Is Dogfish Head the best brewery in the United States? After more than 10,000 votes and a month of rough and tumble matchups, the seaside Delaware operation Sam Calagione started two decades ago with a tiny, three-barrel brewhouse emerged victorious in our Beer Madness bracket with Philly Loves Beer.
The final contest was arguably the hardest. Victory Brewing, a local favorite that matches Dogfish nearly point-for-point on cred, renown and craft beer prestige, put up a strong fight. The final tally came down to just 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent. So it was far from a slam-dunk. Actually, it was a comeback. For the first several days of the final round, Victory was comfortably in the lead.
But you know how Philly feels about underdogs. Underdogs of a certain sheen. Who jog up sets of steps and jump around at the top. To a certain soundtrack.
Yep, after Calagione dropped this video, Dogfish surged ahead — and eventually won.
Which really means we’re all winners, all people who love great beer. To start this Beer Madness competition, we narrowed down a field of 32 great contenders, but it was a serious struggle. There are more than 5,000 breweries out there. Some like to complain that the surge has clogged drink lists and forced people to deal with a “tyranny of choice” instead of just being able to say “Hey, give me a beer.”
Here’s the thing: You can still say that. No one is forced to put in the thought or time to sort through options. Just like you might face down a wine list and end up saying, “Uh, Cabernet, please,” you can always just say “IPA” or “lager” or “porter.” But the proliferation of US breweries means the chance you’ll get something delicious is better than ever — although still not a given.
Even with all those independent breweries out there, around 85 percent of all beer sold in America is still the macro brew sold by multinational conglomerates.
At the Brewers of PA “Meeting of the Malts” confab last month, there was a lot of chatter about hard times coming for the industry. A shakeout, or bursting of the bubble, wherein lots of breweries would go under. But all four of the luminaries on the discussion panel — Jim Koch (of Sam Adams), David Walker (Firestone Walker), Eric Wallace (Left Hand Brewing) and Dick Yuengling (Yuengling) — reiterated the same point: There’s plenty of room left for growth. It just comes down to convincing folks to give up their Miller Lite — or at least try something different once in a while.
April 7 is National Beer Day. As Mike Greger of Philly Loves Beer astutely noted, most made-up food and drink holidays are “Lame. Pointless. Tiresome. Stupid. Gimmicky.” But this one actually has roots in history — it’s the day back in 1993 that the Cullen-Harrison Act went into effect, marking the beginning of the end for Prohibition.
Whether you partake in alcohol or not, the end of a misguided and unenforceable ban (one that led to an increase in organized crime, furthermore) is something worth celebrating. Cheers to Dogfish Head, and cheers all around.
P.S. Perfect way to celebrate: Tickets just went on sale for Philly Beer Week Opening Tap at the Fillmore.
P.P.S. Programming note: Opening Tap and the Hammer of Glory relay are on a Thursday instead of Friday this year. Your boss is just gonna have to deal with it.