Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A Night Wit’ Da Fish

By William Brand
Thursday, June 23rd, 2005 at 2:08 pm in Uncategorized.

Sam Calagione, who founded Dogfish Head Craft Brewing, made it to the Toronado (547 Haight St.) in San Francisco last night (Wednesday, June 22, 2005) and found himself in the middle of a mob of the 100 or so happy beer drinkers, who jammed the tiny place to sample his fabled beers. (The photo at left came from the Dogfish website, don’t know anything about it, but it’s neat, isn’t it.)

Ostensibly, he was there to read from his first book: Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewing. (John Lewis & Sons, $25, $14.95 at discounter stores). He had copies with him and sold a autographed a few. But the action was at the Toronado’s taps, which were dispensing four Dogfish Head beers not sold here on the West Coast.

Calagione, a nice-looking guy in his early 30s with a crewcut, wearing a Dogfish Head t-shirt, was answering questions like “How do you make your beer so strong? Why didn’t you bring Worldwide Stout (world’s strongest beer in regular production)?

Fortified by a brisket sandwich from Minnie’s across Haight Street, I sampled the four Dogfish Heads Sam brought with him: (For details on each of these beers, scroll down this blog a few items or go here.

90-Minute Imperial IPA. *** This is a pale beer, 9 percent ABV, with a hoppy nose that does not prepare one for what lies ahead. The taste initially is hoppy as promised, then there’s a silky, malty sweetness and a tinge of alcohol in the middle, then a hoppy bite and a long, dry finish.

120-Minute IPA *** is a tour de-force. At 21 percent alcohol by volume and 120 International Bitterness Units (Your basic Bud’s about 13 IBU, Draft Guinness is about 60 and Bigfoot (Sierra Nevada) ranges just under 100 IBU), this is really a barleywine, a really strong barleywine. Hops on the nose; taste is rich and sweet. This would make a fine cordial in a very small glass. I’d certainly like a bottle for my beer fridge.

Raison D’Etre ****. I loved this one. It’s not exactly a mellow beer, Dogfish Head doesn’t do mellow. But at 8 percent ABV, it’s no eyeball ripper.

A very dark copper with a huge head with an aroma of ripening fruit and maybe plum jam, the taste is a surprise. It very tart, very dry with a gentle rush of hops in the follow. Calagione says, it’s made with beet sugar, green raisins, and a Belgian yeast. An excellent beer.

Immort Ale.*** A friend, Gary Larsen, who made the trip to the Toronado with me, ordered Immort right off the top. Gary writes about brewpubs and has visited around 400, including stops at the Dogfish Head brewpub and the brewery. When he can’t find Worldwide Stout, he always goes for this one, he said.

This baby’s had the Dogfish treatment: Brewed with peat-smoked barley, juniper berries, vanilla and maple syrup, aged on oak and fermented, the brewery website says, with a blend of English and Belgian yeasts: 11 percent ABV, 40 IBU. Raisins and sugar dominate the aroma, but it has a fine, tart taste. Unusual, excellent.

The beers remain on tap at Toronado until they’re gone, so hurry.

Don’t agree with me: think Dogfish sucks or is the world’s best? Post a comment or email us at or call: 510-915-1180. Salud.

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