I cannot tell you how many times non-beer geek people have asked me just what the hell a Dogfish Head is. I have even told some that it is a new mammalian hybrid consisting of the body of a dolphin with the head of a golden retriever that prefers tennis balls to Budweiser.
Should one of them make it to this page, here is the truth; in 1995 Sam Calagione started his own brewery in Delaware and named it after the town where he spent his summers as a child. The name of that town? You guessed it. Dogfish Head, Maine. At this point in the game Dogfish Head has reached a level of recognition that puts it there up with the likes of Sierra Nevada, Stone, and Sam Adams. Production is currently at 175,000 barrels with availability across 31 states.
Today’s beer is brewed as the official beer of Record Store Day and is appropriately named Beer To Drink Music To. It is a Belgian-style Tripel brewed with adjuncts that reference specific musical influences. Peppercorn for The Beatles, sweet orange peel for REM’s Orange Crush, and cardamom for Phish’s Mock Song. Vanilla is also added but Calagione didn’t mention a specific reference for it. Maybe because there could be hundreds of possibilities; I like to think it’s a nod to the 1960s rock band Vanilla Fudge. It is 9 percent ABV, has 30 IBUs and was first released in February.
The pour shows brilliantly clear and burnt orange topped by a solid inch of pure white fine textured foam. The clarity is surprising as with this many adjuncts I would have bet on it being hazy. Now, without getting too close I can already smell the cardamom and closer inspection reveals the vanilla along with a very sweet bread that reminds me of angel food cake. Alcohol presence is noticeable but not off-putting and the pepper is found somewhere near the bottom playing the proverbial bass line.
To the chorus. The flavor is sweet malt and bread crust upfront leading to a strong cardamom note. The alcohol is prominent making this beer seem more like a 12 percent rather than a 9 percent offering. There is a nice caramel hit and the peppercorn note carries like an arc throughout the tasting range slowly drifting in and remaining until the end. This is one of the more complex beers I’ve had in a while. The mouthfeel is on the heavy end, is quite sticky, and the carbonation level is fairly low.