Drinking with the Devil (Dick) by Tommy Southard

Posted in Columns on February 7th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

In his first column, guitarist Tommy “Devil Dick” Southard of Solace, Social Decay and The Disease Concept heads to Delaware to visit the Dogfish Head brewery. Enjoy:

Hello there Obelisk readers! So I’ve been asked to do a little beer report for the site. I got an email from JJ asking me to do this just about the time I had plans to visit the Dogfish Head Brewery with my wife and a few friends of mine, so I figured what the hell, why not.

First of all, let me say that I am in no way an expert on beer, but I do LOVE to drink the stuff! And I started out like many a beer drinker does: A snot-nosed little punk drinking the cheapest stuff just for a buzz. But over time (as I’ve, ahem, matured), Ive gotten to love the higher-quality products and man, is it a good time for beer! So anyway here is my little trip to Dogfish Head

For those that don’t know anything about this place, and I would imagine many reading this don’t, Dogfish Head is in Milton, Delaware, and specializes in creating some pretty wild craft beers, including a series called Ancient Ales, where they use chemical analysis to create recipes from residues found in ancient pottery. Pretty wild stuff.

They also make one of my favorite seasonal beers, a Chicory Stout, which is a stout brewed with roasted chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John’s Wort and licorice root (thanks Wikipedia). Yum yum. We didn’t have this at the brewery, but I have a case of it in my fridge as I type.

Now for the tour: Basically, they whisk you through the facility and show you the various areas, holding tanks, and explain a little bit about the brewing process and tell the tale of how the brewery got its start. Most of it is pretty standard stuff and I snapped a few pics to remember the place, but the most interesting part was checking out the brewing tank made from Paraguayan palo santo wood. The palo santo (“holy wood”) is a wild tree native from Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula to Peru and Venezuela and such a super-dense wood that supposedly when Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione tried to cut a limb off a tree with a machete to further inspect the wood, could not do so because of the strength and density. Then, to prove the strength of the tree, the South American guide he was with took out a gun and shot it and the bullet bounced off. At least that’s the story they gave us…

In 2006, they built the largest wooden brewing tank in America since prohibition. The 10,000-gallon tank is used to brew their Palo Santo Marron brown ale, imparting caramel and vanilla complexity to the beer. And at 12% ABV (alcohol by volume), it packs a bit of a wallop!

All very interesting but the real reason we were there was for the beer! So after the tour was over, we headed to the bar! We got to check out a few samples of what they were brewing. Nice. Now by law or something they can only serve four three-ounce glasses of beer to try. (Or so they said.) Lucky for us the Palo Santo Marron was one of the beers they were letting us sample. GREAT! I’ve had it in the bottle before, but never on tap. The beer pours dark with a cream color head and an amazing amount of flavor and smells. Vanilla, chocolate (slightly sweet) and coffee come to mind. It is pretty low in carbonation and is easy to drink, pretty smooth for a 12% beer. I like this beer a lot but you can hurt yourself if you drink too many!

Before we had the Palo Santo Marron, we had the 60 Minute IPA. I’m not the biggest IPA guy in the world, but this one is good. Clean and crisp with a frothy white head, with notes of citrus, hops and pine. At 6% ABV you could down a river of these!

Tweason Ale, which is a gluten-free beer, was also on tap. Sounds weird but this was kinda good. Very tart with fruit and citrus flavors going on and slightly sour. Poured a gold color with a white head. Not something I would buy on a regular basis, but an interesting taste and also 6% ABV.

Next up, Burton Baton is an Imperial/Double IPA that comes in at 10% but doesn’t taste that strong. A nice copper color and off-white head, strong hop and citrus flavors with a bit of bitterness and pretty good carbonation. This is good but I would have rather had another tug at the Palo Santo Marron.

Finally, as a special treat, we were offered up some World Wide Stout. At 18%, this stuff kicks major ass! It’s an American Double/Imperial Stout. This one is black as night, with what one would expect at such a high ABV, a very boozy smell and finish. Not unpleasant just strong. Taste of prunes or plums and sweet, almost port wine-ish. Man, I wanted to buy a case of this to take home but at $140, it was out of my price range!

The best part about the tour is while we were at the bar sampling some of the beers, we noticed another group of people at the other end of the bar cracking open all these different bottles of beer. Next thing we know, Sam Calagione is offering our group to join in on the sampling! It seems a guy just happened to come by the brewery with a cooler full of beers that he has been cellaring for years and decided to share them with the staff at Dogfish Head!

Of course, this all took us a little by surprise and since we were not really part of what was going on, we just kind of got random pours of beer, so I was not really able to take notes, but I know we had a cellar-aged 10-year-old Raison D’extra that is 18% and Cornholio — a collaboration with Three Floyds and Dogfish Head. So needless to say we left the brewery slightly more buzzed than supposedly allowed by law!

I dig this brewery on a whole. Some of the beers are bit pricey, but they are always taking chances and trying new and bold things (to differing degrees of success), so if you get to try any of their beers and you consider yourself a beer fan, chances are even if you don’t love the beer you can appreciate what this fine little craft brewery is attempting to do down in the tiny state of Delaware.

And as a post-script, let me apologize for the lack of pictures for the beer we sampled, as it’s always nice to have a peak at what people are talking about, but as I said, these were only three-ounce samples in plastic cups and not very appealing to the camera or eye.

So there you have it. My first beer installment. Please let me know if you have had any of these beers and share your experiences with them!

Till the next time, PROST!!!
Tommy Southard

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