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A man, a plan and a glorified homebrew system

Thu, 04/26/2012 - 10:41am

This is how it all began.

Back in 1995, when Sam Calagione was opening Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats in Rehoboth Beach, he didn't have a big pile of money for a state-of-the-art brewhouse.

Instead, he put in long days on a glorified homebrew rig, crafting two or three 10-gallon batches of beer five times a week. This little Brew-Magic – delivered on a UPS truck – made Dogfish Head the smallest commercial brewery in the United States.

"We were nano before nano was cool," Sam says.

vintageThis 10-gallon system was delivered to the brewery on a UPS truck.

It was a blessing in disguise. Brewing the same styles of beer all day every day got pretty boring. Because the batches were small, Sam could afford to indulge his off-centered whims. He'd wander into the brewpub's kitchen and grab a handful of raisins, a cup of maple syrup or a scoop of roasted chicory.

Next thing you know, Raison D'Etre, Immort Ale and Chicory Stout were born.

"It allowed us to experiment on a level that no traditional brewpub could," Sam says. "The worst-case scenario was 10 gallons of beer that didn't turn out great."

This "little system that could" was retired a few years later. Today, you'd need more than 300 of them to keep up with our 100-barrel brewhouse, but our mission hasn't changed. We're still throwing raisins, maple syrup and roasted chicory into our beers, along with a long list of other off-centered ingredients. That's what makes us who we are, and we owe it all to the humble little Brew-Magic.

Want to learn more? Drop by and go on a tour!