Monday 12 August 2013

Dogfish Head Brewery Tour!!

The day after we arrived in Delaware we had reservations for a tour of the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, about a 30 minute drive from Rehoboth. We could not be more excited for this tour. Firstly, we have the chance to visit one of the most iconic breweries. Secondly, Dogfish Head!!!! 

Now you may not believe this, but these tours are free of charge and on top of that you get four free tasters, you heard right four amazing tasters. The tour began in the bar area where they had a small exhibit of Sam’s personal home brewing equipment on which he started it all on. Just to put this into perspective, his whole setup takes up less space than one of the tables in the bar, in a room that occupies a very small fraction of the brewery's total floor space... Very impressive! Being a home brewer myself I found it both humbling and inspiring to see that even Dogfish Head began at the same place where I am now (well, almost). Below are a few photos of the exhibit with captions.
The whole setup. Pretty amazing!

Two-tier brewing system.
Fresh hop infuser; from tap to glass!
Automated bottling machine.

Continuous hopping machine.

First room: 1 room, 5 processes

  1. Milling: Cracking the grain to increase surface area to convert as much starch to sugar.
  2. Mashing: Basically adding warm to hot water to the cracked grains to extract and convert the starches into sugars.
  3. Lautering: Separating the mash; removing the spent grains from the freshly extracted sweet wort. 
  4. Boiling: The wort is pumped into the brew kettle where they boil the wort for 60-120min. During the boil they add ingredients such as hops, at different intervals, to reach the desired aroma, flavour, and bittering profiles.
  5. Automated Hopper: The successor to "Sir-Hops-Alot", continuously hops the wort.
  6. Whirlpool: Here is where they add ingredients that don't get boiled; ingredients that may be too delicate and will lose their aroma and flavour if boiled, such as herbs and spices.

Next stop on the tour!

The tour guide then brought us to our next stop: Fermentation and Aging. Here we saw barrels, ridiculously massive wooden fermentation/aging tanks, the door to the yeast room..., and conical fermenters. 

The barrels help to age the beer -- same as in wine making, they are used to add an extra layer of flavor to the end product. In beers with stronger alcohol content the barrels help to mellow out the strong liquor flavor. We are not sure which beers are aged in the regular sized barrels. While the oak tanks help to condition: Burton Baton and their 120 minute IPA, amongst others. 

One of the three huge 10,000 gallon mammoths holds their Palo Santo Marron beer made from an exotic wood species native to South America. A sample of this wood was on the bar counter to show just how unique it is, it is so dense it feels like a cross between a brick and wood.

The second room on the tour held huge conical fermenters where the beer hangs with his best friend yeast. The brite tanks hold the beers to give it time to clarify, and think about life. All these pipes are used to transport the beer from here to there. The last photo is Sam's stash of vintage ale that he has collected and now sells on Thursdays for the Vintage Happy Hour.

The tour ends back in the bar area, where we got down to business tasting our samples. The bar has all the same type of beers you can buy in stores but being able to taste them fresh from the source was definitely the highlight of the tour. We ended our brewery experience with some shopping. The gift shop was like being a kid in a candy store... with a credit card. We picked up our favourite beers and packed them up safely in the trunk to bring back home to Montreal. Now we just have to start drinking them.

Thanks so much for reading all about our amazing experience at the Dogfish Head brewery.


- Jean

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