Discovery Channel’s “Brew Masters”: A Look Inside Dogfish Head

Have you had a chance to check out “Brew Masters” on the Discovery Channel yet?  The new tv show follows Dogfish Head Brewery Founder Sam Calagione as he searches, sometimes world wide, for inspirations for Dogfish Head’s “Off Centered Ales”, as the brewery calls their beers.  Dogfish Head is known for using just about anything in their beer to create either original recipes, or to duplicate beer recipes from ancient civilizations.  There are also inside looks at the day to day workings at the brewery itself, for good or bad, such as when the brewery took a shot at creating a green beer for St. Patrick’s Day by using green algae.  Calagione laughingly admits that some of the taste testers likened the beer to “pond scum”.  Apparently, an upcoming show will also mention the recent loss of an entire batch of the brewery’s “120 Minute IPA”, a quite expensive beer to buy and surely an expensive one to produce.  (The brewery’s quality control team rejected the batch for what their website called “dislocated” flavors.)

So what of the good?  The episodes which have aired so far work well as documentaries for Calagione’s adventures (as well as the misadventures), and also can’t help to feel a bit ad-campaignish for Dogfish Head.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; DFH has made many fans and has a well deserved reputation for both their year round beers and also their inventive, slightly out in left field recipes, which the show centers around.  The first episode covered the collaboration between Sony Records and the brewery to produce a commemorative beer for the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’ legendary Bitches’ Brew album.  The album was a landmark fusion of jazz and rock, and the theory behind the melding of the two music worlds for the album served as the inspiration Calagione used for the beer.  Dogfish Head Bitches’ Brew fused two beer worlds, in a manner of speaking, mixing a rich Imperial Stout with ingredients used in African Tej, a honey based beer popular in Ethiopia.

How will the show affect interest in craft beer, if it does at all?  I’ve read some internet bulletin board discussions in which workers at craft beer stores have had folks wander in looking for Bitches’ Brew or other Dogfish Head beers, admitting they had not really tasted anything other than big brewery beers previously.  But perhaps these are isolated incidents.  Who knows how much effect the show will have on a large scale or long term, but as those bulletin board discussions show, there are at least some folks taking notice.  Most likely, these are beer curious people who have wandered down the craft beer aisle before, not exactly sure what to try or taste.  If it causes just a few of these beer curious types to make the jump, the show has worked for the good of craft beer, I believe.  And even though Dogfish Head may be the first to see any boost in curiosity and sales, why not focus on them for the show?  Craft beer is, at its core, all about creating good, quality beer.  Dogfish Head does that, as fans of their 60 and 90 minute IPAs or their World Wide Stout will tell you.  Calagione also pushes the everyday beer envelope as well, as the Bitches’ Brew story will tell you.  It makes for interesting tv for anyone already into in craft beer, but perhaps will peak curiosity in those folks on the verge of trying craft beer – a result worthy of hoping for to say the least.

“Brew Masters” airing now on Monday nights, Discovery Channel, 10 PM.

Visit the Dogfish Head Website.

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~ by thebeerroad on November 29, 2010.

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