Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Red & White
Serving Temperature:45-55° F
Suggested Glassware:Oversized Wine Glass
A Brewpub BEAST after its initial draft only release, it now gets bottled once a year and is only lightly distributed. One of our panel members was actually visiting the brewpub just prior to the beer’s debut in early 2007. Here are some of his notes recounting that and other Dogfish Head pleasantries.
“I remember hearing about Red & White, knowing it was coming a while before it was unleashed on the ridiculously lucky tiny town of Rehoboth Beach, DE. Word spread along the beer geek wire that Dogfish Head’s brewpub brewer was up to something that was going to involve wine grapes and oak, and at the time (late 2006) oak aging wasn’t nearly as common, certainly not for a brewpub release, as it is today. Living within 5 hours of the brewery, my ears perked up when I heard that Dogfish Head was about to get crazy with more fruit beer, on the heels of brewing Fort, an 18% ABV monstrous raspberry fruit beer that became the world’s strongest fruit beer just about a year earlier. I knew that Dogfish Head had always subscribed to elevating the image and experience of beer to being akin to that of wine, without the trust-fund price tag necessary to become a true world class wine connoisseur. But now they were going to make what, “a cabernet beer?” I had to try it. The Red & White project was hatched almost in tandem with another fruit-based beer called Black & Blue, and the two were brewed and released within a month of one another (the concepts at least seemed to happen at the same time). So I got my ass down to the brewpub for a tasting in February of 2007 just prior to the release, and kicked off the night with some Red & White, which was positively unlike any other Dogfish Head (or any other beer) that I had tasted to date. Then I stepped into the ring to get myself a little Black & Blue. After taking a welcomed beating from that one, the gloves had come off… Two organoleptically hops-tranduced, hop-bonged (aka “randallized”*) brewery-fresh 90 Minute IPAs and a snifter of 120 minute IPA and a final glass of Fort to wash it all down, and with a two-year aged bottled of Festina Lente in hand to add to my cellar, well, I was relieved that I could call my Aunt who lives down the road from the brewpub to come pick my ass up… Actually, at that point, I was relieved that I could speak… The same Aunt had previously filled for me 2 growlers of a different Dogfish Head beer kissed by rare fruit—a crazy one off brew named “Arctic Cloudberry Imperial Wit”—and passed them along through various family members who relayed the growlers up to me in Northern NJ where I lived at the time (saving me a 10 hour roundtrip). It was a sort of beer olympic relay. Though a 3rd Growler that I had paid for never showed up… cost of doing business I guess.”
*check this out for more info on what Randallized beers are—another uniquely Dogfish Head concept.
In the bottled version of Red & White, look for brilliant clarity on this coppery red brew, capped by an off white head. Like a wine, we let this beer breathe for a bit after pouring, which also lets it come up to proper serving temperature if you’ve had it in the fridge. Swirling ahead of our first sniffs, we get big fresh fruit notes—like fresh orange slices and red grapes. Pomegranate comes to mind as well. This beer falls somewhere in the neighborhood of being an imperial wit, and not surprisingly it has alcohol notes on the nose, but these only enhance an overall complex aroma. Look for some musty notes that run almost toward fruit-skin funk, sourdough, and wafts of oaken vanilla. The alcohol helps sharpen some of the edge that comes off of a gentle tartness. Not surprisingly, this beer does have some wine-like character on the palate, but it remains a beer through and through. The name is a reference to red wine (pinot noir juice and barrel aging) and white beer (Belgian witbier). Leave it to Dogfish Head to blur the line between what many in the world consider to be two diametrically opposed beverages. The beer presents a berry-like tart and fruity quality, though the acidity/tartness is low and the anti-sweet balance that eventually reigns is bitterness, not tartness—though both work in some part to balance the malty profile. There are some slightly peppery hop notes in the finish that leave a tickle in the throat and when the beer reaches full warmth, a relatively thick, almost rye-like spice and viscosity emerges. Be on the look out for a definite evolution in the flavor profile, which is sort of the hallmark of this beer (from sip to sip, the character seems to change, with certain notes leaping forth that were just moments before lingering in the background). Overall, expect the beer to finish with a lingering grape and berry bite, and a big alcohol burst—like a massive cabernet. This is a great beer to lay down for aging, so stock up on a few extra bottles of this prized brew.
Pair with savory herb spiced chicken dishes like tarragon chicken, or with a medium-rare filet, or, for a truly unique pairing, a Tarragon-Rosemary Strawberry Tart. Here’s a killer recipe: http://www.delish.com/recipefinder/tarragon-rosemary-strawberry-tart-3254
Serving Temperature: 45-55° F
Alcohol by Volume: 10%
Style: Oak Aged Imperial Belgian Wit
Suggested Glassware: Oversized Wine Glass
If you enjoy red wine and other barrel-aged drinks, be sure to try out our new red wine of the month club!
If you had asked us 15 years ago where the country’s most adventurous beers would be coming from, Delaware wouldn’t have been at the top of our list. Who knew that one of the most beer geekish yet irreverently cool breweries in the nation, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, would be doing what they’re doing right smack in the middle of rural southern Delaware. Even when they hit our radar in the late-90s, while we knew they were doing some pretty interesting things, we had no idea their beers would grow to international acclaim or that they would push the very envelope of what people consider “beer.”
When Dogfish Head opened as a brewpub in the small beach town of Rehoboth Beach, they were the smallest commercial brewery operating in the United States. And while putting the finishing touches on the brewpub prior to opening their doors in the summer of 1995, they were missing just two things: a brewing system and the legal right to sell any of the beer that they intended to make with it. But for founder Sam Calagione, these issues would be trumped by entrepreneurial zeal. After spending the majority of his budget on getting the restaurant up and running, Sam had less than $20k to buy his brewery (this is chump change for a commercial brewery, even at the brewpub scale), so he bought about the smallest brewery that money could buy. It came on the back of a UPS truck one day a few weeks before opening their doors. He unpacked it along with other restaurant supplies that UPS dropped off that day, and rolled it into place—his new “brewery” had the capacity to create 10 gallons (0.3 barrels) per batch. It’s über-small scale would be critical in the development of the Dogfish beers that we know and love today.
Now, part of Sam’s rationale for starting a brewing business in Delaware was that it was one of only a relative few states to not yet have its own brewpub. Sam knew the novelty factor would spur interest in his business, but quickly learned that Prohibition-era laws still on the books meant the whole concept was totally illegal. He would need to rewrite state law in order to do business. After heading to the state capital and knocking on the doors of a few senators and members of the house, he found legislative support, and while previous attempts to change the law had failed, Sam’s personal involvement and obvious passion were enough to get the laws changed just in time for him to start pouring Delaware’s first post-prohibition era craft-brewed beer, just in time for his first critical summer season at the beach.
So he had pulled it off. Now there was just the matter of running, managing and bookkeeping the place, and of course brewing enough beer to supply the thirsty, curious crowds who started showing up looking for Dogfish Head’s “off-centered ales.” To keep up with demand, Sam would brew two or three batches a day, five or six days a week. While it can be fun, brewing can also get boring when you’re talking about that kind of repetition. And Sam would counter his boredom by wandering into the brewpub’s kitchen, picking up some apricots or raisins or maple syrup, basically whatever, and throwing them into the beer. Guided by his own palate, creativity and boredom-based inspiration, the unusual and distinctive beers that would drive Dogfish Head toward ever-expanding creativity and “off-centeredness” were developed.
That creativity and experimentation has served Dogfish Head well. Innovations like continuous hopping, on-the-spot-hopping (see *Randall URL below), or creating the world’s strongest fruit beer, or what was at a time the world’s strongest beer (but remains the world’s strongest stout), or developing modern day recreations of ancient fermented beverages based on molecular analysis of pottery found in archaeological digs, and their early interest in wood-aging beer—all of these have helped push them to become brewers of some of the most sought after beers in the world. The late, great beer and whisky writer Michael Jackson was also a fan of their work, calling Dogfish Head “America’s most interesting and adventurous small brewery.” We believe they were the first, and probably the only domestic brewery to unleash a beer made with blue-green algae (“Verdi Verdi Good” as it was known). Growing demand meant a capacity upgrade was in order. So, Sam and a partner built their own new brewery by assembling cobbled-together used dairy and cannery equipment obtained at auctions, instead of shelling out $200,000 for an out-of-the-box brewpub brewery. Still needing to meet ever-growing demand, which was now coming from their neighboring states, in 1997 Sam opened a full scale production brewery in Lewes, Delaware. By 2002, they had outgrown that brewery too and moved to their current ‘brewery and pleasure center’ in Milton, DE (the plans for this place are ambitious—started as a brewery, now houses a warehouse, a pair of olympic-sized Bocce Ball courts, and will soon be home to their fifth restaurant (their new series of “Dogfish Head Alehouses” started opening under license in Maryland and Virginia). After the upgrade of the original brewpub brewery, a rustic micro-distillery was added. Thus, Dogfish Head spirits were added to the libations list at the brewpub.
The original 10-gallon brewery that Sam started on is now on display during brewery tours at the Milton production brewery—it’s insane to see it in the shadows of their current 100-barrel brewhouse. The brewpub brewery remains the site of continued small-batch experimentation, yielding numerous one-off or very limited release beers that only brewpub patrons can gain access to. Very occasionally, demand for a brewpub release warrants upscaling the recipe for a limited or single-batch production run for bottling—and it’s one of those very unique beers originally created exclusively for “brewpubbers” that we’ve selected for you this month.
The Dogfish Head website is packed with way more info than we could ever fit into these pages, so do pay ‘em a visit at www.dogfish.com. And why not befriend them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. And for a great read about brewing, business and upstarts in general, check out Sam’s book “Brewing Up A Business. Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery,” featuring a foreword written by our old friend Michael Jackson. And for another Dogfish Head fix go check out the DVD release of “Beer Wars”, a documentary about the beer industry with special focus on the littler fish in the pond—and heavily featuring Sam and the whole Dogfish Head story. For more info, check out beerwarsmovie.com.
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