Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione Offers Up 3 Decades of Musical Beer Pairings
Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione is no stranger to mixing beer and music. His brewery has an entire line of beers directly inspired by a wide array of musical genres from classic jazz (the Miles Davis-inspired Bitches Brew) to Delta blues (the Robert Johnson liquid ode Hellhound on My Ale) to lo-fi modern rock (the boozy Guided by Voices tribute BEER Thousand).
This year, the Delaware-based brewery even whipped up a special beer for Record Store Day – which falls on April 16. The humorously named Beer to Drink Music To was inspired by a laundry list of some of Calagione’s favorite songs including timeless numbers like “Orange Crush” by REM and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles.
But pairing beers to the music you love is easy. A more difficult task is pairing beers to music somebody else loves – specifically me – and being able to do it across many musical eras. That’s why I reached out to Sam to have him pair beers to some of my favorite songs – one from each of three different decades.
Song: “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts (1972)
Pairs with: Dogfish Head SeaQuenchAle
Seals and Crofts combined their songwriting talents to make the ultimate summer song. With their new SeaQuenchAle, Dogfish did the ‘70s duo one better and combined three summer beer styles into a perfect warm weather drink. “We wanted to brew a beer that was the ultimate summer beer to drink at the ocean or in a boat,” said Calagione, “so we took these three very traditional German beer styles – Kolsch, Berliner Weisse and Gose – and we put our off-centered spin on them and mashed them up in one tank.” Dogfish also adds sea salt the brewery sources directly from the Chesapeake as well as the fruit most synonymous with drinking beer on the beach: lime. Calagione says the brew, which was inspired by Dogfish Head’s view of the Atlantic Ocean, goes perfectly with yacht rock. “I’m glad it’s back,” he tells me. His bizarre but beautiful new amalgam known as SeaQuenceAle will be available nationwide starting this July.
Song: “Under Pressure” by Queen featuring David Bowie (1981)
Pairs with: Dogfish Head Squall IPA
Admittedly, I gave Calagione a bit of a lob when I suggested this classic Queen and Bowie collaboration for the 1980s – most beers are “under pressure” – but his selection, Dogfish Head’s Squall IPA, works on multiple levels. This huge IPA uses the same base as their classic 90 Minute IPA but then adds “an amazing massive storm of hops” during the dry-hopping period. It’s like Queen, a band who doesn’t really need any help, calling in the big guns of David Bowie to push one of their song to new heights, creating as Calagione calls it, “an intense, over-the-top mashup.” But Squall IPA fits the song in a literal sense as well. “We dose it with yeast so it’s carbonated in the bottle which kind of makes for finer bubbles,” says Calagione, which means this brew is truly under pressure “like a champagne bottle.”
Song: “Summer Babe” by Pavement (1992)
Pairs with: Dogfish Head Festina Peche
With summer around the corner, we discussed another summer song for our third decade: “Summer Babe” by Pavement, a band that we both consider one of our favorites. Beyond Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche being what Calagione describes as “the ultimate hot weather summer sessionable softly-sour sipper” (try saying that twice), he sees another big connection between the cult ‘90s group and his peach-flavored Berliner Weisse-style sour, a beer that many people aren’t always prepared for. “We say on the first sip, it’s just going to taste sour. Don’t judge it on the first sip. After you can acclimate your palate to that acidity, judge it on the second sip and the peaches will start coming through,” Calagione tells me. “And that’s how I think of Pavement. The first time you hear it, it’s like, Wow, this is a fucking hot mess, but then the choruses and melodic components come like earworms and eventually you’re like, I want to hear that again.”