Rodenbach and Dogfish Head to Produce First Collaboration in Famed Belgian Brewery’s History
Brouwerij Rodenbach, the highly regarded Belgian brewing company founded in West Flanders in 1821 and known for its tart, oak-aged ales, is doing something unprecedented. For the first time in its nearly 200-year history, Rodenbach will produce a beer in partnership with another brewery. The recipe hasn’t been chosen yet, the label design is no more than a twinkle in an artist’s eye, and the sour ale won’t appear on shelves until 2020, but one key detail has already been decided: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is the other half of the collaboration.
“The goal is to bring as much taste and flavor as possible in a sessionable beer,” explains Rudi Ghequire, Rodenbach’s master brewer. “Beer is more than hops and only hops.”
Born from a conversation at the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference between Ghequire and Bill Marchi, head of Wooden… It Be Nice!, Dogfish Head’s wild beer and barrel-aged program, the idea for a collaboration slowly evolved over the summer and fall. Then, late last year, Ghequire, Rodenbach’s chief marketing officer Kristof Ampe, and David van Wees, president of Swinkels Family Brewers Imports, traveled to Dogfish Head’s Delaware production facility to finalize plans. While Dogfish Head has previously brewed various beers that could be broadly defined as sour, it was the 2016 release of SeaQuench Ale that convinced the American brewery of the category’s potential. In October, Dogfish Head announced plans to substantially expand its sour program. Now, with this announcement, the company that founder Sam Calagione launched with a 12-gallon batch of Shelter Pale Ale will be teaming up with one of the largest sour beer producers in the world.
“The recipe is a living, iterative ball of energy right now,” says Calagione. “We’re exploring different ways to leverage each other’s strengths. We want something more accessible, 4.5 to 5.5 percent ABV, and canned.”
Much remains to be decided at this early stage, but Calagione will travel to Roeselare, Belgium in the coming months to hone in on a concept with Ghequire at Rodenbach. While they declined to elaborate further, the two brewers spoke broadly about creating a sour ale that could somehow represent their shared interest in things coastal, seasonal, and sessionable. Once a final decision has been made, a new beer will be brewed at Dogfish Head and blended with aged beer shipped over from Belgium for a 2020 launch in the United States. A Belgian release is likely to follow later that year. And as for the potential of a longer-term relationship?
“We plan to do a collaboration every 200 years,” quips Calagione, adding that the two family-owned companies hope to brew something so captivating that beer drinkers will want more. Both also believe that the partnership will help drive interest in a fast-growing category.
“The important thing is to support the power of sour in America,” says Ghequire. ■