Could you turn down a billion dollars?
Irene and I are now back from our second visit to The Dog Fish Inn in Lewes Delaware. This time around our trip was billed as “a Spirited Weekend” prompted by Dogfish Head’s official launch of its line of spirits.
We arrived at the DF Inn Friday at 5:45pm just in time for a fire side chat with a couple who are arguably Craft Beer Royalty, Sam and Mariah Calagione.
While we had seen videos of Sam over the past few years, such as his role in the movie Beer Wars, we never fully appreciated how captivating this every day guy could be.
Sam, who reminded us of the actor Keanu Reeves; cool, collected, extremely articulate and very at ease with himself and us, opened up the conversation with a bit of background on Dog Fish as a brewery then followed it up with the history and his plans for the distillery. We were surprised to learn that DF had actually been distilling Vodka and Gin since 2002.
After Sam’s ‘About Us” narrative he did what probably comes quite naturally; he pulled each of his guests around the Fire into the conversation, fielding our questions and asking us our opinions on topics like “What type of liquor would you like to see DF distill beyond Vodka and Gin” and “if DF ever did move to canning one of its beers, what beer would you like to see us Can”?
Obviously this is a guy who everyone wants to get time with and he probably gets asked many of the same questions over and over. What truly amazed us was he answered each question with the patience and enthusiasm as if he was hearing them for the first time.
The biggest laugh he got was when someone asked, and we knew someone would ask him, “Sam, how could you turn down a billion dollars?” to which he gazed across to the other side of the fire circle and said, “I didn’t. Mariah did.” He then talked about their desire to stay family owned and in control and to also continue doing neat things with DF, such as expanding and introducing a new restaurant concept next door to the DF Pub. One other thing that was pretty apparent was that Sam and Mariah are a real tight team.
So far we have only described the first 75 minutes of our visit.
The next day we got up and rode the “Jolley Trolley” to the DF Pub where we sampled some of the pub’s cocktails mixed with DF Spirits. We also got to try Mr. Hector Vargas, a Coffee Porter, which was the 2014 annual employee small batch winner created by Dogfish coworkers Andrew Greeley, Grant Garrity, Matt Barth and Trey Bowden. Matt served as the official guide for our visit. We got back on the bus and headed over to the Brewery. When we pulled up to the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, DE the first thing we noticed was an off-centered, retro-futuristic sculpture called The Steampunk Tree House
The Tree House has a fascinating story having debuted at Burning Man in 2007 before finding its way to the Brewery in 2010.
We toured this amazing facility, learning quite a bit about both the brewing as well as the distilling process. Our tour concluded as all good brewery tours should, with a stop off to the DF Tasting bar. Then it was back on the Jolley Trolley for our return to the Inn. That night we were treated to oysters by the fire while we listened to a talk led by the director of the Delaware Bays Oyster project, one of many charities that DF supports.
Got up the next morning and packed up the car and headed north having spent time with folks who passed up a billion dollars, proving there is more to life than money. There’s beer and now spirits. Cheers.