Q&A: Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione


Sam Calagione, President and founder of Dogfish Head. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Jeffrey MacMillan )

LEWES, DEL. — There’s no doubt about it, locals say: Sam Calagione is a man about town.

Many days, Calagione, who founded Dogfish Head in 1995, can be seen hanging out at his brewpub, production brewery or at the new Dogfish Inn three blocks away from his home. Other days, he’s out mowing the lawn, having dinner with his family or driving the SS Dogfish, a 19-foot Boston Whaler, across the bay.

Calagione sat down with Capital Business — beer in hand, around the inn’s campfire — to chat about Dogfish Head and the future of the company he founded 19 years ago. What follows are excerpts.

An inn for a beer company — why?

While we’re probably best known for our brewery, our distillery and our restaurant, we’re equally proud of our home of Coastal Delaware.

The idea is to get out, explore coastal Delaware and bring back beer to the hotel. There are bikes at the hotel. You can rent paddleboards, kayaks. If you head in one direction, you get to the restaurant. If you bike or kayak or paddleboard in the other direction, 8 miles northwest, you get to our production brewery in Milton.

Dogfish Head is known for its quirky and innovative brews. What are you working on now?

We’re as experimental today as we were when we were the smallest brewery in the country. Right now, we are working on vinegar and beer ice cream. I’ve also been researching ideas for a new holiday-themed beer.

What’s next for Dogfish Head?

We see a great opportunity to grow the distillery the way we’ve been able to grow the brewery.

My team has also finally convinced me to do a five-year plan, so we’re going to be working on that this week. I’ve never wanted to do a strategic plan for the company because I feel like if you do them, you begin to lose inspiration.

But it’s the right time. The challenge with us is that we’re at a scale now where we don’t turn like a jet ski anymore. We turn like a 19-footer.

What is your beer of choice?

Our own beer is vastly the majority of what I drink, but there’s also Sierra Nevada pale ale, which is a staple for me. Yesterday, for example, I had our Namaste, then I had a 21st Amendment watermelon beer and a Saison Dupont.

I also try to not drink any alcohol two or three nights a week. I drink a lot of water with lime on those days.

More on this story:

Craft beers are a hopping business on the Delmarva Coast

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section.
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