Calagione on Beer

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sam Calagione is the founder and brewmaster of one of my favorite breweries, Delaware-based Dogfish Head. I ran into a nice interview with him over at the Atlantic the other day, and enjoyed seeing the snapshot it provided of a man who loves what he does.

What do you say when people ask, "What do you do?"

I'm very proud to say or write on any vocational inquiry document that I am a brewer. My title is "president and founder" but I am a brewer first and a businessman second, and I think Dogfish's commitment to making a wide array of quality off-centered ales brings me more pride then growing from the smallest brewery in the country to where we are today.
He also offers some thoughts worth pondering by beer aficionados:
What's an emerging trend that you think will shake up the beer world?

Glassware and temperature. The majority of what we think we are tasting we are actually smelling, so a balloon-shaped glass, whether it's a sniffer or red wine glass, is best for almost all beers, as it captures more of the aromatics. With temperature, the perception as dictated by the largest breweries is that beer is best served ice-cold. But of course anything you drink ice-cold is going to numb and retard your taste buds and nothing is good about that if you care about enjoying what you are ingesting.
A couple of weeks ago, we hosted one of my brothers and his family for a short visit to Boston. On the last day, my brother and I visited the Sam Adams brewery, making a stop afterwards at Doyle's, the first pub to serve Sam Adams. There, we imbibed from a new type of drinking glass developed by the brewery. (It's pictured at right. (Go here for more detail.) People who had been on the tour got to keep the glasses, and I think they do enhance the taste of the beer. I now usually drink from one of these at the end of the day.

I'll end this post with four beer recommendations. The first and the last I have known about for years. The middle two I purchased since moving to Boston, each time because the name made me laugh and become curious. The name of each is linked to its brewer's product description, and the short blurb is linked to the review page at Beer Advocate.
The Beer Advocate reviewers are hard on Blithering Idiot and Session. In the former case, this is something that I suspect could be partly due to spoilage of some shipments. In the latter, the low ratings may reflect a common (but mistaken) prejudice by "beer snobs" against lagers as such. I like all four of these very different beers. As Calagione puts it in his interview, the idea that "that session beers and extreme beers cannot peacefully coexist on the same shelf" deserves to be forgotten.

-- CAV


Benpercent said...

Would you consider yourself a dedicated beer connoisseur? It's appreciable to see another Objectivist take a serious interest in one line of foods, and while I may not drink beer I find myself enjoying this post. I hope you continue your analysises and tasting adventures in the future.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks, Ben.

I'd say it's more accurate at this point to call myself a beer snob.

I've dabbled in home brewing, read a fair amount about beer, and tried lots of different beers (in all of the styles I know of) over the years. But could I write a good review of a beer myself? Not really.

I'd want to take a beer tasting class -- many home brewing supply stores offer them -- and learn more about the different aspects of a beer's sensory qualities properly (especially taste and aroma, both in terms of how they arise and how to describe them properly) before trying to write about beer, or calling myself a connoisseur.