Chatting With Sam Calagione – Craft Beer, Overripe Tomatoes and Controlling Your Destiny

Cheersing Sam Calagione with two of Dogfish Head's latest off-centerd ales.

Cheersing Sam Calagione with two of Dogfish Head’s latest off-centerd ales.

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Calagione, my personal idol and founder and president of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, at the premiere of his new web series on First We Feast: “That’s Odd, Let’s Drink It.”

The show, created in collaboration between Dogfish Head and First We Feast parent company, Complex Media, calls together craft beer lovers and pop culture buffs to watch Calagione brew crazy beers with some of his idols, following escapades with unique and unusual ingredients inspired by industries spanning cooking to hip hop.

At the event, which was held at Eataly’s rooftop restaurant and microbrewery, Birreria on Wednesday, Sam ordered me a glass of the show’s debut beer and we talked idols, the importance of creative collaboration, and how to turn rotten fruit into delicious, refreshing beer. Here’s what I learned.

Sam Calagione and I became fast friends at Birreria (at least, in my mind).

Sam Calagione and I became fast friends at La Birreria brewery (at least, in my mind).

Sometimes, meeting your idol sparks more synergy than you could have imagined.

As soon as I arrived at the event, Sam was cordial, friendly, remembered my name and promised to give me an interview amidst the crowds of people who were just as eager to see him as I was. Somehow, he managed to buy me a beer, bounce between business partners, industry acquaintances and college friends, and sit down with me in the Birreria brewery to have one of the most pleasant, genuine conversations I’ve ever had with a brewery or business owner.

An overarching point that he made throughout our conversation is that “That’s Odd, Let’s Drink It” was successful because of the great partnerships he and First We Feast were able to seek out for each episode, as well as the creative control the web series medium provides.

“We wanted to make a show that wasn’t just for beer lovers and could touch other communities that don’t think they give a shit about learning about making a beer,” Sam told me. “This was our way, kind of grassroots, to circumvent those challenges.”

You’ll want to give a shit after watching it. In episode 1, Calagione and infamous Italian chef, Mario Batali, brew a “pruno” (like the prison wine) out of would-be-wasted food scraps, using overripe tomatoes, bruised fruits and stale bread to make a refreshing heffeweizen in support of the wastED movement. Future episodes will include a beer made in a stretch Hummer, another made with clothing dye and one that’s so hoppy, even his close friends can’t hold back a wince — “that’s one to look forward to,” Sam said.

Some standout stars that Sam pointed out are:

  • Chris Bosh, NBA all-star who is apparently also a homebrewer — “he really impressed me,” Sam said.
  • Hillside, a Williamsburg-based fashion company that won GQ’s fashion designer of the year — “that one’s going to be really interesting,” he said.
  • Z-Trip, a DJ and producer whose brother formerly wrote for Ale Street News — coincidentally, the publication I was reporting for at the event.
  • Ken Mario and Joe Lo Truglio, actors and old friends who have been with Calagione since his New York beginnings — but still can’t handle a super-hoppy IPA. “It was pretty intense,” Sam admitted with a grin.

Beer lover, beer drinker or beer indifferent, anyone who lays eyes on this series will likely find something to inspire them in a place they least expect it. Look out for new episodes on firstwefeast.com — and for the full story, pick up the next issue of Ale Street News coming next month.

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One thought on “Chatting With Sam Calagione – Craft Beer, Overripe Tomatoes and Controlling Your Destiny

  1. Pingback: Ale Street News: The Rise of the Beer Web Series | @ beer affair

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