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Upcoming projects:
Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
Flocking a drawer interior

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dogfish Head

For as long as I can remember, my old man has taken every chance he gets to tour breweries and brew pubs. When I was younger, this was one of those things that my sister and I joked about because for us, it was the farthest thing from fun. The food, however, was usually decent so we put up with it. Some time ago, we toured the Dogfish Head brewery in southern Delaware. My first impressions were wildly different than any other tour I have been on, and there are too many to remember. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to take the tour again, and I was no less impressed.

The first sight to greet you is a giant steampunk treehouse. The colossus stands about four stories tall and is a sight to see on its own. For safety reasons, it is generally not open to the public.

I happened to be on my way through Delaware at the time, and caught a tour about a minute after it started. Lo and behold, my guide, Dwayne, was the same man as I had last time. What is more, he remembered me! I was seriously impressed by this, and it stands as a testament to the passion the brewery's employees have for their jobs and the culture founder Sam Calagione sets for the company.

The history of Dogfish Head Brewery is rich and interesting, starting from a basement endeavour using vibrating football games to hop the beer to a 75,000 annual barrel production. I will not go into too many of the details here, as the tour would to it far more justice. 

Since my previous visit, the brewery has undertaken major expansion. Currently, the production line is getting an overhaul to support increased demand for their brews.


In the coming years, the tour will be mostly conducted inside the brewery rather than starting in the lobby, but the construction is still underway. 

Deeper into the facility, a maze of pipes carry air, water, sanitizing and cleaning fluids, and CO2. 

One of the things that really caught my attention was the use of wooden barrels. Dogfish Head has the largest wooden brewing barrels of anywhere in the country (post prohibition). The largest, made of the incredibly dense wood Palo Santo measures at 10,000 gallons. The Palo Santo beer brewed inside is just as dense and just as dark, not to mention a hefty 12%. 

The bottling line is almost as impressive as the complex engineering yet loses none of the Dogfish Head persona. Most of the major machines in the factory have a name, some more vulgar than others. Because Dogfish is a craft brewery, they do not have the multiple production lines like other larger corporations. Instead, they have the single bottling line and another for kegs.

At the end of the tour, we exchanged the remainder of the four coaster cutout sharks for samples, being Midas Touch, Sha'tea, Black and Blue, and Palo Santo. If there are any locals reading, the samples differ throughout the week.

I am obviously no tour guide, but having been on both sides of the tour (over and under 21), I walked out happy both times and inspired to one day try brewing myself. Dogfish Head has a quirky, charming character and distinct personality that is rare amongst businesses, and the employees are one of a kind. If you are near the area or passing through or on the other side of the country and want to take a trip, it is well worth the travel.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Cartography- A Tribute to Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan, the pen name for James Oliver Rigney, Jr., authored the incredible series The Wheel of Time, encompassing 14 novels and a prequel novella set in a fantasy world he created. This series has been an influence and inspiration to me for nearly half my life. Only be chance did I find the 10th book in the series, Crossroads of Twilght, in a bargain store shortly after its release in 2003. At the time, I was curious but did not start reading it until I later received the first two books for my birthday some while later. From the first page, I was immediately engrossed by the fantastic use of words not only to tell a story but to paint a world beyond imagination.

His rich detail of the characters, cultures, and kingdoms deserve more justice than I can ever hope to give them. The plot itself revolves around the duality of human nature and the decisions that shape us as a single, deciding battle preludes either salvation or ruin for all of humanity. The journey that leads to Tarmon Gai'don, as he names it, is one that I feel as though I lived through myself.

In 2006, Mr. Rigney was diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis, and tragically passed away on September 16, 2007. At this time, he had only completed the first 11  novels in the series, and in his last months worked closely with Brandon Sanderson, a close friend and author in the genre. Through the notes he shared, the remaining three novels, originally set to be one volume but released in three parts due to their size, were published between 2009 and 2013.

It is a true testament to his character and the quality of Mr. Rigney as a person that even decades after the first novel was published, his words yet resound with meaning so deep and pure that they may change us as readers. Through his writing and courage in the face of illness, Mr. Rigney has inspired me to live my life with a better outlook and to harbour the creativity that is so valuable. As a tribute to his work and in fond memory, I drafted a map of where the novels take place. Thank you, Mr. Rigney, for without you I would be a lesser man.