Skip to main content

Meeting Sam Calagione

My wife is attending a local university as she pursues her PhD and as part of that undertaking, she is required to attend a certain number of seminars. These seminars do not need to be major based, but just attended. I guess it is the high level version of “Gen Eds.” Anyway, she spotted that the business department was having a seminar given by none other than Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head. I quickly decided that I needed to attend some high education and joined her in this seminar.

We entered a small auditium to find it half filled with a bunch of business majors wearing suits. I quickly removed my Phillies hat and placed it over top of my knee as I sat down in a halfhearted attempt to hide it. We received a few funny glances from the professors and made sure that we were in the right spot. Soon enough Sam walked in and was formally introduced.

Being a business seminar he talked a lot about the entrepreneurial side of things, many of which are highlighted in his book Brewing Up a Business. A few things struck me when he answered questions during the Q&A session. On student asked, “Why Dogfish Head for a name?” I knew the origins of the name (an island close to where Sam grew up) but never really related it to the business side of things. Sam’s answer was simple and made a lot of sense. He said that he did not want to name the company after something local to Delaware, since the name carries a location with it. He wanted something that meant something to him, but also couldn’t be tied down to any one location. He went on to say that people would be less out to buy beer from “The Delaware Brewing Company” than what they would be from “Dogfish Head,” even if they sell the same product. Interesting.

He also went on to tell the importance of being a story teller for your company and making sure that everyone who works at the company is on board with the story. Again simple, but makes a lot of sense. There were a few other questions about general beer knowledge including one on how beer was made. It was interesting to see how Sam conveyed the information, making it accessible and also detailed. I think my favorite question was asking where someone asked for his biggest piece of advice to an entrepreneur. Sam said to not go into anything under-financed. Have enough cash to not just start a business, but maintain on for a significant period of time.

The most exciting part came after the talk had officially ended and student had the chance to come up and ask Sam personal questions. I saw one student hand over a bottle of beer (great idea) to Sam and a few others had some general financing questions. I stood at the back of the line as I 1. was not a student of the university, and 2. wanted to talk about beer, not business. My turn finally came and Sam introduced himself warmly and I thanked him for distributing beer to Texas. I explained how they have almost no beer culture in Lubbock and that Dogfish and Victory were my only real tastes of home while I was out there.  I didn’t want to beer geek out on him so I thanked him again and walked away.

I was really glad that I took the opportunity to go to the meeting and actually meet Sam. It is something that this beer geek is going to remember for some time. Sadly, my camera did forget my meeting rather quickly as everything came out very blurred thanks to the terrible lighting and my distaste for using a flash while people are talking.