Dogfish Head, or Province Ale Company to be precise, is planning to take 130 people on a journey back to the Industrial Revolution Era.
Every month over the next year, Province owner and founder Nicolo Mastroianni and head brewer Ragged Jordan – the alter egos of Dogfish founder Sam Calagione and brewpub brewer Ben Potts, respectively – will debut a new antique ale at the Rehoboth Beach restaurant made from 19th century recipes.
“I found an old 1800s brewing journal in the library, and I was blown away to see all these really inventive recipes using different herbs and spices and sugars,” said Calagione. “It's a great reminder that all these super-creative beers Dogfish is known for today were part of our country's history 200 years ago.”
When participants come to the brewpub each month to try the next beer in the series, they will receive a journal with notes from Mastroianni and Jordan as well as a few blank pages to insert their own notes about the beer. During the experience, folks will learn the story about this fictitious company's effort to get the company off the ground.
Calagione said the inspiration for the project came from the writings of 1800s author Horatio Alger.
“He wrote these great stories about self-made entrepreneurial immigrants, and my family has those roots,” he said. “My grandfather came to America when he was 5 or 7 years old – very young – and he went on to become a dentist.”
He said that's why he named the fictitious company Province Ale; if you say it fast enough, it sounds like provincial. He describes the company as a wholly owned, imaginary subsidiary of Dogfish Head.
Along with a brief story about the company, the journal will also feature that month's beer recipe from Ragged Jordan, and brewpub chef Dennis Marcoux will offer an industrial era recipe that pairs well with the beer. Calagione said he hopes home brewers will take the recipe and try it at home.
Two original brews by Calagione or Potts will be included sometime throughout the year. Those who correctly guess each one at the end of the year will win a private dinner with Calagione, Potts and Marcoux.
The series is tentatively slated to begin Saturday, Jan. 19, with Province Ale Porter. The brew gets its color, complexity and roasty flavor from homemade essentia bina. Calagione and Potts boiled down molasses and lemon juice and then set it on fire to give it its dark color and flavor.
“In my 17-year history, I've never intentionally lit anything on fire in our brewhouse, and we're going to do that for the first time for the first beer in this series,” Calagione said. “We thought this recipe would be a great starting-off point.”
To give participants a hint, Calagione said the first month's recipe is taken from the brewing journal, meaning the new and original recipes will show up sometime in the next 11 months. Each month's beer will debut at the brewpub on the third Saturday of each month. For those who may be traveling or are unable to make it to Rehoboth, the first two beers will be available through March. For more information about the antique ale series, call the Rehoboth brewpub at 302-226-2739.
Potts said this new series is right up his alley.
“It's neat to go back into this world where a lot of these techniques and processes they would use seem really out there for today,” he said. “There's so much funky brewing heritage.”