There’s also a penchant for marking special occasions by setting out in small boats with paddles. When Dogfish first decided to distribute its beer, Calagione determined to row the first beer the 18 nautical miles from Delaware to New Jersey.
“It was supposed to be a keg, but I practiced with a keg and flipped the boat, so I crossed with a six pack,” he says. “We’d hand-whittled little replicas of the boat that fit into a 22 ounce bottle, and sent those out to the press, but I forgot to mention the day and time I was going to do it. So I rowed all the way across and there was only one media guy waiting for me. And the account didn’t even chill my beer! There was a case of beer sitting in a warm corner of the bar, no signs anywhere. I rowed 18 fucking miles for that.”
Short’s paddling adventures have been more successful. Last spring, he opened a packaging brewery, the occasion for the first Short’s to Short’s Paddle. “It’s a 24-mile paddle from our brewery in Bellaire to our brewery in Elk Rapids, all by waterway,” he explains. “This is the southern part of the northern chain of lakes. It took us eight hours; the open water stretches were pretty brutal. Now this will be an annual event, the first week in May, on the eve of our anniversary party. This was our fifth.”
With remote locations and small starting budgets, both men have relied on outsize creative projects to let the world know about their beer. But, as Calagione stresses, . “Usually our marketing is all about bringing people to what’s different inside our bottles. A great marketing event around shitty beer is only going to leads to people finding out you make shitty beer.”
But it seems just as likely that the events, the community building, the bocce tournaments at Dogfish or the group paddles at Short’s are also vehicles for overflowing creativity: neither man seems to be happy if he’s not engaged in several projects at once.
The chief creative outlet, however, is the beer. “Exploring fermentation was the whole point of it for me, and discovering what hasn’t been discovered,” says Short. “I’m down the deepest, darkest alleys to see what I can find, and maybe I’ll come out the other side with something shiny and beautiful. I think it’s important for us to remain happy with what we’re doing, to keep the creative stimulus.”