Dogfish Head Distilling Co. Holds First Ever Spirits Launch
Dogfish Head has been making small-batch spirits since 2002 at its Rehoboth Beach brewpub. In 2015, the company decided to expand its line of 100 percent scratch-made spirits and produce the three liquors mentioned above at its new distillery at the center of Dogfish Head’s Milton campus.
This new distillery includes new American-made copper stills and veteran distiller Graham Hamblett, who started out in the distillation world 16 years ago. He received a degree in horticulture from the University of New Hampshire and entered the business at Flag Hill Winery and Distillery in Lee, N.H.
Hamblett first tried his hand at making wine, which later turned into distilling brandy and then finally, vodka, gin and other liqueurs. He spent 15 years in New Hampshire practicing this trade and then joined Dogfish Head’s team, where he has remained for two years.
You may be wondering, why create spirits when Dogfish Head beer is so successful?
“As I travel, one request I hear over and over from our passionate beer consumer is, ‘When are you going to step up the spirits program and take Dogfish Head’s off-centered approach to a wider audience?” Dogfish Head Founder and President Sam Calagione said. “Well, over the last year we’ve made the right investments, and the answer is now.”
Distilling Manager James Montero is one of those investments. Montero has worked in spirits and beers for 10 years. He sought out Dogfish Head around the same time these changes were happening in the company.
“I’ve known and loved the brand for the last 12 years,” Montero said.
Montero says while Dogfish Head has spirits already, the company has changed the packaging design to make it look more like spirits, instead of beer. A question Montero gets a lot is whether this new line of spirits will impact the company’s existing beer products? The answer is no. Montero says with this entirely new line up, the adjustment will be incremental.
Monday night’s gathering included hours of cocktails and food pairings, an introduction to the new line of spirits, all grain distilling tours and an off-centered competition.
Calagione’s cousin Mia Mastroianni has worked on the popular television show Bar Rescue and is a mixologist at the Soho House in Los Angeles, Calif. Mastroianni has worked with Dogfish Head in creating its new line of cocktails.
“Sam and I have collaborated – I’m in the spirits world and he’s in the beer world,” Mastroianni said. “Sam is known for coming up with ‘off-centered’ products so this will be our twist on classic cocktails.”
Mastroianni was at the event not only to lend her expertise in the cocktail world but to run a competition. The guests were able to choose anything they wanted to make their own cocktail. The competition was later judged by Calagione, Mastroianni and Hamblett.
The top five winners of this competition won a gift basket filled with merchandise including a Dogfish Head flask, blanket and hat. The overall winner was Mike Pace with Ernest & Scott Taproom. He named his cocktail the MONA and included Dogfish Head Compelling Gin, St. Germain, muddled blackberry, sage, hot pepper, agave, rose water, topped with prosecco. The MONA will now be recreated and featured on the Dogfish Head brewpub’s menu.
Through the spirits, food and competition, all grain distilling tours were happening every 20 minutes. Matt from Dogfish Head took groups through the brewery to start off the tour and later handed the crowd off to Hamblett, who explained the copper stills and process for the new distillery.
The guests were able to leave the event satisfied and with a token of appreciation: Dogfish Head gave out its mule mugs to all the guests who went on a tour of the distillery.
During the event, it was obvious many guests were familiar with the product. Carol Garner and Tom Greenwood, from R & L Liquors in Lewes, Del., were among the crowd for the tour. Garner remarked that R & L Liquors was one of the first stores to stock Dogfish Head beer on its shelves in 1995.
The new lineup will debut in Delaware in November. The brand then plans to make its way distributing out to the West Coast. Calagione just has one wish: make these spirits the most gifted items this holiday season.
Made with 100 percent brewers malt and our proprietary “Doggie” yeast, Analog Vodka embodies the core of Dogfish Head’s 20-year commitment to quality and creativity. It’s crisp, with a viscous sweetness of caramelized sugar and malted barley with a cleansing minerality, a sipping vodka for whiskey drinkers.
Distilled using the peel and flesh of our favorite citrus and a long list of beautiful culinary ingredients stolen from our brewpub kitchen, Compelling Gin is bright and citrusy, with a crisp juniper snap and lingering cinnamon warmth, a culinary-inspired gin.
Like Dogfish Head’s signature line of continually hopped IPAs, Whole Leaf Gin continually doses whole leaf hops into each step of the gin distillation process. The result is an earthy gin, with a drying coolness, yet bursting with floral hop goodness, the IPA of spirits.