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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.

Brewmasters one week away

The Discovery Channel has taken the first big step in opening up television to the craft beer world. There have been a few smaller shows out there, but this one looks like it will blow them out of the water. Next Sunday, November 21st the new Discovery show Brewmasters will debut. It is hosted by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, and looks to have an awful lot of Dogfish branding going on as well. After reading Sam’s book Brewing Up a Business, I can see why the show looks to be branded so heavily.

I am a big fan of the Discovery Channel, so I am excited to see this show. I regularly watch Stormchasters and Myth Busters. Cash Cab has also been know to grab my attention from time to time. I am sure excited to see where they take the show and about how Sam approaches a beer.

I still think that Dogfish Head is the most adventurous brewery out there, producing 30+ different kinds of beer in a given year. Most breweries will produce a few key beers, and then some specialty beers, but Dogfish really seems to push the limits of what can be done. The biggest thing they seem to do is incorporate ingredients that have never been used in beer or have not been used in hundreds of years. I want to see how the thought process that Sam goes through when designing a beer and bringing it to reality. Below is the promo for the show if you haven’t seen it yet.

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Again the show appears next Sunday, November 21st at 10:00 PM EST.

Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

As I have said several times we recently moved from Texas back to the east coast. When we got to Texas, a year ago, I started reading Brewing Up a Business by Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head. About two weeks after I got into the book I lost it. I thought I lost it at work and the lost and found was empty so I counted the book in the MIA column. When we were moving I pulled out the dresser, and my book showed up. Awesome.

I just finished the book up this week and I thought I would share my review with you. First off, let me say that I really liked the book. The book tells the tale of how Sam started his brewery from brewpub, to the wonderful “power house” that it is now. I am interested in starting my own brewpub, so I found several parts of the book particularly interesting.

Another thing to know about this book, it isn’t really about beer. I love Dogfish Head as much as the next guy, but this book is more business oriented, which the title should tell you. Sam tells you about this business, why he did things the way he did, problems that they encountered, about the personality of the company, about about being an effective leader.

My favorite two parts of this entire book were when Sam talked about the creation of the moto for Dogfish Head and the leadership aspect of owning a business. Dogfish Head does what it does because they have a focused mission; Off-centered beers for off-centered people. They know that they are not hitting all of the market, and that is OK. Sam takes responsibility for mistakes that were made and offers solutions for business owners so that they do not do the same.

There are parts of the book that gets repetitive, but they are in there for a reason. Sam is showing how important that aspect is to his business. The most important thing to take away from this book is that Sam believes in his idea. As an entrepreneur you need to be willing to take risks and believe in what you are doing 100%. Sam shows that he did and still does in this book. It is an interesting read if you are thinking about starting you own company or want to see how a unique craft brewing came to being.

Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head

09-19-01I’ve been really interested in learning everything about Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head for the past few weeks. Part of it stems from wanting to brew a pumpkin ale and the other is that I’m reading Brewing Up a Business right now. I’m really enjoying both aspects of my interest right now if you cared to know.

I’ve been reading a lot of interviews, question and answer sessions,  and also watching Youtube items about Dogfish and Sam. The most interesting thing to me is their approach to beer and how I would love to do something similar. Maybe not make the types of beer they do, but more on how they approach the business and brewing. Dogfish Head started as a brewpub and then grew into a production brewery. They still use their brewpub to do test batches and brew something new every 2 weeks. I think it is great that a company that is as established as Dogfish Head is willing to keep innovating and testing out new things.

The brewpub to production brewery approach is something that I would love to do myself one day. Granted this is far off if it ever did happen but it is a blast to think about. I find myself researching brewpubs, financing, and all types of statistics to help fuel my dream. What does this all mean now, well, nothing. I’m going to keep homebrewing and coming up with beers that I enjoy but I want to gain as much knowledge as I can before I ever seriously flirt with the business.

Below are a few clips about Dogfish Head and Sam Calagione. The first two are from his rap group (yup a rap group) that raps about beer. The second on in particular is from their Boston Light Beer Party where they dump crapy light beers into Boston Harbor. The last clip is over an hour long and Sam is talking to Google staff about his business and their approach. It was very informative and a really fun watch. [Edit: The videos just took up too much space on the main page, just click the read more link to see them] (more…)