How the Pickle Company and Craft Beer Institution Came Together For Pickles
One night, Sam Calagione (founder and president of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales) was drinking a 60 Minute IPA, and tried it with a Brooklyn Brine deli pickle. “I thought, wow, the earthy bitterness of the hops in 60 Minute pairs up perfectly with the earthy bitterness of the pickle,” he said. So he sent Brooklyn Brine Founder and Head Briner Shamus Jones an email saying he wanted to collaborate.
When Jones read the email, it’s safe to say he was a little surprised (he happened to be reading Calagione’s book at the time). “I’m sitting there, my head exploding,” he recalled. He called up Calagione the next day and said he’d love to collaborate.
“I sent Shamus all of our hoppy beers, plus whole leaf hops, pellatized hops and hop oil,” Calagione explained.
Jones began experimenting with whole leaf hops – the Cascade variety – and 60 Minute IPA. “It’s my favorite offering that Dogfish Head produces.” The pickles turned out too grassy and green-tasting with the fresh hops, noted Jones. The batch with the hop pellets – Amarillo – had a similar issue.
So he tried the Cascade hop oil Calagione sent over (only adding in a couple of drops). “Immediately it plumed. It was citrusy and piney – the brewery smell was there.”
The Hop-Pickles were released in stores over the summer. “All of that design and contract and production took about four months,” said Calagione, who is happy with result. “I love hops and pickles. It’s hard not to eat a whole jar.”
Pickles and beer are a “magical combination” to Jones. “When you’re drinking beer you don’t want something heavy. There’s a sharpness, tanginess and saltiness that lends itself to the beer flavor.”
The response to the Hop-Pickles has been overwhelmingly positive. “It’s taken this company to the next level and beyond,” Jones said. “People are bonkers about Dogfish.” He related a story about someone who wanted to buy the pickles at the brewery but they were out of stock. So he drove all the way up to Brooklyn and purchased a couple of cases from the brinery in Gowanus.
As for collaborating with Dogfish Head, “Working with Sam was a dream,” said Jones. “I get so excited working with someone so like-minded.” There’s an “off-centerdness” of both companies, he continued, which are aligned in their mission to be independently owned and create their own products.
“I think it’s safe so say we will do another creative project with our pals at Brooklyn Brine some day in the near future,” related Calagione. “For now we’re just trying to keep up with consumer and retailer demand for our Hop-Pickles.”