Sam Calagione: The King of Craft Beer

Sam Calagione, head of Dogfish Head brewery. Photo courtesy of the Discovery Channel.

I recently had the privilege of meeting Sam Calagione, the founder and president of Dogfish Head beer. He was a pretty cool guy. In fact, he might just be the closest thing craft beer has to a rock star.

Now I’m sure Jim Koch would be disappointed to hear this. He probably thinks he’s the king of craft beer. But I beg to differ. Here are three reasons why I think Calagione is at the top of the craft beer heap.
  1. He’s got an ego, but it’s not out of control. Calagione knows he’s cool, but he’s also a pretty laid back guy, he’s funny, and he’s fun to hang out with. When I met him, he was hanging out in a “Namaste” T-shirt (one of Dogfish Head’s beers), cracking jokes, and drinking coffee with a sprig of lavender in it. He just grabbed the sprig of lavender — which was going to be used to brew a special beer — and tossed it in his coffee for flavor. Who even thinks of these things? The bottom line, though, is that he’s a semi-celebrity, at least in the beer world, but doesn’t act like one. Which leads to …
  2. He’s already a semi-celebrity, which is no easy task in the craft beer world. Not only was Dogfish Head featured in the 2009 documentary “Beer Wars,” but Calagione and Dogfish Head are the subject of the Discovery Channel series “Brew Masters,” where Calagione travels to locations like Peru, New Zealand, and Egypt in search of new ingredients and new brewing techniques.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, he makes amazing beer. Dogfish Head is one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country, and there’s a reason for that: Their beer is fantastic. They tend to use more unusual ingredients, and they make some incredibly strong beers, like the 120 Minute India Pale Ale and the World Wide Stout. I’m more of a fan of the 60 Minute or 90 Minute IPAs, but seriously, they’re all good.
So, look out, Jim Koch … Sam’s coming for your title.
Mr. X is a contributor to the Beer Drinking Report. He harbors no ill feelings toward Jim Koch. In fact, he drank some Sam Adams Brick Red just last weekend, and it was … fabulous.