It’s not often a beer geek is able to experience a beer nirvana a few miles from their home in SWFL. But the A Hop Eclipse Now! Dogfish Head beer dinner at the South Street Grill in Naples, Florida, provided just such a chance.
The chance to see Sam Calagione Speak and get his impressions of his legendary beers firsthand while enjoying a five-course dinner and the promise of trying vintage kegs of Dogfish 120 and World Wide Stout was a chance I did not want to pass up.
Upon arriving, my fellow beer consultant Kevin Vercrouse and I attempted to find our seats with little success. After asking the event coordinator for assistance we were shown to the head table, and, with our jaws on the floor, discovered we were sitting with the Sam Calagione, his wife Mariah (head of Dogfish social media) and Sam’s parents. We couldn’t believe our luck. We were thrust into a great conversation with the man himself about the beer business in Florida and saw firsthand what a great guy this beer legend was. He thanked us for all we do and could not have been more down to earth.
Dinner was about to begin, and I was fortunate enough to sit next to Sam’s mom, who delighted the table with stories and anecdotes about the Calagiones and Dogfish history. Throughout dinner Sam would get up to speak and explain what we should look for with each beer and food pairing.
The First Course
Spinach salad with candied pecans, mandarin oranges, raspberries, grape tomatoes and a toasted almond raspberry vinaigrette paired with Dogfish Head Sixty-One (Dogfish Head 60 with added California Syrah must).
Dogfish Head pickles and calamari tempura tossed with sautéed button mushrooms, roasted red peppers, banana peppers and garlic. All paired with Hellhoud On My Ale, a super hoppy 100 IBUs ale with added lemon peel and pulp.
The Third Course
Shropshire blue cheese, sage derby, Cotswold and Windsor red cheeses, honey and fresh pear slices paired with Indian Brown Ale, a well-hopped and malty brown ale with added aromatic barley and organic brown sugar.
The Fourth Course
A delicious seared tenderloin with shitake mushrooms, green onion whipped potatoes and an IPA demi glaze paired with Burton Baton, which is a blend of English-style old ale and an imperial IPA that exhibits hoppy citrus and vanilla oak notes from the oak vessel used in the blending process.
After the main course, the vintaged World Wide Stout made its appearance to many Ooohs and Aaahs from the assembled beer-philes. The dark, roasty stout was even better with age and showed complex flavors that every beer lover can imagine.
The Fifth Course
Finally the course everyone had been waiting for made its way to the dining room floor: the fifth course. Bread pudding drizzled with a Grand Marnier crème anglaise, with a side of orange peel-infused whipped cream paired with the hop head holy grail of beer—Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA which clocks in at 15-20% ABV and 120 IBUs! Being a vintage keg, the hop bite had definitely mellowed and made way for what can only be described as a flavor explosion.
During dinner Sam made his rounds to every table and was engaging and exuberant in his love for beer and Dogfish’s carefully crafted beer. He and his wonderful family made this dinner a once in a lifetime experience for this beer lover, and one I’ll never forget.
Brett Hallenbeck, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits beer consultant
Follow me on Twitter @abcbeerbretth