Sam Calagione moved to New York after college. He tended bar and took writing classes, thinking he’d make a career in letters. Then, another possibility formed in his mind. That summer, he took a trip to his parents’ place on Pratts Island, in Southport. Out jogging with his dad, passing a spit of land at the mouth of the Sheepscot River known as Dogfish Head, his dad asked how classes were going.
“They’re going all right,” Calagione replied, “but I think I want to open a brewery.” His dad was quiet for a second and then said, “You know, Dogfish Head would be a good name for a brewery.”
Calagione grew up in western Massachusetts and spent summers in Maine, where his parents bought a vacation home when he was 10 or 11. In his 20s, he spent two weeks in Kennebunkport, learning the ropes at Federal Jack’s brewpub, where Shipyard Brewing Co. cofounder Alan Pugsley ran a training program. At night, he headed to Portland to hang at the Great Lost Bear, the city’s first great craft-beer bar.
In 1995, he opened Dogfish Head Brewing Co. some 500 miles south, in Delaware. Still, he mixed Maine into his work. Choc Lobster, a porter brewed with lobster supplied by a childhood friend turned Boothbay lobsterman, won a silver medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. SeaQuench Ale has a hint of sea salt from Maine Sea Salt Company, in Marshfield. Chesapeake & Maine, a Dogfish-owned restaurant on the Delaware shore, serves from-there crab and from-here lobster. And Calagione has collaborated with a few Maine breweries, including Allagash, Monhegan, and Liquid Riot.
Five years ago, he and his wife, Mariah, were on his dad’s fishing boat, heading upriver from Pratts Island. “Coming around Dogfish Head, we saw a for-sale sign,” he recalls. “We said, ‘Holy crap, how cool would it be to have a place on Dogfish Head?’ Now, our address is literally on Dogfish Head Road.”
From there, he likes to paddleboard along the rocky coast and kayak out to a nearby island where seals sun themselves. Sometimes he and Mariah steer their Boston Whaler to the Trevett Country Store or Five Islands Lobster Co. “My ideal week up here,” Calagione says, “is not once getting in the car and not once putting on shoes.”
Dogfish Head Brewery made headlines recently: the 13th largest U.S. craft brewery, it merged with Boston Beer Co., the second largest and the maker of Sam Adams.
Calagione’s parents still spend summers on Pratts Island, and his sister now owns a nearby place in Southport.
Calagione got his start in beer by home brewing, and his 2006 Extreme Brewing is still one of the foundational how-to books for making your own suds.