We love local craft beer above anything else around here. Regardless of where you are, picking up a local craft from that area is the best way to enjoy a cold brew. There are some nationally distributed brands that are excellent and keep the spirit of local craft alive, even when it has been shipped around 1,100 miles. Dogfish Head Brewing is certainly at the top of that list.
Thankfully as craft beer has grown in the state we have attracted a few of these higher quality national brands to distribute in the state. Moving consumption away from mass market domestics ultimately helps the local breweries as well, so we are glad to see brands like this choosing Arkansas.
Dogfish Head has been a bit of a favorite in the craft beer industry for a few years now. Their innovative approach at both the brewing process and the flavors created has inspired both beer drinkers and other brewers to explore different ways to view beer.
Their lineup of roughly two dozen beers are hitting the shelves in Little Rock now, to get to understand the beer a little better we set down with Experience Ambassador Jon March.
Where did the name come from?
Our founder Sam Calagione’s family frequently vacationed in Dogfish Head Maine. It was while on vacation there that he approached his family about the idea of opening a brewery. As he was passing a sign for the town his father suggested that he name the brewery Dogfish Head. Thankfully they didn’t vacation at some of the surrounding spots, it would have had a very different identity.
The IPA process is very unique, tell me about it.
Sam has always been one to challenge the traditional way of doing things. Typically with an IPA you add hops at the beginning and end of the boil. Sam was watching a cooking show while brewing on his original 10 gallon system and the chef was talking about adding seasoning throughout the cooking process to provide a more balanced flavor. Sam figured if it worked for cooking, then why not beer.
So Sam went to a thrift shop and bought an old electric vibrating football game. He rigged it up over the kettle to along with a bucket with holes so that it would slowly shake out hops throughout the boiling process. 90 minutes later our 90 minute IPA was born. The continual hopping process allows us to use a ton of hops for a beautiful nose on the beer without being overly bitter. It has been frequently named the best IPA in America.
How do you guys feel about sours?
We actually brewed some of the first sours in America. It is funny because when we sent them out to customers they returned the beer saying it had gone bad. People were not use to that style. Now that it is more mainstream people love our sours, we have a whole section of the brewery dedicated to it. In fact our Sea Quench Ale has become our fasted selling beer.
What do you personally drink while you are out?
I love trying local crafts in any city I visit. Our whole company is full of folks really passionate about craft beer. I love it too when I am blown away with the quality of craft beer in an area. Just recently I visited Alabama and I was shocked at the quality there. Here in Arkansas it is the same thing, I am excited to try some local beers in the area.
You all are always innovating. How does it feel when you see other breweries using techniques like your continual hoping method, or products like your randall?
It is completely flattering. Like I said, we love craft beer so things we do to advance brewing is excellent. With things like the randall we initially developed it to infuse hops, other breweries got ahold of it and they starting infusing all sorts of things in beer. It is neat seeing how people have taken things we do and ran with it.
Tell me about this chewed corn beer.
Our Chicha! It is certainly different than most beers. Basically it is an ancient brewing style from Peru where the enzymes in your saliva breaks down purple maize (corn). The brewing process kills off any germs, so it is completely safe.
Out first time brewing it we just had a couple of people from the brewery chew corn. It was awful. It dries out in your mouth and is a mess. Thankfully the second time we had a party around it and invited a few hundred friends to help us chew the corn. It was much more tolerable.
It is a little bit of a strange beer, but a good beer, and we were afraid people would be apprehensive. On the release party we had folks lined up around the building to buy it though.
You guys always seem to be willing to buck the trend or try things that may not necessarily be popular. How does that go over?
I am sure there are a lot of people in the market that hate us for that honestly. Our slogan is “off-centered beer for off-centered people”. We try to push the limits and do things outside of the mainstream. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but we are always willing to try. Like right now we make sure we use only real whole fruits instead of the puree mix that everyone uses. It cost more, it has some inconsistency, but ultimately it makes for a better beer. We are always willing to push against the norms when it results in a better overall product or advances the brewing world.
Like with the Chicha, people seem to trust you guys when you brew something odd. Why is that?
We have earned trust and built up a reputation for thinking outside the box. It is something we pride ourselves on. People know we will deliver a solid product even if it is a little strange.
That reputation allows us to do some things differently and get folks to step outside their comfort zone. At the same time we still keep plenty of quality beers well inside normal comfort zones and use our more experimental lines to bring them out.
Dogfish Head is out now, distributed from Arkansas Craft, at restaurants and liquor stores across the state.