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Beer Review #180 Ta Henket

Dogfish Head brews a number of beers as part of their Ancient Ale series and Ta Henket is the most recent beer in the series that I have had the chance to try. This beer is a low alcohol beer for Dogfish, coming in at only 4.5% ABV. The bottle says “beer brewed with Za’atar Doum Fruit and Chamomile.” This beer also has a yeast strain that DFH captured while visiting Ciro, Egypt. Another beer with a great story from Dogfish, but how does it measure up?

Ta Henket pours a nice clear golden color with a fluffy white head. The nose is very yeasty with a very earthy quality. It was also a bit musty smelling. I didn’t much of anything else going on; no fruit or chamomile. I was expecting the nose to be more complicated as Dogfish usually does a good job of making exciting smelling beers, but this one was a bit flat compare to their others. I do enjoy a good earthy smelling beer though, so I did find some promise in it. There were no hops in this one, but, at only 7 IBUs, I didn’t expect to smell much of anything.

On the first taste I got lots of honey-like sweetness. The flavor then folded into a sesame seed flavor, which I assume came from the chamomile. There was a slight bitterness in the back of the beer, but only enough to balance out some of the sweetness. There were some musty things going on in the background as well, that I really don’t know how to describe. I have never heard of Za’atar Doum Fruit, nor do I know what it tastes like, so maybe that would account for the musty flavors. This is a very different beer, that left me guessing. There is a lot going on without being bold on flavor. I’m not sure if I am going to seek this one out again. (more…)

Beer Review #180 Life and Limb

Life and Limb is one of the first big collaboration brews done in the industry and it made a lot of noise when it first came out. Life and Limb is brewed by Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and it is a great example of how two industry “giants” (in craft beer terms) can come together and make something great. The beer is brewed with maple syrup from the, “Calagione family farm in Massachusetts and estate barley grown on the Grossman ‘farm’ at the brewery in Chico, CA.” (Source) The name of the beer gets its name in from two parts. 1. Life to represent the yeast used in the making of the beer and 2. Limb the two different breweries and syrups used in the beer. As a side-note, before I dive into this review I just want to note that one of the lights for my lightbox broke when I was trying to get pictures for this beer, heck the non-white background.

Oddly enough, I live in Delaware, home of Dogfish Head, but my version of this beer was brewed by Sierra Nevada. Life and Limb pours a deep brown color and has a fluffy tan colored head to compliment the deep brown nicely. The nose is super malt with lots of chocolate and some slight roast. I also got a little heat from the nose. I didn’t get a lot of hops as the malt really rules the nose, but the hops that were there were very subdued.

On my first taste I got a really nice smack of roasted grain that fades into chocolate. There is also some really rich caramel flavors in there as well. The caramel could also have been a masked version of maple or birch syrup that were added to the beer, but I’m not sure. From my experience with syrups, you don’t get a ton of flavor out of them but rather some easy ABV points. Again the hops were there, but they didn’t bite and they certainty were not a star in this beer. I really liked that these two breweries, which can be a bit hop forward, really resisted using tons of hops and let the malt shine.

There was some slight heat in the flavor of the beer as well, but it was enjoyable. For a 10.2% beer I was surprised that there wasn’t more heat on it. As a beer which presumably has a lot of simple sugars (making for a thinner beer), Life and Limb was really creamy in the mouth. I really liked this one and I am glad that I had the chance to try it. I resisted getting it while I was at the Dogfish Head brewpub in favor of trying more beer, included Limb and Life, the counterpart of this beer. If you can find any bottles of this again, make sure you grab it. I’m not sure if they are still making it or if it was a one time run, but I sure hope they decide to do this beer again soon. (more…)

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.

Beer Review #138 Hellhound On My Ale

Since I live in Delaware, Dogfish Head beers are pretty easy for me to get a hold of. The same buddy who got Leipziger Gose for me asked if I could pick him up a bottle of Hellhound On My Ale. While I decided to get one for him, I also thought that I should get one for myself, since I’m such a giving guy. Dogfish Head made this 10% ABV double IPA to celebrate the 100th birthday of Robert Johnson. They have this to say about the beer:

2011 marks the 100th birthday of Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson who, according to legend, sold his soul down at the crossroads in a midnight bargain and changed music forever. Working again with our friends at Sony Legacy (yup, the same folks we did our Miles Davis-inspired Bitches Brew with), Dogfish Head pays tribute to this blues legend by gettin the hellhounds off his trail and into this finely-crafted ale.

I mainly think that they were looking for someone who’s birthday was coming up on 100 years since the beer have everything done in logarithmic scale. It have 10% ABV, 10 SRM (color), dry hopped with 100% centennial hops at a rate of 100 kilos per 100 barrels. Sounds good to me.

The beer pours a nice orange color with a slightly off-white head. The nose is loaded with lots of good hops and some sweetness. In addition it has some heat and lemons. Yeah lemons. This ale is actually brewed with lemons. Go figure.

The taste is complex and wonderful. There is some caramel and roasted malt followed by by some really solid hops. While this is a double IPA, it isn’t overboard on the hops. There is some heat present and the lemon flavor is kind of, sort-of there. For a big beer this one is pretty darn good. My only complaint is that the heat in this one is a little too strong compared to the rest of the balance that was created. This is a limited release so I have no idea if you can still get it, but if you can, it’s worth the $15 price tag. (more…)