Beer Porn: Dogfish Head Brewery Weekend

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The first weekend in October brought the highly decorated microbrewery, Dogfish Head, to Coles on Elmwood for weekend of draft beer tastings.  When I first found out about the Delaware based brewery, which has been in existence since 1995, were making a trip to Buffalo I was very excited for two reasons.  The first is that I have only had a chance to taste a few of their unique and tasty concoctions and the second was they chose the perfect place for the event.

I arrived a bit early for the Friday night tastings on purpose, solely so that I had some time to order myself a side of Coles fries before tasting.  I told my friends that we had to get there early so that I could ‘clear my palate.’  In reality, I will do just about anything for an order of Coles crispy fries.  After the fries were polished off I headed upstairs to the tastings.  The staff had everything laid out well, About 12 brews lined one side of the room.  Tables with plenty of information about their different beers was scattered about the room.  Their booklets were not only helpful, it allowed you to decide which drafts to give a try, but also informative and a surprisingly good read.  The brewery’s claim to fame/slogan is they produce “off-centered ales for off-centered people.”  Most of the beers are fairly complex with multiple flavors (much like wine) and therefore the descriptions helped with determining hints of flavors along with the background stories of the beer.

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The tastings each cost a set number of tickets that you had to purchase at the door.  The tickets were only $.50 each and the drafts were anywhere from 2 tickets to 6 tickets for a 5 ounce glass, depending on the type you choose.  At first that may seem a bit expensive, however combining the quality of the beer and the strength of the beer, it was well worth spending the money.  Whenever you can’t decide if you want to pay that extra dollar or two to try a new quality beer, remind yourself of the words I also tell my friends, “Life’s too short to drink cheap beer!”

The first two drafts I decided to try were the Festina Peche and the Theobroma.

Festine Peche Left & Theobroma Right

Festine Peche Left & Theobroma Right

The Festina Peche is described as a “neo-Berliner Weisse fermented with loads-o-peaches.”  It is only released in the summer time and is a light and refreshing 4.5% ABV summer brew.  It started out with slight sour taste.  It had the mouth feel and taste of a pinot grigio wine.  Then it ended with an intense peach kick.  The peche was light and crisp and perfect for summer drinking as well as would go great with grilled chicken or fish.  I would recommend this beer for people who generally drink a light American lager.  It would be an excellent way to smoothly and slowly transition into worlds of flavor.

The second beer of the first trip to the taps I tried was the Theobroma.  I probably made a bad choice into jumping right into a much stronger beer (10%ABV) but it sounded fantastic.  The Beer is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, honey, and chillies.  DFH says that this recipe dates back to 1200BC.  The Theobroma had a much darker taste than it appears.  It was deep, rich and complex and the beer finishes with a spice on the tongue.  You can really taste the cocoa powder as well as the chilies in the aftertaste.  This beer is one of the breweries limited, small-batch releases and is bottled and sold starting in November of each year.  For those who enjoy a nice, dark hearty winter beer.  Be on the look out for the Theobroma when it is released.

The next round to the taps had me tasting the Sah’ Tea and the Immort Ale.

Sah' Tea left and Immort Ale right

Sah' Tea left and Immort Ale right

The Sah’ Tea is also one of the brewery’s limited releases.  It is bottled in June and has an alcohol content of 9%.  This beer is brewed with rye and then fermented with a German wheat yeast (both of which can be distinctly tasted).  It has a very strong tea aroma and actually tasted much lighter than it appeared.  The tea taste (which the beer is also brewed with) is subtle, yet noticeable.  It has the mouth feel and a bit of the taste of an unfiltered wheat beer.  This was one of the two beers that I fell in love with and would encourage everyone to give it a try.  The balance between the flavors was fantastic.

The second draft of round two was the Immort Ale.  This is also one of their limited releases (which they were obviously showcasing) and is released in May.  I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like this beer, but it was definitely my least favorite of all the tastings that I tried that night.  The beer had an alcohol content of 11%, and you could certainly taste it.  It is brewed with peat-smoked barley, juniper berries, vanilla, maple syrup and then it’s aged in oak barrels.  The beer was extremely strong and heavy and the oak and smoke was the prominent flavor.  The first thing that my group thought when tasting was “wow, this tastes kind of like breakfast”.  I think it must have been the smoked flavor combined with the maple syrup, but that was all I could thing of while drinking it.  I thought the beer tasted a bit more like whiskey than beer, I would recommend this Ale for people who enjoy sitting back and sipping on some of grandpa’s cough medicine.

It was time for round three, and the hunger for some more Coles fries was starting to grow again.  The whole drinking beer as strong as wine idea was fantastic, however it the munchies grow exponentially quicker than drinking normal American lagers.  Round three took me to the Chateau Jiahu and the Black & Blue.

Chateau Jiahu left, Black & Blue right

Chateau Jiahu left, Black & Blue right

Another limited release, the Chateau Jiahu is bottled in July and is a 10%ABV.  This beer is brewed with rice, honey, grapes and howthorne fruit.  The start of the taste has a distinct, smooth honey flavor.  The beer then switches gears and has a grape finish.  It was quite strange the first few sips I took, I felt like I was drinking a mixture of dark beer and wine.  But then it started to grow on me.  By the time I was finished with the glass I had become quite the fan.  The honey and grapes seem to compliment each other and create a great taste and easy drinking, extremely smooth beer.

The sixth beer of the evening was the Black & Blue.  The Black & Blue is another limited release that was debuted back in April.  DFH describes the beer as strong Belgium ale fermented with blackberries and blueberries.  The beer was very strong (10&ABV), more than I was expecting seeing that it was a fruit beer, but the massive amounts of berries they brew it with almost masks the high alcohol.  I would consider that a good thing, however this little sucker can sneak right up on you.  It tastes like refreshing summer beer than an intense ale.  I would recommend this beer to any fruit beer lovers, however beware of the alcohol bite (or just make sure your tasting in or near a great food joint)!

After finishing the pair of drafts from my third journey, I decided I was good to go for one more beer (of course I hadn’t planned on another trip, but hell, who plans on one more beer). It turns out that it must have been a stroke of genius by me to have another beer, or just a stroke of luck.  My final DFH draft taste was the Aprihop.

Spring Seasonal Release, Aprihop.

Spring Seasonal Release, Aprihop.

Aprihop is a seasonally released beer that debuts each year in the Spring.  It is an I.P.A. brewed with apricots.  It sports a 7%ABV, so it was a bit lighter than most of the limited release brews.  The Aprihop was by far my favorite beer of the night.  DFH has won a plethora of awards for their stunning I.P.A.’s and they did not disappoint with this offshoot.  It has a distinct, strong apricot smell and flavor, however the beer is not too sweet at all.  The apricots add just a touch of sweetness, which is different from most “fruity” beers which tend to be closer to a “carbonated water with fruit juice” taste.  The fruit taste is balances perfectly with the hoppiness the beer exerts.  They claim this to be a great beer for BBQ’s and summer, however I would claim that this beer is great for anytime and anything.  I couldn’t stop raving about the beer for hours due to the absolute perfect balance between the fruit and hops.  If you have never tried one of DFH’s I.P.A.’s I would strongly recommend giving this a try.  If you aren’t a huge hoppy beer fan or I.P.A. fan, this beer may just change your mind.

The long awaited Dogfish Head weekend certainly did not disappoint.  The beers they presented and showcased were unique, interesting, and for the most part delicious.  There is such a wide variety of choices that everybody was able to find at least one beer (and most people found 4 or 5) that they absolutely loved.  Next time your scavenging the beer store (we highly recommend the Village Beer Merchant) and can’t decide what to try.  Or perhaps your starring at the countless draft handles at the local pub.   Give a Dogfish Head beer a try and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed, just a bit drunker than anticipated!

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Dogfish Head uses a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson (above) to sum up their purpose, and I think it fits great…

“Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.  He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.  Nothing is atlas sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”

Cheers!

One thought on “Beer Porn: Dogfish Head Brewery Weekend

  1. LB

    Well done Mr. Pfleegor:-)

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