The Topic: Our Long, Yet Short, Summer Craft Beer Adventure
Written by Ken Carman
Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers, who has been writing on beer-related topics, and interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast, for over 15 years.
Having been on the road most of my life now, summers alone seem perpetual behind the wheel time. I don’t mind. I started driving when I got my first car at about 13 on private roads. I love driving, but everything has its limits.
This July is no exception: I had to drive to Millie’s family reunion in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and then return to Nashville just to hook up a trailer, drive to our place in Beaver River, NY, then go on tour in New England.
Of course Rehoboth area being home to Dogfish we had hoped to get a short interview, but they were too busy this week. So I opted for some light hearted version of a diary, which means to actually be “light hearted” I had to contact an Aztec spirit and had him rip the still beating heart out of my chest, shave off a few ounces, then reinsert.
The operation went well, except now my tongue slithers in and out rapidly imitating one of their Gods, a serpent: Quetzalcoatl.
Yes, I’m joking.
Not being satisfied with a just some measly 700 plus mile drive we went to Asheville to check out the much recommended Wicked Weed.
Most of what we had we enjoyed. As a Music City Club member said, I think it might have been Jonathan Adams, or Justin Martineau, “Go downstairs, that’s where the good stuff is.” We had Freak of Nature Double IPA, more just a good IPA in our opinions, Cool Cucumber with an incredible balance between cucumber, basil, juniper berries and a hint of pepper. Their Black Cherry Sour, however, needed balance. More sour than anything else. Wonderful, but I’d like some beer with that, please?
We bought two bottles of Brettaberry and shared one at the reunion that night. We felt, yes, “brett,” yes, “berry,” but again: where’s the beer? Just a hint more please?
Despite the criticism, we highly recommend. But watch out: downtown Asheville isn’t right off 40 and it’s a pain: narrow streets with people just walking out as if traffic isn’t there. You know whose to blame if some idiot just walks out and you hit them, right?
On to Rehoboth for Millie’s reunion and Dogfish.
I met Sam Calagione in the late 90s and would love to say I interviewed him, but it was late, and well “conditions” weren’t right. Some folks really like their own admittedly superb product. Can you blame them?
What I didn’t know was he was a fellow former English major, hence the sign on the side of the building with the Emerson quote. You find us English majors everywhere. We’re an infestation. We’re taking over your minds. Soon you’ll be finding perverse interpretations in everything, and instead of just using angry words when upset, like most folks do, you might pick up a sharp stick and Shake… Spear.
The other Ken who didn’t write this, our tour guide, told us each batch was tested 40 times before it left the brewery and that they had an army of tasters who arrived very early in the morning. I suspect some beer judges: certainly not all, might be good prospects for that job since they often start judging early anyway. We love what we do so much certainly we would “sacrifice” and come in even earlier.
Yet, at Dogfish, I would think it would take a special type of judge. To me as long as a brew is close to the style intended it does well, and I actually love the even more off centered-ness when you get into Specialty, now called “Experimental.” I know many judges who avoid those tables if they can.
Hey, guys, if you’ve seen the 2015 guidelines it’s only going to get more “off centered, more historical, more exotic… in our Old Forge BIG Beer and Odd Ale Competition this coming October those will come in useful, for sure.
While you wait for the tour they give you four samples. The atmosphere is busy, a bit crazy and seating a tad limited. The servers give the tours and they seem quite talented, knowledgeable. Our server/tour guide had the best name in the known and unknown universe.
It’s a long tour and my feet are problematic: one operated on in March, one with plantar, so Millie did the tail end of the tour which was packaging.
Dogfish, as you probably know, has quite the barrel aging program. They have a real big room for big batch barrel aging, and smaller barrels for small batches. There were barrels everywhere, and one enclosed room with huge barrels/tanks.
Having to get back to Millie’s reunion we waved goodbye to the brewery in Milton, planning on visiting their brewpub the next day.
Ready for a somewhat blander break buoys and seagulls? I’m not, but we’ll do it anyway.
On our way home we missed one brewpub, well a hell of a lot of them, but the two we knew of we only were able to track down one in Virginia: Roseland, VA, to be more exact.
The facility was impressive, the brews not as much. Hey, we were just coming off Wicked Weed and Dogfish X2, so I’m not sure we really can kvetch: the purpose here seemed to brew more mainstream beers. It simply was a great, impressive, building, with a few good, but not quite right, not as much to yammer about, quaffs, like a smoked “Dark Abbey Ale” that obviously had a yeast much like White Labs Abbey, (or was WLA) and damn near no perceptible smoke. To give credit the yeast wasn’t overboard, something easy to do in my own experience, if this was WLA.
Their Eight Point IPA was, well, an “IPA” with plenty of bitter, a tad too astringent when it came to balancing out with flavor. Later additions v. earlier might have helped, but to be honest this was one of those more palate specific assessments. Others might have preferred this within style skew to their version of an IPA.
I think our last was a Schwartz and it was, again, OK. The got it right, but not outstanding.
We can’t say enough about the facility though. On a hill, in the country, the vista was typical hilly Virginia farm-like and the interior large, impressive. I would think this tasting room has, and will, do well. The question brewing in my mind was whether the obvious massive expenditure to do it this grand will balance out with bottle sales and the obviously popular tap room. They do bottle a lot, and being the big dog locally, I would think, or at least one of the biggest, might be enough.
It sure as hell looked like it had been one huge expense, overall.
Been open since 2008. And being where it is it doesn’t have to be Dogfish, or even Wicked Weed, and I would argue more middle ground, a milder, more main stream, approach, might have been what has kept it going… satisfying less craft-y locals and those looking for the power of the Schwartz, but not that concerned about being really outstanding, or outright weird.
For that brew passion of ours, Wicked Weed, but more so: Dogfish.
Hop into our Honda Element Wayback and now we’re back in the not so distant past, the day before, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Wanna see me pull a brewpub review out of my…
Never mind! Well, now Ken’s warped mind-ed us back to Rehoboth Beach, where faced a very limited menu: the chef wasn’t in yet, I guess, but the chowder was available. New England-ish, it was almost as tasty as the brews.
The brewpub is quite busy and parking’s pricey, and a bitch. This is the only place I’ve ever been where they actually have stations hanging from some parking meters where you can go ahead and pay you’re fines. I doubt it’s cheap. Not a good sign when it comes to those not quick to feed meters, and how eager traffic enforcement seemed to be to get your money.
We had been here before so we just walked in and stepped up to the bar. Our server was quite knowledgeable and even told us a story about the pre-chewed corn brew Chicha brew they did the story on during the program called Brew Masters.
An aside here, no offense, Sam, but if they’re just going to do one brewery, shouldn’t they have called it, “Brew Master,” not, “Masters?”
There goes my former English infection flaring up again.
Our server told us how the camera crew and the director were never happy with the angles and such, and also kept asking for more camera friendly chewers while they took take after take… so much that by the end their jaws were very, very sore.
I told our server I’d always wonder what it tasted like, if it was “worth spit.”
You see that’s funny because to get the enzymes and such needed for this historic recipe they would chew corn and spit into the wort and…
See, you’ve gone and spoiled the joke by making me over explain myself and..
Well, we left with a four pack of a promising gluten free beer called Tweason’ale for my Beaver River Beer Tasting I do every year: not bad at all. Probably one of the best gluten free brews I’ve ever had. We also bought a growler of an incredible historic Scandinavian brew: Kvasir. You’d never know 10%, with lingonberry, birch syrup, honey, herbs, cranberries and cranberry syrup. Their site says…
“The base of Kvasir is a toasty red winter wheat…”
“Developed with the help of chemical, botanical and pollen evidence taken from a 3,500-year-old Danish drinking vessel.”
What we didn’t realize is we already had a bottle in the Element.
We couldn’t complain. The few times we’ve both been to the Rehoboth area Dogfish has always been one of the high points. And twice the Kvasir?
Well, well, well, “The more the merrier!”
Brew Biz : Werts and All,` is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing, and commenting on, beer-related topics including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the brew business, and discussions regarding all things beer.
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