Dogfish Head to launch Miami location
Unique beer punctuated with bold flavors and fresh fruit. That’s the philosophy that drove Dogfish Head to become the Delaware beer titan that eventually signed a $300 million deal with the Boston Beer Company.
But Dogfish Head’s next act will be its first foray outside of the First State. Embracing an artistic flair with the new brewery, complete with a graffiti-inspired mural, Dogfish Head is heading to Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.
“We just fell in love with the city, and the Wynwood district in particular has this flourishing, amazing artists community as well as a foodie scene,” Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione told the Delaware Business Times. “That, and because Florida is one of the robust agricultural states, especially with fruit, made us say, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Dogfish Head Miami will move into a 11,000-square-foot space, after renovating the existing kitchen and installing a new sound system for a DJ booth. The taproom used to be occupied by Concrete Beach Brewery, owned by A&S Brewing Collaborative and a subsidiary of Boston Beer Company, but it was closed in September 2020. Dogfish Head already had a residency at Concrete Beach earlier that year, and several Dogfish Head beers were already on tap.
The Delaware beer company plans on retaining much of the staff of Concrete Beach, and three top Concrete Beach brewers flew up to Delaware to learn the Dogfish Head flair.
While the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Dogfish Head hard, drying up 32% of sales in food and beer overnight, Calagione said that the decision to bring the Delaware homegrown brand to the Magic City was made before the economy flipped upside down.
“[Boston Beer company founder and Chairman] Jim Koch and [Boston Beer CEO] Dave Burwick saw they had this place in Miami and it was close to agricultural zones, so it was decided to go for it,” Calagione recalled.
In Miami, Dogfish Head will have the opportunity to brew up to 6,000 barrels of beer and use the facility’s existing canning line. Calagione said that the plan is to sell four- and six-packs on site, but they would wait before distributing on a larger scale in Florida.
To start, Dogfish Head Miami will focus on the brewery’s core four beers: Slightly Mighty, 60 Minutes, Hazy-O and SeaQuench, since fruited sours sell even better in warmer weather. Dogfish Head will also bring the Wildhood tart farmhouse ale series to serve as a centerpiece for the new brewery.
Miami also opens a door of opportunity for Calagione to sample Florida’s vibrant, citrus flavors in new recipes. The beers on tap will run the gamut from double IPAs to fruited local sours, including Star Pucker IPA, a fruity beer made from Florida’s starfruit.
“We’re using Delaware as a proving ground for regional test recipes that can get rolled out nationally if they’re successful,” he said. “But the same concept is here in that we’ll be working with farmers to locally source vegetables and fruit, and most of the fruit will go into the brewery.”
In some senses, Delaware is now becoming a proving ground for products with some Florida-sourced ingredients. Right now, Dogfish Head Delaware locations are serving the beer cocktail MojitAle, made with Florida sugar cane, as a trial run.
As for the food menu, guests can expect small high-quality plates like barbacoa bao buns, grilled street corn, seared tuna tacos and Florida lobster gazpacho.
Dogfish Head Miami will also draw deeper into the brand’s love of independent records with a new DJ booth. The brewery has long collaborated with musicians on branding beers, from the Grateful Dead to Miles Davis to Pearl Jam, but this will give the brewery the chance to partner with nearby Sweat Records to host live shows.
“This place is going to have a lot of fun, artistic moments centered, but there’s going to be very recognizable parts of the Dogfish Head brand with us,” Calagione said.
Reflecting on an intense year brought on by COVID-19, Calagione said that Dogfish Head was able to bounce back and recover most losses from taproom and restaurant sales with booming liquor store purchases. The biggest lesson he took away from the experience was prioritizing the communities he could assist.
“I thought about it in concentric circles, starting with your family and loved ones and then immediately after that your coworkers,” he said. “Even when we shut down, we redeployed staff to hand sanitizer. We bought tons of meals from local restaurants like Striper Bites and Arenas for our staff.”
Looking ahead for the hospitality industry as a whole, Calagione said he sees curbside service staying for the long haul. He’s starting to see it in other places in America, and he wonders how far the Delaware legislature is willing to take it.
“In Texas, the legislature approved selling canned cocktails and they’re looking at evergreening these laws to allow restaurants to sell to-go drinks,” he said. “I don’t know how far it’ll go in Delaware, but the ability to sell curbside is an important part of many businesses now.”