(Photo by Justin Williams for Dogfish Head)
Sam Calagione is not your typical entrepreneur.
In the early ’90s, Calagione (Dogfish Head founder and president) was working at a bar in New York City that sold microbrewed beer. He got hooked. He produced a few homebrew batches and decided he could open a business using his newfound passion.
In 1995, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats opened in Rehoboth Beach. Shelter Pale Ale was brewed on a system of three small kegs with propane burners underneath. It was not only the first brewpub in the state, but also the smallest commercial brewery in the country.
In 1996, Dogfish Head began bottling its Shelter Pale Ale. Soon after, the brewery separated the packaging operation from the restaurant. In 2002, Dogfish Head moved a few miles north to its 100,000-square-foot facility, a converted cannery.
Currently, Dogfish Head serves 20 styles of good beer in more than 25 states. The company has grown and expanded, all while increasing technology and production along the way.
To this day, Calagione still tests new ingredients and tweaks old favorites to see which crazy-tasty concoction his team can create next.
“Our model since day one has focused on making off-centered ales for off-centered people,” he said. “My focus at Dogfish is on long-term strategy, new products and new projects.”
In addition to the brewery in Milton and the brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, the company also recently opened the Dogfish Inn this summer in downtown Lewes — it’s Dogfish’s off-centered motto to a T. Staying there feels akin to the summer camp experience you never had as a kid: there’s a fire pit, lawn games, cozy rooms, a communal dining table, bikes, dogs and more.
We wanted to catch up with Calagione to see what it takes to oversee a popular brewery. What better way than with our “How I Work” series.
What’s the first thing you do every day before doing any job-related work?
I go for an hour paddleboard or bike ride and think about new beer ideas and existing and new products and projects.
How often do you check your email, and do you use any program to get to ‘Inbox Zero’?
I check email throughout the day. I have 2,090 unread emails in my inbox right now if that answers the question.
When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?
Like I said above, bike and paddleboard, but also music and reading and travel. I am heading to NYC this weekend with the kids and my wife, and next week, my wife Mariah and will go to Italy and London to host Dogfish Head events.
What’s your gear?
Computer at work and iPhone on the road. I have the iPhone 6 and the bigger keyboard on it helps me pump out emails faster.
What’s one way in which you believe your day-to-day work is better now than it has been? Is there something you do now (or don’t do) that you didn’t do before (or did) that has made a big difference?
More meetings — that’s good and bad — more input from other leaders at these meetings and more communication in general means more ownership of our strategy and execution from every co-worker at our company.-30-
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