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Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione (Finally!) Takes Home James Beard Award

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In 1995, Sam and Mariah Calagione started Dogfish Head Craft Brewery with a system that produced one-third of a barrel per batch—less than 31 gallons. Today, Dogfish Head sells its esoteric ales in 34 states and Washington, D.C. The Milton brewery has become such a Delaware tourist attraction that Dogfish even has an inn. 

The culinary world also took notice. For seven consecutive years, Calagione has been nominated for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional at the James Beard Foundation Awards, which is widely considered the Oscars of the food industry. Patience has its virtue: Calagione received the winning medal during the May 1 ceremony, held at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

“It’s a tremendous honor to receive this nod from our peers as we celebrate our 22nd year in business at Dogfish Head,” Calagione said in a release. “I celebrate this award with my wife and business partner, Mariah, and our 200-plus coworkers who work hard to make our off-centered brewery tick.”

Photos Courtesy of Heather Kenton

Mariah Calagione was less formal on Facebook shortly after he received the award: “So proud of my husband, all of our family & all of our co-workers who made this honor possible,” she posted. “ … thanks for all of the texts, tweets & posts – we appreciate each & every one! An amazing night at the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago, to say the least!!!!” An avalanche of happy friends’ posts followed. 

This is Delaware’s second James Beard Award, but the first in a food- or beverage-specific category. Matt Haley, the founder of SoDel Concepts, received recognition in 2014 for philanthropy. He died in a motorcycle crash the same year while visiting India.

The Calagiones celebrated the award with “numerous adult beverages,” Sam said the day after the event, which was hosted by “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson. (Calagione received the award from actress Valerie Bertinelli, who was born in Delaware.)

About an hour from returning home, he was looking forward to marking the occasion in coastal style. “When I get there, I’m going to celebrate with a paddleboard down the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, and a couple of cans of SeaQuench Ale,” he said. “It feels so good to bring this award home for my coworkers at Dogfish, and for coastal Delaware.”

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