Dogfish Head, a Quiet Pioneer of American Sour Beers, Officially Launches a Wild Beer Program
Experimentation is woven into the DNA of craft beer, and with well over 6,000 breweries operating in America today, the innovations come fast and furiously. It can be hard to remember a time when groundbreaking beers weren’t released almost every day, but thanks to its 1995 launch, Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery was there—and in its 23-year history, one of the many trends that Dogfish Head has been ahead of the curve on was sour beers.
Dogfish Head wasn’t the first American brewery to try selling the tart and drinkable, lightly-soured style known as the Berliner Weisse to the public. Many experts trace production in the U.S. back to Philadelphia’s Nodding Head brewery who released its Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse in 2000. But as far as commercial availability is concerned, Dogfish Head was likely the first brewery to attempt to bring Berliner Weisse to the masses when they released Festina Peche back in 2007. About a decade later, in 2016, Dogfish Head pushed that idea of a sour beer for the masses further with the release of SeaQuench Ale—a Kolsch, Gose, and Berliner Weisse mashup that the brand now bills as “America’s fastest selling sour beer.”
And yet, Dogfish Head has never had an official “sour beer program”—something that’s become increasingly commonplace at brewers across the country. That, however, ended this week when the brewery announced “Wooden…It Be Nice”—Dogfish Head’s “brand new, funky wild beer program.”
“About fifteen years ago, we first started experimenting with sours, beginning with Festina Lente—a peach wild ale that won us a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup in 2006,” Dogfish Head CEO and founder Sam Calagione said. “Now, we’re amplifying our wild beer program with Wooden…It Be Nice!, as it’s another step forward in our journey and evolution of goodness incorporating everything from herbs and spices, to local fruits, and of course, bringing it all together in wood.”
To kicks things off, Dogfish Head already has three wild beers slated for release in 2018. First up is KnottyBits, an 8.2 percent ABV wild ale aged on sweet and sour cherries and rhubarb, which will be released on September 29 at 11 a.m. Only about 2,000 bottles (375 milliliters in size) will be released, all of which will be sold exclusively at the company’s Milton Brewery for $10 a pop. It’s not a bad deal—especially when you take into account that not only were these beers hand-bottled, but that each one is also “hand painted with a special stripe signifying its uniquely crafted touch.”
From there, November will see the release of Wet Hop American Summer, a dry-hopped farmhouse ale that was aged in Chardonnay barrels, and December will bring Eastern Seaboard, a blackberry and beach plum wild ale. Both of those will have similar small runs and will be sold at the same price exclusively at the brewery.
After that, Dogfish Head only says that we’ll see “more releases to come in future years.” For a brewery whose tagline is “off centered stuff for off centered people,” who knows what else might be in the pipeline.