Sam Calagione is living the dream. Not only is he the founder of beloved craft brewery Dogfish Head, in Delaware, but when tasting beer all day gets too stressful, the 46-year-old gets to retreat to the dopest tree house in the brewing business (probably one of the only ones, in fact).
Here’s the story: Calagione is a big fan of the steam punk aesthetic. Its cobbled-together repurposing of industrial materials in new, innovative ways inspires him in his work at the brewery. For example, Dogfish Head produces a line of ancient ales and bills its brews as “analog beer for the digital age.” A few years ago, Calagione stumbled across the work of Five Ton Crane Arts Group, a steam punk art collective in the San Francisco Bay Area, and was smitten. He reached out to the group and offered to donate some beer to the group, as a friendly gesture. Five Ton Crane was flattered and mentioned that it was trying to find a permanent home for a tree house it had constructed for Burning Man. The group was willing to unload it for just $1. Was Dogfish interested in buying it?
Calagione was. But what he didn’t factor in was the price of moving the eight-ton steel structure across the country and re-erecting it. Like every construction project in the known history of man, it went both over time and over budget. “It ended up costing more than $80,000 when we were all done,” says Calagione. "We didn’t plan that very well.”
Reflecting on the process today, Calagione says it was worth it. The towering hunk of twisting metal stands on the brewery site as a novelty (no one lives in it), and has become one of his favorite spots for meetings. “The reality is, sitting in regularly scheduled meetings can be soul-sucking. You need to break away and literally think outside the box that is that normal, fluorescent lighted room,” says Calagione.
And a little beer doesn’t hurt either. Calagione’s favorite feature of the tree house is a bucket with a rope that he can lower down to a bartender when a meeting needs a little libation lubrication. In fact, the brewery’s 20th anniversary beer, set to be released in November, was conceived in the tree house’s funky steel womb. It’s a brain-fogging, 20 percent ABV golden ale fermented with cherries and aged with cocoa nibs. “It’s like the ultimate birthday cake in liquid form,” Calagione says. (Pro tip: climb down the tree house's ladder before drinking this, or any 20 percent beer.)
Apart from a few select days throughout the year, the tree house isn’t open to the general public. But fortunately, the potent birthday beer and all other subsequent formulations dreamed up in the tree house are. So even if you can’t visit the tree house, you can enjoy its fruits.
Subscribe to Outside
Save 66% and get All-Access: Print + iPad