The latest beer from Dogfish Head is rum

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NEXT WEEK, Anheuser-Busch will roll out its latest abomination, a so-called “flavored alcoholic drink” called Bacardi Silver. I’ll have more to say about the alcopop trend in my next column; by then, maybe I’ll have recovered from the foul, sugary taste of the bottle I sampled the other night.

With any luck, my tonsils will be cleansed with a real rum – this one from Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery.

That’s right, rum – 80-proof rum. Dogfish Head, which beer guru Michael Jackson once called “America’s most adventurous and extraordinary small brewery,” is opening a distillery at its Rehoboth Beach brewpub. It should be up and running by next week, following a final inspection by our friends at the federal Bureau of Booze, Butts and Bullets.

According to brewery boss Sam Calagione, it’s the East Coast’s first restaurant/brewery/distillery. In fact, according to American Distiller magazine, there are only three other brewery/distilleries in the United States, the closest in Michigan.

“We saw it as a natural progression for our philosophy as a company,” Calagione said. “We are already into innovation, taking the traditional ingredients of beer – water, malt, hops and yeast – and adding other unusual flavors that sound unusual, but make sense in the end. With the distillery, we see this as a whole, new playing field, to continue that sense of experiment. “

It’s true, Dogfish Head does produce some mighty strange brew, made with everything from chicory and beets to raisins and coffee. But distilling is a completely different magic trick.

For one thing, it involves new equipment – in this case, a 125-gallon stainless steel pot-still. Under federal regs, it had to be assembled in a separate area of the brewhouse, away from the beer-making equipment. It was built by Michael Hall, a brewhouse equipment supplier trained at the Alltech School in Kentucky bourbon country, who will act as distillery manager.

And speaking of rules, it took the signature of Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to OK the distillery.

“We’ve been quietly working on this for about a year. It took way more effort to get a distillery license than a brewery,” Calagione said. “Two weeks ago, we got the brewpub legislation changed to permit distilling. And then the governor signed it into law last week. “

Calagione is hoping his microdistillery will draw the curious the same way brewpubs first did 15 years ago. “You’ll be able to eat a meal and watch the distilling process at the same time,” he said. “We think it’s going to make us that much more of a destination point, and maybe we’ll introduce a whole other sector of patrons to our company, people who enjoy spirits. “

Initially, Dogfish Head will produce two styles of rum, both with a molasses base. Brown Honey is a golden rum aged on American oak and wildflower honey. And Wit Rhum, is a white rum flavored in the same manner as Belgian-style wheat beer, with orange peel and coriander.

The rum will be sold by the drink at the brewpub (look for a distiller’s happy hour every Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.) and at liquor stores for about $25 a bottle.

Distilled knowledge

Brewing and distilling both take you to the same, happy place, but along two different highways.

Distilling: For rum, molasses is first fermented, then heated with water in a still to the boiling point to produce steam. The steam is then run through a condenser to cool it and return it to its liquid state. The liquid is then aged and bottled.

Brewing: Water and grain sugars are heated in a mash tun to about 150 degrees. Then the liquid, called wort, is removed and boiled with hops. It is then cooled and fermented, then kegged or bottled.

Only three other breweries also make spirits:

  • McMenamin’s Edgefield Troutdale, Oregon – brandy, gin and eau de vie.
  • Anchor Brewing, San Francisco – gin and rye whiskey.
  • Local Color, Novi, Mich. – blueberry vodka.

Joe Sixpack, by Staff Writer Don Russell, was written this week with a bottle of Unibroue Trois Pistoles.


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