Sam Calagione is a man of routine. Each morning, the founder of Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery takes an hour or so to paddleboard in the harbor in front of his house in Lewes, Del., or ride his bike through a nearby state park. The solitude allows Calagione to get to clear his head before delving into a busy work schedule.
“I listen to music while I do this,” says Calagione. “After a double-shot of espresso. And it’s my most productive hour of the day in terms of thinking creatively about new products or projects for our company.”
You won’t hear ’80s yacht rock or hip-hop coursing through Calagione’s headphones. He prefers rhythmic, layered music that isn’t heavy on lyrics, listening to everything from Kraftwerk to the Books to Philip Glass to Julianna Barwick. Calagione was introduced to Barwick’s album “The Magic Place” when reading a review online a few years ago. He added it to his dawn relaxation routine, and when it came time for Dogfish to brew its latest music-inspired beer, he knew just where to turn.
Dogfish brewed its first music-inspired beer in 2010, releasing Bitches Brew in honor of the 40th anniversary of the seminal Miles Davis album by the same name. Beers inspired by Robert Johnson, Pearl Jam, and the Grateful Dead followed. When he reached out to Barwick to gauge her interest in a collaboration, Calagione was pleased to learn not only that she would do it, but also that she was “a major hop-head,” listing Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute IPA as one of her favorites.
Rosabi is the latest musical Dogfish brew. It’s a take on a pale ale, brewed with wasabi root, Simcoe and Centennial hops, and Louisiana rice, from Barwick’s home state. In addition to having input into the beer’s ingredients, Barwick held a concert at the opening of the brewery’s expansion last year, helped Calagione brew the first batch of Rosabi, and composed a four-song album to accompany it.
My wife and I took Barwick’s record for a spin, cracking open the beer to keep us company for 18 minutes or so of music. We were admittedly a little sheepish about the endeavor. What if our sips didn’t coincide with the cadences of the songs? What if two relatively experienced beer drinkers couldn’t find the right descriptions for the music?
Dogfish Head Rosabi pours a caramel-orange tint into a tulip glass. There are earthy undertones in the aroma, chased by faint citrus and dank earth notes.
Barwick composed the four songs on the album around sounds she heard in the expanded Dogfish facility — “the hum of a grain belt, the firing of a pneumatic valve, the drone of the whirlpool” — according to a press release from the company. The tracks start quiet and build toward layered harmonies. Only sometimes do individual elements poke through to the surface. There’s some electronic strumming toward the end of “Two Moons.” “Blood Brothers” melds scattered noise into a blanket of sound. Overall, the record has a soothing effect.
The beer itself reflects this calming quality, and that’s not just the alcohol talking. This is a mellowed version of an imperial pale ale, so the music works. It’s difficult to parse the wasabi out entirely, though the beer has the faint underpinnings of a bag of Trader Joe’s wasabi peas.
I found the whole experience to be soothing — and somehow fancier — than what I usually associate with drinking beer. Being prompted to listen closely really did lead to reflection.
Barwick’s four-song album will be available only in sealed cases (of which Dogfish made 1,000) of Rosabi bottles. The beer retails for a suggested price of $9.99 for a 750-ml bottle.
Separately, Calagione, a Massachusetts native, will be embarking June 23 on a 600-mile sail from Delaware to Maine aboard a small boat. Calagione will be accompanied by his teenage son. The pair will make stops in Atlantic City, New York, Block Island, Boston, and Portland, where Dogfish will hold beer dinners.
The sail, which will raise $10,000 for The Nature Conservancy, is a celebration of the July opening of the Dogfish Inn, a 16-room hotel in Lewes, Del. The Boston dinner takes place Sunday, June 29, at Merchant (60 Franklin St.). Ticket information is at www.dogfish.com.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen.