Dogfish Head has always prided itself on doing things against the grain, and that was true even when it came to publishing a book about the brewery’s history.
The intention of founders Sam and Mariah Calagione, and their co-writer Andrew Greeley, was to have the book ready for Dogfish’s 25th anniversary in 2020. But they had so much good stuff, they missed that deadline and had to push the publication back to 2021, on Dogfish’s 26th anniversary.
The book chronicles Dogfish Head in the most Dogfish way possible, with tales of the brewery’s founding, lots of pictures, stories behind popular Dogfish beers both past and present, and anecdotes about Dogfish Head as told by those who have worked there.
Sam Calagione said the inspiration for putting the book together was “Beastie Boys Book,” written by the surviving members of the Beastie Boys, Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz. That book was not just a history of the group and stories behind their albums, but also contained stories from those who knew them, mixtape playlists, a short graphic novel and – why not – a cookbook. The “Beastie Boys Book” was more of a vibe than a music biography.
And that’s what the Calagiones were after when they were asked to do a history of Dogfish Head.
“We thought this could be a moment to tell our story, not through my voice or Mariah’s, but to weave together a collective of voices representing a collective of co-workers, and we knew Andrew was the right man to be the catalyst to capture the spirit of all those passionate but disparate voices,” Sam said.
“It was fun,” Mariah added. “It was so much fun, we kept it going.”
Greeley, who also serves as innkeeper for the Dogfish Inn, said work began with him sitting down with the Calagiones to make lists of people they wanted to talk to for the book. He then combed through boxes and hard drives of material from the Calagiones, plus scrapbooks from customers and co-workers.
The book tells the stories of Dogfish Head’s beers in roughly chronological order, with co-worker stories weaved throughout.
“The question we often get is, what’s next? There’s so many different things Dogfish has ventured into. Some of it was putting the pieces together, and it’s like a puzzle without an outside,” Greeley said.
“And there’s still stuff we forgot,” Mariah said.
Sam said the most unexpectedly heartwarming part of putting the book together was the co-worker stories, which he and Mariah did not hear until later in the process because Greeley conducted all the interviews.
Those familiar with the Dogfish story can trace its outlines: Sam began brewing beer for friends while he was in college at New York University. He and Mariah, who met in high school, got married and founded Dogfish in 1995, opening their brewpub in Rehoboth Beach.
Sam said as a young man, he was always a bit rebellious. Commercial beer in the early 1990s was very meat and potatoes, leaning heavily toward light lagers. The craft world was starting to emerge, with brands such as Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam starting to find an audience. Sam said much of his inspiration in brewing came from the food world, as chefs like James Beard and Alice Waters developed an approach where they sought to make their own traditions instead of looking to Europe. He said that kind of approach had not been brought to the commercial beer world yet.
Mariah said the original intention was to open the company in Providence, R.I., but Mariah, who grew up in Delaware, and Sam, who vacationed here, decided to bring their business to the First State.
“It was originally a restaurant with a brewery in it. Back in the ‘90s there were so many awesome people running restaurants in Rehoboth,” she said.
Mariah said the rockiest times from a business perspective came when they opened a packaging facility in Lewes, which was very capital-intensive on a small business.
Sam said the period where he knew Dogfish had made it was around 1999, when Dogfish began bottling its 90 Minute IPA and released Midas Touch, which first garnered national attention for the brewery.
“We went from this struggling brewery in rural Delaware that some people laughed at for putting weird stuff into beer to getting these national accolades. We started growing in double digits from ‘99 for the next 15 to 18 years in a row,” Sam said.
For Greeley, being entrusted with the history of Dogfish was a heady moment.
“I was blown away by it. You find lots of different communities throughout our lives that you’re a part of and pass in between. Dogfish Head has always been one where I felt like I was a part of, and being asked to tell that story was an honor,” he said.