Dogfish Celebrates All Things Indie Craft

Krista Connor

Analog-a-Go-Go Festival will bring national acts, including Built to Spill, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Ra Ra Riot, international craft breweries and artisan food vendors to Bellevue State Park on Sept. 17

When Sam Calagione opened Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats in the mid-‘90s, the brewpub became known for its three-part harmony: original beer, original music and original food.

To celebrate the three, six years ago a festival, Analoga-Go-Go, was born and has been held annually at Dogfish’s Milton brewery ever since. The festival, referencing vintage recording methods that Calagione says parallel his company’s authentic craft beer concept, traces back to Dogfish’s roots of originality, risk and community mindset.

This year, the festival is undergoing major changes “in celebration of all things indie craft,” Calagione says. The biggest change is venue—from downstate to Bellevue State Park just outside Wilmington—to accommodate a lineup and crowds expected to be bigger than ever.

This year’s event, on Saturday, Sept. 17, will feature live music, a cask beer festival featuring 10-15 breweries, a craft spirit garden, a marketplace, and local and regional food. The usual crowd of about 1,000 is anticipated to jump to 8,000-10,000 craft drink and music fans.

The band lineup includes headliners Built to Spill, along with Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Talib Kweli, Ra Ra Riot, Beach Slang, and Fiancé, bringing to Bellevue indie rock, New Orleans-style jazz, hip-hop, punk and experimental pop representative of the “off-centered” Dogfish brand.

Says Dogfish VP of Marketing Neal Stewart: “This is the biggest undertaking that Dogfish has ever done. We are going out on a limb to go an hour-and-a-half north to bring in national acts—it’s a big endeavor, but we’re really excited about it.”

The day will kick off with Newark’s own Fiancé, followed by Philadelphia punk mainstay Beach Slang. Ra Ra Riot will deliver their danceable indie rock synths and catchy lyrics, and Brooklyn native and hip hop artist Talib Kweli will appear with his band. Formed in the early ‘60s, Preservation Hall Jazz Band will feature a rotating cast of musicians. Built to Spill, from Boise, Idaho, an indie rock band known for heavy, catchy guitar hooks and powerhouse performances will close out the day.

The upbeat music will make great accompaniment for a day of walking around the park and “chilling out,” says Stewart.

“Nothing makes me happier than listening to music and drinking beer, and this festival is about bringing these worlds together,” adds Calagione.

Elsewhere on the grounds, the Super Friends Cask Beer Festival hosted in the Craft Beer Barn will offer guests 10 cask-conditioned samplings—unfiltered and unpasteurized beer—from some of Dogfish’s friends in the craft brewing business. Limited edition beers will be pouring from Sierra Nevada, Allagash, Stoudts, Funky Buddha, Boston Beer, Iron Hill, Beavertown, Burley Oak, Short’s, and of course, Dogfish. Some of these beers, like the Oakland Park, Fla., Funky Buddha—currently one of the most exciting breweries in the country, says Stewart—and London’s Beavertown brews aren’t otherwise available in Delaware.

“For the beer geeks, you’ll experience something you can’t get anywhere else in the Mid-Atlantic,” Stewart says.

Proceeds from beer sales go directly to the nonprofit Bellevue, which is home to more than 328 acres of preserved land.

In addition to music and brews, the festival will have a Distillery Garden on the Bellevue Mansion lawn that will treat guests to six scratch-made cocktails from Dogfish Distilling Co. Dogfish’s spirits undergo a grain-to-glass production method, meaning each batch is crafted from scratch to deliver incredible flavor. Only 500 tickets are available for this.

And it’s not a festival without food trucks and a market to explore. The Culinary Trailer Park will feature more than 10 food trucks with a variety of options to festival-goers. The Artisan and Record Market will offer wares from more than 25 artists and vendors from more than 10 states. Vinyl vendors will sell new and rare LPs, while a bazaar will showcase art, crafts, apparel, jewelry, vintage goods, barware, music accessories and more.

Stewart says he has “high hopes” that northern Delaware and surrounding areas will embrace the event this year. If so, the festival could certainly expand.

“Could this be a two-day festival in a few years? Sure. Three days? Could be,” Stewart says.

The shift north for Dogfish is one way to “spread the love” across the state, and move closer to Dogfish fans in northern Delaware, Stewart says. A northern Delaware event also
provides better proximity to Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore and New York City, notes Calagione.

Drawing non-Delawareans to the area is integral to Calagione’s Dogfish vision. He wants to attract out-of-towners, and not just to the Milton brewery, Rehoboth’s Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats and Lewes’ full-service beer hotel, Dogfish Inn.

“We want people to hang out in our towns and see how beautiful Delaware is,” he says. “So the opportunity to move Analog north is related to that cause. As a strong craft brand recognized for our passion for beer and music through the Mid-Atlantic, a northern Delaware event is great.”

And to Calagione, Analog-a-Go-Go is a meaningful symbol of Dogfish’s journey.

“Opening a small brewery in the mid-‘90s nowhere near a big city was a big risk, building a concept around food was a risk, and including original music during a time of cover bands was a risk,” says Calagione. “But it was amazingly rewarding to us—Delawareans got the off-centered mission and three-pronged obsession of originality from the beginning.”

After all, when Calagione established the Dogfish brand two decades ago, the craft industry—from food to music to beer—looked nothing like it does today. Back then, Calagione can recall only one decent record store in Rehoboth; good vinyl was hard to come by, he says, and the same can be said about the beer of the time—there were about a third as many craft breweries in the country as there are today.

For inspiration, Calagione looked to the structure of the indie music industry to influence the evolution of the Dogfish brand. By doing so, Calagione says Dogfish Head flourished in the same way that DIY-bands formed pre-Internet networks and communities across America: the artists, making their way on cross-country tours, relied on supporters for a bed to sleep in, recorded their own albums and hand-crafted merchandise like t-shirts and posters.

Likewise, community-driven Dogfish Head has networked within the grassroots-to-booming craft beer world from the ‘90s to now.

“Good karma comes from focusing on collaboration,” says Calagione. “And cask-conditioned beer is the same analog form of beer that vinyl is to music.”

Tickets, starting at $65 for general admission with upgrade options including access to the Craft Beer Barn and Distillery Garden, are on sale now. Pricing will go up $10 each month.

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