Dogfish Head: Great Beer, Even Better People

1/18/2019

A series of photos that gives us a glimpse into life at Dogfish Head.
Written by Brian Wright
Photos by Annaleah De Masi

It is an unusually warm evening in early October, and Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, is preparing to kick off his final meeting of the day. Joining him are a handful of his Dogfish Head coworkers, including James Montero, general manager of the brand’s distillery, Janelle Mazur and Megan Bayles from the marketing team, as well as Janelle’s husband and quality control manager, Ryan Mazur. Sitting opposite Sam is his wife and co-founder, Mariah Calagione.

Also in attendance are close to a dozen guests staying at the Dogfish Inn, the brewery’s 16-room hotel.

Oh, and there are dogs at this meeting, too.

This is not your ordinary meeting. Tonight is Dogfish Head’s fireside chat, a roundtable discussion of all things beverage, held weekly at the Inn in Lewes, DE.

“We’ve been holding these fireside chats since the day the hotel first opened four years ago,” Calagione says. “They are, without question, my favorite meeting of the week.”

With beers in hand and the fire flickering away, Calagione opens the floor to questions, and just like that, another off-centered meeting is underway.

For the next two hours, Sam, Mariah and the rest of the Dogfish Head team answer questions from hotel guests and others in attendance. Almost immediately, one guest asks Sam if a rumor was true that Dogfish Head is discontinuing her favorite beer, Raison D'Extra?

“Yes,” says Sam. “It is usually my idea to create the beers, and later, Mariah kills them.”

That line gets a loud laugh from the crowd, as well as a knowing smirk and side eye from Mariah, who appears ready with a comeback, but holds off.

Now that the crowd is loosened up, the questions come pouring in.

“We learn a ton at these meetings that, to this day, really molds Dogfish Head’s strategy,” Calagione says.

For the serious beer fan, this whole evening can seem a surreal experience. Here are Sam and Mariah Calagione, founders of one of America’s pioneering craft breweries, essentially just hanging out and having a beer with anyone who happens to walk by. To even a casual consumer, it is an evening that is sure to leave an impression.

 

Dogfish Head is the 12th largest craft brewery in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association, and yet each week the company’s CEO and executive vice president sit around the fire with customers, fans and employees from every level of the company, engaging with them and earnestly hearing them out. This isn’t something that normally happens at a company of Dogfish Head’s size, but perhaps that is why Dogfish Head continues to grow faster than many others in the craft beer industry.

In 2017, Dogfish Head saw its sales grow 20 percent, driven strongly by the release of SeaQuench Ale. In 2018, the brewery is expected to increase its sales another 8 percent and sell close to 300,000 barrels.

That growth is even more impressive when you consider that Dogfish Head doesn’t yet distribute in all 50 states (It’s currently in 42).

So, what is different about Dogfish Head?

Simply put, it’s a strange brew of leadership, benevolence and people that make the difference.

Scroll through the photos above to see what we mean.

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