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Beyond the brewery: Sam Calagione, the ocean conservationist
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Beyond the brewery: Sam Calagione, the ocean conservationist

Famous for his off-centered ales, the Dogfish Head owner finds balance on his paddleboard and works to conserve the ocean he rides.
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Home Beer Beyond the brewery: Sam Calagione, the ocean conservationist

There’s no question you’ve tasted their beers, and probably know the brewers by name. They have shaped the beer industry, but outside the brewhouse, these luminaries live as passionately as they work. Here, hear from Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione, an ocean conservationist and paddleboarder: 

I bought my first paddleboard about a decade ago to catch waves and surf. About three or four years ago, I ruptured the discs in my lower back playing ice hockey. As I was healing, I was told I would need to get surgery and shots in my spine; I said, “Fuck it,” got back out on the water, and started paddling to tighten my core muscles. It really helped me to get back into shape and get through my back injury. It’s critical to [healing] to focus on the core and the lower spine. I paddle four or five mornings a week and then two or three mornings I bicycle just to mix it up. Those are the main two things I do, but I paddleboard the most.

My house is on the harbor in Lewes, Delaware; I walk across the street with my paddleboard, and there’s the Dogfish Head Canoe and Kayak Launch, which we installed for anybody to use. I start in the harbor and the canal, pass [the Dogfish Inn] on the right, and I keep paddling toward Rehoboth for another half an hour and then I turn around and paddle back. It’s the most creative hour of my day, when I can just let my mind wander: I have my headphones on, my iPhone’s in a waterproof case and I listen to music. I’m looking out at deer, looking out at foxes, looking out at osprey, fish are jumping. If an idea for a beer or a new project or an event strikes me, I just pull out my phone and [jot down] what I was thinking about, which is something you can’t really do if you’re bicycling or running. When you’re paddleboarding, you stop for a second, hold your paddle in one hand and write notes to yourself with the other—without even shutting off your radio—put it back in your pocket and keep paddling.

Photo by Matt Furman for DRAFT

Photo by Matt Furman for DRAFT

There’s the part of our company that’s about philanthropy called Beer & Benevolence, and our biggest nonprofit beneficiary is The Nature Conservancy, Delaware chapter. Of course, we protect the land on which ingredients that we use in our beer grow. We love their mission; my wife, Mariah, is on The Nature Conservancy’s board of trustees in Delaware. Last year, to raise awareness for what they do along the Atlantic Ocean, my son Sammy and I took a tiny 19-foot Boston Whaler, a little open motorboat, up the East Coast from the Atlantic waters off of Delaware.  We did beer dinners in New Jersey, Manhattan, Rhode Island, Boston and Maine to raise money and awareness for the chapters of The Nature Conservancy in each of those states. Sammy’s pretty good with a camera, so he filmed us talking about each state’s projects. It was a chance to give back to a great like-minded nonprofit, but it was also a chance [to be with my] son. You know, when you’re a fourteen-year-old boy, your father’s your archnemesis, but I had a captive audience because he couldn’t jump out of the boat, so he was stuck talking to me. He ran the GPS and he DJ’ed the stereo; those were his two jobs the whole way up the coast.

We brew numerous beers with the Atlantic Ocean as an ingredient; we brewed a beer with the Alström brothers for the Extreme Beer Fest, a gose using Atlantic Ocean water called Crown Breaker Artisan Ale. We brew another beer with our friends from Funky Buddha in Florida called Nano Nano; that one uses salt from the Atlantic Ocean from our brewpub in Rehoboth, and salt and beach from the Atlantic Ocean in Ft. Lauderdale. It’s probably no coincidence that a brewer loves an ocean because the majority of what’s in your beer is water; the human body is mostly water and the Earth is mostly water… It’s the holy trinity.”

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