"It's probably the beer that I have [enjoyed] the most out of all the beers that we make," he says. "It's refreshing and I've learned to enjoy beers in the category other than mine, like the Hitachino Nest White Ale and Allagash White."
Dogfish Head's Calagione, meanwhile, is increasing his brewery's production of its Namaste witbier next year; its popularity already has brought coast-to-coast distribution. Namaste also helped boost Dogfish Head's overall production from 97,000 barrels when the beer was introduced in 2009 to 121,000 barrels last year. The beer is a rare bit of traditional brewing for Calagione, whose bike-ride brainstorms, basis in brewing history and brief flirtations with molecular archeology gave birth to the majority of Dogfish Head's beers and were the substance of his short-lived Discovery Channel series Brew Masters earlier this year.
Namaste's birthplace wasn't in Belgium or any of the above, but at a family dinner when Calagione asked his wife and kids what kind of beer they'd like to make and what it would be called.
"My kids were 7 and 9 at the time and I forget their goofy answers, but my wife had just done yoga that morning and she loves wheat beers," he says. "She said 'I'd love a Belgian white style made with lemongrass that I'd like to be called Namaste,' which at the end of yoga practice means 'the spirit in me recognizes the spirit in you.'"Inspired by a friend at 3 Fonteinen brewery, which lost one-third of its total production to a power outage the day after his wife's suggestion, and with the help of a brewer from the Birra de Borgo brewery in Italy, Calagione went about making "a very off-centered white beer." Instead of sticking to the standard Curacao orange peel-and-coriander formula, however, Calagione found an organic petrified orange in his travels and threw the dried peel's flesh into the mix to produce more sugars without losing the orange aroma. It's perhaps the exact opposite of mass-market witbiers such as Blue Moon and Shock Top, but also perhaps the best example of just how broadly the nation's palate for witbiers has expanded since the early '90s. It's also a reminder that, in any of its forms, it's still more difficult to make with any regularity than clearer, bubblier brews. "Can you just bang a witbier out? Yeah," Tod says. "But to make it consistent and have that delicate balance between the spices and the character of the wheat, to make it cloudy and get that texture and look, it's a tough beer to make." -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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