Interview with Sam Calagione, 2016 January 21

Share/Save:
  • Introduction - Background - Early interest in craft brewing.
    Partial Transcript: "I fell in love with flavorful beer...started my hobby of home brewing...my first batch of home brew, I stood up in front of my roommates and said this is what I want to do with my life."
    Synopsis: Calagione describes his early years. He was born in New York City but moved to Western Massachusetts at a young age. His father was an oral surgeon, his mother was a special education teacher. He attended boarding school where he met Maria Draper, his future wife who was from Milton, Delaware. Discusses how Dogfish Head ended up opening in Delaware and how he became interested in craft brewing while in college in New York City.
    Keywords: college years; home brewing; New York City; Western Massachusetts
  • Influences and inspiration for making beer and starting a craft brewing business
    Partial Transcript: "Where did you do to college" "...[Dogfish was the] first craft brewery in the country focused on culinary ingredients from around the globe as potential ingredients for beer." "My first home brew was a pale ale." "My mother encouraged my creativity" "My father was an entrepreneurial doctor"
    Synopsis: Calagione explains how his training as an English major at Muhlenberg College fostered a creativity that he carried into his brewing. Discusses how different Dogfish Head was from other brewers at the time with their emphasis on an assortment of non-traditional ingredients for beer. While working at a beer bar in New York City, the bar owner gave him confidence that he could open his own business. Describes how his mother and father inspired both his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit as well as his idea that business could be a source for good. Development of his founding philosophy for Dogfish Head and finding a niche in the market for his non-traditional beer.
    Keywords: Alice Waters; American cuisine; American culinary movement; business models; entrepreneur; James Beard; Sam Adams; Sierra Nevada
  • Business philosophy and how it permeates throughout his business
    Partial Transcript: "Don't worry about what the status quo is doing figure out your own creative way" "Exploration of goodness" "Everyone here at the brewery is basically motivated to think and act entrepreneurially" "Align the interests of the workforce and ownership"
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses writing a business plan and finding inspiration for his plan in a variety of sources including Tao, Confucius, Thoreau, and Emerson. Discusses the founding philosophy and how that translates to their brewing style and business model. Explains how his business understands its role in building a community and how their approach has attracted talented and motivated people to work for them.
    Keywords: business plan; community building; compensation; Dogfish Head; employees; Purpose statement; Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Dogfish Head's position in the craft brewing business landscape
    Partial Transcript: "It seems innovation was in the DNA of Dogfish"
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses where Dogfish Head fits into the landscape of the craft brewing business and how he does not want to be influenced by other craft brewers. He talks about some of the company's innovative beer creations and the risk in marketing non-traditional beer. How Dogfish established a niche for extreme and exotic brewing and inspired other brewers.
    Keywords: beer styles; Black IPA; Chicory Stout; Festina Peche; Imperial IPA; innovation; inspiration; risk
  • The beer business when Dogfish started in 1995 and the subsequent growth of craft brewing
    Partial Transcript: "There is an ethos to the community of brewers and the community of drinkers that support indy craft beer" "Support a human scale business where the money stays in your community or stays in America" "David against a Goliath" "definition of craft brewery is under siege"
    Synopsis: Calgione is asked about the nature of the beer business when Dogfish started and the evolution of the craft brewing business. Describes the perception of craft brewers in the 1990s and how it changed from an outsider art to mainstream acceptance. Explains the social awareness of the craft brewing community and his anxiety about the the current trend of larger more profit oriented entities involvement in the craft brewing business.
    Keywords: acquisition; beer culture; consolidation; consumer demand; Craft Brewers Association; independent craft brewers; market share; social awareness
  • Historical context for the brewing industry and current threats to the the craft brewing industry from big business
    Partial Transcript: "If you look at the longer history of American brewing"
    Synopsis: Calagione explains the history of the brewing industry in the twentieth century and how it relates to the current beer business. Discusses the threat from large industrial brewers to the craft brewing business and how consolidation and acquisition hurts the industry.
    Keywords: business strategy; consumers; craft brewing renaissance; industry consolidation; large batch brewers; prohibition; threats to craft brewers
  • Perspectives on the meaning craft brewing and opinions on macro or large scale brewing
    Partial Transcript: "What is craft brewing"
    Synopsis: Calagione provides his insight into the definition of craft brewing. Describes the ingredients used in large scale industrial or macro brewing that differentiates it from micro or craft brewing. Discusses the evolution and growth of the beer consumer.
    Keywords: advertising; barley; consumer; Craft brewers association; ingredients; macro-brewing; pasteurizing; production costs
  • Founding Dogfish Head and the intention to be a culinary focused brewery
    Partial Transcript: "Back to the development of Dogfish Head" "I wrote a traditional business plan for a non-traditional business" "brewing beer in the context of food"
    Synopsis: Calagione talks about writing his business plan and discusses its contents. He talks about the founding of the restaurant in Rehoboth Beach Delaware as part of the initial plan and how it fit into the bigger vision for his company. Discusses the idea of raising the profile of beer as a key concept from the beginning. Describes how Dogfish became the first distillery in Delaware since prohibition and how he lobbied to change laws to make brewing and distilling possible in the state.
    Keywords: brewpub statute; business plan; consumers; culinary; Delaware legislature; distillery; government regulation; laws; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; restaurant; wine
  • Changing state laws to make his business legal; interactions with Delaware politicians and state officials
    Partial Transcript: "When I was hanging a sign up on my building in 1995 and it said Dogfish Brewing and Eats. Someone walked by and said: 'You know it's illegal to open a brewery in Delaware."
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses how he came to lead the efforts to change Delaware laws to make brewing and distilling legal in the state. Describes how he learned the process to write and lobby to change laws as well as the benefits of living in a pro-business state like Delaware. Recounts a story where Dogfish was fined by the state for delivering beer on a Sunday to the Firefly Music Festival.
    Keywords: brewing; Brewpub statute; craft distilling; Delaware legislature; distilling; distribution; entrepreneurial community; Firefly Music Festival; laws; legislation; liquor laws; publicity; regulation
  • Raising capital to start Dogfish Head; The early years and growth of the business (1995-2000)
    Partial Transcript: "We made twelve gallons of beer at a time...that was great for a brewery so focused on innovation"
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses the multiple sources of funding to start Dogfish. When they opened in 1995, they were the smallest brewery in America. Explains the benefits of being small to encourage innovation and how he operated as the lone brewer in the early years of the business. He goes on to explain how the company grew and expanded in the first five years of operation. Describes a few of the breakthroughs for the company that made it successful.
    Keywords: beer tanks; brewing equipment; distribution; Midas Touch; Milton Delaware; Poor Henry's Brewery; publicity; Raison d'etre; risks; seed money; small batch brewing
  • Opening an expanding a brewing operation in Milton, Delaware
    Partial Transcript: "How did you choose Milton"
    Synopsis: Calagione describes the expansion into their Milton production facility and its connection to the local television station as well as its history as a manufacturing site. Talks about how they converted a former cannery in Milton in a brewing operation.
    Keywords: brew masters; cannery; conversion; entrepreneurs; land acquisition; Milton, Delaware; Tom Draper; WBOC
  • Expanding the workforce for a growing operation; his evolving role with the company
    Partial Transcript: "How did you expand your brewing workforce?" "Today I consider myself a brewer first and businessperson second"
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses what he looks for when hiring new employees and his current role with the company. Considers himself one of many creative voices at Dogfish - which has come about as the workforce has expanded. Developing ideas for new beers, the process for testing new recipes and bringing them to the marketplace. Talks about how the brewpub in Rehoboth serves as a testing ground for new beers.
    Keywords: brewer; consumer evangelists; consumer feedback; emails; expertise; hiring; meetings; R and D; recipes; talented leaders; test batch
  • Finding distributors for Dogfish Head beer
    Partial Transcript: "How did you find a distributor?" "How did you go about the process of distributing in other states?"
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses how he found distributors for Dogfish Head. Talks about what he was looking for in a distributor and why he avoided the most dominant players in the market (InBev). Explains the difficulty of finding reliable distributors outside of the state in the early years of the company
    Keywords: Anheuser-Busch; Bob Trostel; Delaware Beverage Company; InBev; network; networking; out-of-state distributors; United Distributors of Delaware
  • Strategic planning, building and expanding markets; the Dogfish brand
    Partial Transcript: "Was it force of necessity that you focused on the mid-Atlantic region [market] first?"
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses how they expanded beyond the local Delaware market which has included licensing the Dogfish brand in larger markets like New York and Washington DC. He then discusses his initial aversion to strategic planning but how the expansion of the company made traditional business planning a necessity. Details the continued importance of innovation and creativity for Dogfish and how it continues to permeate through the company.
    Keywords: beer 30; branding; business units; innovation; licensing; Mario Batali; new beer recipes; New York; strategic planning; Washington DC
  • Growing a mature and sustainable business while remaining innovative
    Partial Transcript: "Dogfish has always had outside investors"
    Synopsis: Calagione talks about building a business that outlives he and his wife's leadership which included selling a 15% stake in the company to outside investors and seeking business advice from outside the beer industry. He responds to a question on how to maintain innovation as the business matures.
    Keywords: board of directors; competition; innovation; LNK Investors; planning; R and D
  • Developing new Dogfish products/services and their relation to the core business
    Partial Transcript: "What about new business and product lines for instance the distillery or the hotel...how does that come about?"
    Synopsis: meaning of the logo. using other products and services as portals to the main business (beer)
    Keywords: brand evangelists; branding; Dogfish logo; hotel; woolrich
  • New technology's role in marketing and promotion
    Partial Transcript: "[How has the] changing technological landscape affected your marketing strategy" "Was a decision made early on to embrace the possibilities of the internet?"
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses his wife Maria's role in leveraging new technology to market Dogfish. He called himself the analog face of Dogfish and his wife the digital voice of the company. Talks about the early adoption of technology and other non-traditional ways to market the company.
    Keywords: human-scale interaction; internet; social media; video series
  • External collaboration in the marketplace
    Partial Transcript: "
    Synopsis: Calagione talks about collaboration and partnerships as a source of innovation and positive energy - includes working with other breweries and like minded entities on projects. Dogfish also has collaborated with musicians, sponsored musical events, and clothing companies.
    Keywords: Brickskeller; collaboration; competition; Grateful Dead; Guided By Voices; innovation; Miles Davis; open source hopping; randall the enamel animal
  • Educating the beer consumer
    Partial Transcript: "there is a beer education component but hopefully its also entertaining"
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses how Dogfish educates the consumer and how it connects to its marketing efforts. He talks specifically about the use and content of online video.
    Keywords: celebrities; Chris Bosh; consumer; educate; entertainment; growth; marketing; Quick sip clips; Sports Illustrated; video; web series; website
  • Geographic expansion of the Dogfish market; challenges of expanding in an ever increasing craft beer market
    Partial Transcript: "How many states are you in now?"
    Synopsis: Calagione talks about the opening of new markets. Discusses the positive effects of the significant early media exposure on Dogfish and how those opportunities have lessened as the craft brewing business has grown. Explains how the crowded market has changed their relationship with consumers and made it necessary to employ more traditional marketing techniques.
    Keywords: Beer Wars; Brewmasters; competition; consumer awareness; consumer facing media; crowded markets; distributors; marketing; retailers
  • The workforce and community building at Dogfish Head
    Partial Transcript: "How many employees do you have?"
    Synopsis: Calagione discusses the current workforce at Dogfish and the approach when hiring new staff. Describes the role of Dogfish in the local community and the company's Beer and Benevolence Program. The interview concludes with Calagione talking about beer's connection to nature and natural resources; environmental responsibility.
    Keywords: Beer and benevolence program; co-workers; community investment; culture; Delaware; Dogfish Dash; employees; environmental impact; human resources; Nature Conservancy; nonprofit; philanthropy; regional influence; southern Delaware; talent