For as long as the brewery has been open, Dogfish Head has been messing around with styles.
There are well known examples like Aprihop and Chicory Stout, and of course a hopping technique that put the Delaware-based brewery on the map. Since opening in 1995 Dogfish Head built a reputation as tinkerers and boundary pushers. A brewery that was not afraid to experiment with oddball ingredients or use the Randall for more than just hops.
It quickly carved out a niche for itself.
In its time, the brewery has gone through growth spurts and contractions. It added a distillery, was purchased by the Boston Beer Company, and opened new outposts including one in Miami. Along the way it has become very much a traditional large brewery with core offerings that center around IPAs, sour ales, and a pilsner.
Seasonals bring calendar-appropriate flavors. The pubs and taprooms offer additional variety on draft but to the general public the brewery has become a reliable go-to for basic beer needs.
So that Dogfish Head is releasing Fermentation Engastration this week, a blended ale that brewery founder Sam Calagione equates to a turducken – roasted birds stuffed inside of other roasted birds – feels like an on-brand throwback.
In a call announcing Fermentation Engastration, Calagione said this 10% ABV beer which is a collaboration with the Gastro Obscura website was inspired by hieroglyphs he saw that not only depicted the earliest days of brewing but also featured a bird inside of a bird representing a meal.
Add in some Thanksgiving pop culture cooking from John Madden and an idea to put a beer inside of a beer – five times – was born.
Then it was up to head brewer Mark Safarik to put it all together, Calagione said.
A text message to the head brewer with the idea of a “turducken of beers” was met with a few days of silence before a reply “22 lines deep that said, ‘here’s what I’m thinking…’”.
There are five parts to this beer, all made separately at different quantities and then blended into the final offering.
The smallest is a beer inspired by sake fermented with koji and sake yeast. Then there is a mead brewed with date syrup, honey, and champagne yeast.
The next layer is a beer inspired by muscat white wine, followed by a bitter-sweet cider.
The last and largest component is a simple saison brewed with pilsner malt and spelt, Warrior hops, with a traditional farmhouse yeast.
“It has layers of complexity,” Calagione said. “As it opens you get to glimpse all five threads as you try it.”
1,000 bottles were made, and it has been on sale at the brewery’s Milton, Delaware location since last week. Additional 500ml bottles will be released online on May 13, 2022.
Calagione said he is unsure if the brewery will make the beer again and theorizes that bottles destined for a cellar will continue to evolve for the better part of a decade.
Fermentation Engastration feels like a gimmick because it is. That is OK.
As the brewery has grown and matured and its lifeblood has become mainstream offerings like 60 Minute IPA and SeaQuench Ale.
A small batch offering like this speaks to the brewery’s roots. Fermentation Engastration takes time and energy plus a lot of tasting and careful thought and can ultimately be polarizing on some palates. This release shows there is still the small niche brewery inside of the large brewery, inside of the larger corporation.