Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bell vs. Dogfish Head

This is the first of an irregularly published series I'll be posting where I'll be taking on what I like and what I dislike about various breweries and their products.  The "vs." aspect sounds a bit more confrontational than I will actually be. I'm quite fond of each of these breweries.
The brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, Delaware
The main man: Sam Calagione
Products of theirs you might know: 60 Minute IPA, 90 Minute IPA, 120 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale
Their slogan: Off-centered ales for off-centered people 

What I Like 

Not afraid to innovate 
Look at the Dogfish Head lineup and you will see a variety of beers that use unusual ingredients, combine styles, and break the limits of ABV.  Along with not being afraid to innovate, I'll add in they don't seem to be afraid to fail, as not all of their products quite hit the mark.  For me, Palo Santo Marron is innovation hitting near perfection, while Immort Ale, though innovative, just doesn't do it for me.  But they're willing to push the boundaries, which is commendable. 

The brewpub is an experience
The Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, not only takes its namesake's beer seriously, serving up all of the regular line of beers plus seasonals, various rotating products, and beers exclusive to the pub, but it also serves up quite good pub food.  Build-your-own burgers, tasty pizzas, and even a double chocolate bacon cheesecake.  I've been there about five times now and never had a bad experience.  The staff is friendly and knowledgable, and the food is tasty and complementary of the beers.  Also, the pricing on items relative to other brewpubs and tap houses is quite inexpensive (relative to Maryland, which is not the tax-free experience of neighboring Delaware).  The place is hopping even for midweek lunch in the dead of winter (it's tough to get a spot at the bar).  Look for beers to go and various Dogfish Head branded items at the walk-up window shop next to the front door.
More positives: Bottles have nice branding and artwork.  Their signature glass is my go-to glass.  Good availability in my state.  90 Minute IPA and Burton Baton are two of my favorite beers. 

What I Dislike 

Pricing of large format bottles is expensive relative to other brands
Their regular lineup of beers in four and six packs have nice price points, even with Burton Baton and Palo Santo Marron pushing the mid-teens in my area.  But their single bottle, large format beers are just too expensive, as they start at $7.99 in my area and go up to about $14.99, with many of them in that middle range.  If you've got a limited beer budget as I do, it's hard to justify buying these beers at these prices, considering that I've had some of these beers on tap at the brewpub and other locations and, while generally good, don't warrant paying a premium.  While I appreciate the unusual ingredients and the measure of innovation involved, many other breweries offer large format bottles (generally 22 oz vs. Dogfish Head's 25.4 oz) of as good as or better beer at more reasonable prices. 

No year-round stout available
Perhaps this point is moot considering that Palo Santo Marron, considered a brown ale, is an acceptable alternative, but a regularly available stout would be nice.  Sure, this could be a knock on many other breweries as well.  Perhaps a somewhat regular four-pack of an imperial stout would satisfy my desire.

More negatives: Thank goodness I don't have a gluten allergy since Tweason'ale might make me a teetotaler.  120 Minute IPA on tap is a far superior product to the bottled version.  All the other "minute" IPAs are available in four and six packs--why not 75 Minute?  Unlike the Rehoboth brewpub, the three Dogfish Head Alehouses in Maryland and Virginia are not owned and operated by Dogfish Head but rather DFH licenses out the use of its name; the one in Maryland has become much too pricey relative to the Rehoboth brewpub. 

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