The Off-Centered Film Festival, one of our favorite annual Austin beer events, kicks off this Thursday with a massive beer party in Republic Square Park. From there, expect a fun-filled weekend of amazing beer, and Hip Hop-themed fun.
In anticipation for the festival, we had a little phone chat with Dogfish Head Founder/ Brewmaster Sam Calagione. In it, we discuss Hip Hop, malt liquor, Dogfish Head’s latest brews, and, of course, the Off-Centered Film Fest.
Bitch Beer: Can you tell me a little bit about how the Off-Centered Film Festival came together?
Sam: It came together originally when I was in Austin for a craft brewers conference and they screened the beer documentary “Beer Wars” at one of the Alamos, and I fell in love with the Alamo—the place, the concept, the people. And, that’s when we decided to move forward and do the Off-Centered Film Fest, and John Gross and I have been working together since the start of it. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year because it’s just an awesome mash-up of music, film and beer and sort of the DIY communities involved in making them so great.
BB: So this year’s theme is of course a Hip Hop theme, and you’re going to be breaking out your hip hop alter-ego. Have you been into Hip Hop for a long time, and how did your beer geek Hip Hop group come about?
Sam: You know, I apologize in advance for anyone who bears witness. About eight years ago, we started a beer geek Hip Hop band called the Pain Relievaz and we put out two self-produced albums. You can buy Pain Relievaz albums on iTunes. We sold literally hundreds of songs.
BB: (uncontrollable laughter)
Sam: So, at the Saturday night event there’s going to be a sweet rap off for the crowd, and I will be dusting off one of the Pain Releivaz worldwide hits.
BB: When was the last time Pain Relivaz performed live?
Sam: Oh, it’s going to be a shitshow. It’s been probably four years since we’ve performed in public.
BB: Well, it’s good it’s the last night, plenty of time to work up to it.
Sam: Yes, yes. I put the songs on my iPhone so I can remind myself of my verses while I’m traveling.
BB: That’s cool. So, kind of a random question, but several years ago, you actually brewed a malt liquor, packaged it in 40 oz bottles, and called it Liquor de Malt. So, with this Hop Hop theme, it seems like kind of a perfect opportunity if you have any of those bottles hiding anywhere, can we expect to see that?
Sam: Ya know, no. We had a lot of fun with that. Liquor De Malt, by the way, is French for malt liquor. You might want to explain that to the readers out there who maybe aren’t bilingual the way I am.
BB: (More uncontrollable laughter)
Sam: (Laughs) But, yeah, Liquor De Malt was a blast to make. We used All American red, white and blue corn. Every bottle came pre-wrapped in a handstamped brown paper bag, and we had to do it all by hand because our bottling line doesn’t accommodate 40s. Pretty much everyone at Dogfish pretty much threatened to quit if I put them through that again, so, unfortunately, Liquor De Malt will not be making a showing in Austin.
BB: Oh, shucks.
BB: Well, speaking of crazy concoctions, you’re going to be doing some cool Randalizations again this year. I actually got a Randall Jr. last year after Off-Centered, so I’ve done a lot of cool stuff at home..
BB: Yeah, so I’m curious what is like the worst thing you’ve ever done, or even the most unexpectedly good, just craziest thing you’ve ever Randalled?
Sam: Actually, the first time we ran espresso beans through it. You know, we used it for hops, and then we started doing some specialty herbs and fruit. And, someone liked the idea of running espresso beans with a dark beer, and it was our World Wide Stout, it’s an 18% alcohol stout, rum barrel aged with the espresso beans, and that blew my mind how well that worked. The intensity of the coffee flavors came forward using the espresso beans in the Randall
BB: Very cool.
Sam: As for a gross one… I didn’t love it, but we just did one with our wood aged IPA. The randall was filled with pickles. I usually love pickles. We even make a hop-infused pickle. But, that one didn’t work for my palate, maybe for others.
BB: The opening night of Off-Centered is always this big, outdoor beer party, and a lot of Austin breweries come out. Obviously, since you started that event, just the Austin beer scene has grown so rapidly. What do you have to say about Austin beer, and what it’s like to have those guys participating in Off-Centered?
Sam: Well, I mean, first of all, I want to give HUGE props to the local brewers in Austin, and even more to the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. From an outside perspective, in the craft brewing community for many years, Texas was looked upon as an unfriendly state legislatively for small breweries. But, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild has done a great job of convincing the legislators to make the laws more small business friendly, and that’s allowed the local beer scene to blossom. So, it’s one of my favorite nights of the year, the event that Dogfish and the Alamo put on in Republic Park, to see the Texas brewers come out, and try beers I’ve never had before. It’s one of my highlights of the Off-Centered Film Fest.
BB: Very cool, any breweries you remember from last year that maybe just brought something really amazing?
Sam: Oh, I don’t want to single any out. There’s so many good beers.
BB: That’s probably safe.
Sam: Yeah, there’s too many good ones to name, wouldn’t want to leave anyone out.
BB: (laughs) Good answer.
BB: So obviously, the opening night beer party is always a highlight for you. There are a few other events that happen every year—the beer dinner, the shorts competition. How was judging the shorts competition this year, were you impressed with what people put out?
Sam: Oh yeah, we sat down about a month ago, me and my co-workers, and we went through all the films that were submitted, and there are soooo many good ones. And, people really brought their A Game in terms of buying into the Hip Hop scene for these films. So I know the beer lovers that come out for the Saturday night program when we unveil the winners and show the best films, I’m sure they’re going to be pretty impressed.
BB: So, I noticed your friends Ken Marino and Joe Lo Truglio aren’t on the lineup this year. Did they just not really have anything to contribute to the Hip Hop theme?
Sam: Umm, they are as street as any comedian gets. And, they would love to be there, but actually, their web show “Burning Love” has just been nominated for a bunch of Webbies, which is like the Emmys of things that are online. So, they’ve gotta go do a lot of waxing and spray tanning and preparing for this awards ceremony.
BB: (laughs) That show is SO funny.
Sam: It is good.
Sam: Yes, some of them that will be out there at this year’s Off-Centered that weren’t last year… Our Rhizing Bines, which is a collaboration Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada do together, that we just released a couple months ago, it’s kind of a mashup of Dogfish Head’s unique hopping technology, and Sierra Nevada’s unique equipment, which is a Torpedo. It’s just a big, hoppy, East Coast meets West Coast IPA. We’ll also be serving our New Positive Contact, which is a beer that we made with the Hip Hop band Deltron 3030, so I got to sit down with Dan the Automator, we met up in New York City and we went through a bunch of our beer ingredients together and tried a bunch of different beers. We came up with this Positive Contact, where 20 percent of the fermentable sugars come from Fuji apples, and there’s also cilantro in it as well, so that’s another really hard to find beer that we’ll be serving on Friday night. On Thursday night at the outdoor event, we’ll be running our India Brown Ale through roasted coffee beans in the Randall, our real-time hopping device. I’m pretty psyched for that too. India Brown Ale is one of my favorite beers we do. I’m pretty sure it was the first Black IPA or Dark IPA bottled in America. We’ve been brewing it since 1997, and we started bottling it.
BB: Wow. I’m sure you’ve been really impressed by how popular that style has gotten. It’s really become a true American style, huh?
Sam: Yeah, it is. We [America] took the IPA and started doing something totally unique from what the folks in England are doing.
BB: Totally. Well, I’ve noticed you’ve been doing a lot more wine inspired beers and wine blends lately. Where has that come from?
Sam: Well, we do a line called Ancient Ales, and we’ve been doing beers based on ancient recipes found in tombs and dig sites around the world for about a decade now. So, I’ve talked to a lot of archeologists and historians and scientists, and it’s amazing how many ancient beverages were hybrids and had grapes and grain in them. So, modern, commercial beers and wines don’t interplay too often. At Dogfish, we’ve been doing beer-wine hybrids since our Raison De ‘Etra in ’96, or Midas Touch, etc. And, we just came out with an IPA-red wine hybrid. It took us over a year to develop it. We tried it with Red Zifandel grape must, it didn’t work. We tried it with Pinot Noir, it didn’t work. Then we found Syrah grapes. We found out if we added the Syrah grape must while the beer was starting to ferment in the primary fermentation, it gave the beer an incredible, dry red wine character and a beautiful red color. So, Sixty-One is our newest beer-wine hybrid.
BB: Cool, well, is there anything else you want to add about the Off-Centered Film Fest this year? Anything you didn’t get a chance to say about how badass it’s going to be.
Sam: Just that it’s one of my favorite events of the year. And, thanks to everybody we work with at the Alamo, we really feel at home when we’re down there.
For more information on Off-Centered Film Festival, and to purchase tickets for the events, go here. For another fun interview with Sam Calagione, check out this post from our friends at You Stay Hoppy Austin.