City to take creative-writing classes at Columbia University. There, he worked at a Mexican restaurant Nacho Mama’s Burritos with a serious beer list (Chimay Red, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Anchor Liberty). He fell in love with craft beer and decided to try brewing his own—an experience that so delighted him and the friends who shared the finished product that he changed course and drafted a business plan to open Delaware’s first brewpub.

Sam moved to Delaware where his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Mariah lived and open a brewery. With $220,000 in funding and big dreams, Sam opened Delaware’s first brewpub in June 1995 inside Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehoboth Beach. The name Dogfish Head came from the town in Maine where Sam spent his childhood summers.

Dogfish Head officially began in June of 1995 when Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats opened —the first state’s first brewpub— in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware…because breweries were illegal in the state. Calagione successfully lobbied legislators to change the laws just weeks before the planned grand opening.  Not only was Dogfish Head Delaware’s first brewpub, it was the smallest commercial brewery in America. The very first batches were brewed on a on a 45-l (12-gal) homebrewing system that was essentially three little kegs with propane burners underneath, brewing batches of beer for a whole restaurant. It proved to be more than a full time job and when the doors to the brewpub first opened, brewing had to be done three times a day, five days a week!  Brewing on such a small system gave Dogfish the ability to try out a myriad of different recipes. Insert ‘off-centered ales for off-centered people.’ The hunger for weird ingredients and venturing off the beaten path was just getting started.

Dogfish Head quickly expanded, first bottling its beer in 1996 before opening a second brewery in Milton, Delaware, the next year. Since then Dogfish Head has opened a distillery in Rehoboth Beach; the Dogfish Inn hotel in Lewes, Delaware; and Dogfish Head Alehouses in Gaithersburg, MD; Falls Church, VA, and Fairfax, VA.

First brewed in 2001, Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute Imperial IPA has been recognized as “one of the most important American Craft Beers” due to its continual hopping method of brewing. Most brewers add hops at the beginning of the boiling process and again at the end. While watching a cooking show that emphasized salt should be added throughout a boil and not just at the beginning or end, Sam wondered if he could do that with hops in a beer. 

A trip to a thrift store resulted in an old-school vibrating football game, that when plugged in vibrated pelletized hops continuously down into the boiling vessel below The result was an Imperial IPA that was incredibly hoppy, yet without an overwhelming bitterness.

The experiment proved successful enough to produce at scale, and in 2001, Dogfish Head released its 90-Minute IPA (so named for the amount of time it’s continually hopped), a beer praised for its intense hop flavor without the typically accompanying intense bitterness. Two years later came the less-boozy 60-Minute IPA, which continues to be the company’s top seller. Today, 60-Minute is brewed in Dogfish Head’s largest brewhouse—a 200-barrel facility—using a pneumatic cannon that shoots hops into the boil every 60 seconds.

In 2002, the company moved virtually all of its beer production to its current facility located in a 100,000-sq-ft converted cannery in Milton, Delaware.

The south side of the building receives the beer line and deliveries of bottles, labels, boxes, and kegs. Packaged products load into trucks along the north.  The west facade is removable to allow for future expansion, while the east facade nestles into a sculpted landform, allowing visitors to enter the observation platform without the use of stairs or elevator.  The observation platform provides visitors a spectacular view over the adjacent pond before zigging and zagging into the building and out over the production floor.

In 2019, Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams, Angry Orchard, Truly and Twisted Tea, merged with Dogfish Head in a $300 million deal.  Due to the complicated brewing recipes (only one Dogfish Head beer can even be brewed in a Sam Adams brewery), Dogfish Head continued to only be brewed in its Delaware breweries as it has since 1995.

And while some of those stories involve only folks within Dogfish Head, many involve outside collaborators. For example, the Midas Touch Ancient Ale was created with help from biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern and based on residue found on drinking vessels inside King Midas’s tomb. The Pennsylvania Tuxedo pale ale was brewed in partnership with the Woolrich clothing company, after Calagione read that the company’s founder homebrewed beer using Pennsylvania spruce tips. Dogfish Head’s fast-growing SeaQuench Ale, a session sour, was created to complement the offerings at Chesapeake & Maine, the seafood restaurant Dogfish Head opened in 2016, and was brewed in collaboration with the National Aquarium.

In addition to the brewery, Dogfish Head also operates a micro distillery at the Rehoboth Beach brewpub with products such as Roasted Peanut Vodka, Barrel Honey Rum and Let’s Get Lost, a whiskey that won gold in the 2020 L.A. Spirits Awards in the category American Single Malt. The distillery is very small; Dogfish Head spirits are distributed only in Delaware and a handful of other states.

Off-centered ales for off-centered people

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