Monday, August 18, 2008

Dogfish (redacted) Head


Dogfish Head.


I have never drank any beer from this brewery. Not when it's been a guest brew at a bar I like, not when it's been offered to me at a party, not when it's been sitting there, longingly, on the shelf at some Winn Dixie where the distributor decided to get creative.

The reason is simple: in the wine world, you have to give your wine an interesting name or a funny label to get noticed. There are hundreds of bottles of wine on any shelf at any grocery. When you're selling 15$ wine to an unsophisticated audience, you need to stand out.

Beer is different. There's a lot less of it on the shelf for one thing, and for another you have a host of not just varieties but ingredients. As such you don't need to sell on a name or a label but can appeal to people who want not just a beer but one spiced with "coriander and orange peel".

As such I tend to avoid beers that try to sell on gimmick or funny naming, interesting ingredients notwithstanding.

So: Dogfish Head.

I don't care if there's a good reason. I don't care if there's a funny story. All I have to do is look at the packaging and say "that is not something I want to drink" and move on. All it took was a motto as lame as "off centered beer for off centered people" and I'm willing to call it a day on your product.

Why so much hate? Because craft beer people are by nature oddballs. Specifically marketing your beer the way Dogfish Head has is pushing it. I'm already buying beer in corked bottles that have smiling monks printed on the side: You don't need to TELL me I'm weird for doing this.

So last week I decided to put a little bit of this behind me and pick up a sixpack. This was after seeing a small portion of a Discovery Channel program on brewing beer that featured the founder of Dogfish Head brewery, Sam Calgione.

May I take a moment to point out the following:
- Dogfish Head brewery is located in Rehoboth Beach Delaware, a place that even the rare man who has a passing knowledge of Delaware geography (me) has never heard of
- Their website lists a variety of interesting beers I have never, ever seen in a store anywhere and might actually change my opinion of them if I were to try them, but instead have only seen IPA's that have not thoroughly encouraged me to put down 8$ for.
- Sam speaks exactly like someone who would name their company Dogfish Head. No I don't know what that means either.

So I saw Raison D'Etre on the shelf at Whole Foods and decided to give it a go. Raison (a reference to the fact that it is brewed with green raisins) was awarded Brew of the Year in 2000 by Malt Advocate magazine, although I don't particularly care what awards your beer has won as Delirium Tremens touts its medals left and right but is boring as all heck.

Raison is good. Not in a passing way and not in a dismissive way, but I can't say much more about it. I taste mostly (if not entirely) the brown sugar and mahogany flavors touted on the label but none of the raisins. Perhaps the fact that grape juice is so often used as a sweetener substitute in juice blends that are "100% juice" says something about the ability of the grape to loan its flavor to other things. Perhaps I'm a stuck up jerk. Who knows. In short, this beer is a reasonably good brown, my irrational dislike for Dogfish Head* is cooled, I probably won't buy it again.

Next time: I review my favorite beer in the world (so far). If there is a next time. I don't even know if anyone is reading these beer posts.

man it was hard not to juxtapose Dogfish Head everytime I had to mention it. Fishdog Head, Headdog, Fishface Dog ... possibilities are endless ...


alesh said...

Ha. Nice post. I recently had a similar experience with DFH's 90 minuite IPA. (Been on an IPA kick, you see.)

You should make the trip up to Total Wine (Biscayne Blvd in North Miami, a little ways south of FIU's north campus) -- they've got a huge selection of beer. Maybe enough to make you rethink the lengths some brands need to go to to get a drinker's attention. Then again, maybe not: the zaniness in naming and labeling beers is some weird american microbrew fetish, and honestly DFH is far from worst. How about Flying Dog? ("Good beer. No shit.") Their labels are irritatingly illustrated by Ralph Steadman.

Anyway, it's worth overlooking. And BTW, my favorite beer in the world is Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot, which apparently is seasonable and I can't get it until sometime next year.

krylonultraflat said...

Man EVERYONE keeps telling me to go to total wine! I need to make the trip already, if only to see if they have Tom Hardy's (which The Abbey is out of at the moment).

Flying dog was exactly the other beer I had in mind that I refused to drink based on the name but could not think of the name of it. The labels remind me of something I'd see in a alcohol poisoning-induced nightmare.

I've never had bigfoot, but Sierra Porter is one of my favorites. I'll have to try it next time it comes around.

alesh said...


(Just saw your message on Twitter... guess I'm semi-computer-literate.)

It's complicated, and I don't really know. Bigfoot is not technically seasonal, although it is only released during a certain part of the year. I bought some last weekend (after leaving the above comment) at the Crown liquor on US-1 in South Miami.

If you're into beer, bring lots of money when you to got TW, because they have (1) a great selection and (2) really good prices. They also have a wall of individual bottles of a couple thousand beers and invite you to "make your own six pack."