It’s not every day that you get to rub shoulders with a craft beer icon, but, during my beercation to the beaches of Delaware, I had an opportunity to sit down and chat with none other than Mariah Calagione, Owner & Vice President of Dogfish Head Brewery. A fun and hard-working woman who does everything from overall company management to focusing on the marketing efforts of not only the brewery but also Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats (aka Brew Pub & Microbrewery at Rehoboth Beach, DE).
Her experience and community involvement is quite impressive (just look at the More About Mariah section at the bottom of the post). This is a woman that is kicking some serious ass in the craft beer industry starting way back in 1995- and for that, I give her a major High 5! What’s even better? She’s the most down-to-earth, genuine and fun-loving spirit. It was if I had known her for years as the meeting room filled with our laughter and conversation. It felt less like an interview and more like two girlfriends chatting it up about our common passion: craft beer.
How do you balance it all? Career. Volunteering. Family. Friends. Time to Yourself. Etc.
MC: I don’t see it as work vs. personal life, because everything is so interrelated. That’s the awesome part about having your own business. You get to choose what you do. You get to pick those 80 hours a week that you’re going to work. [laughter] I love that! You have the ability to structure it. Our kids sometimes go on beer trips when we travel for work. We see our friends at beer fests. It’s all kind of intermingled. Every day there’s probably something out of balance yet somehow it all seems to work. Like sometimes if it’s 3am and I can’t sleep, I look at our Twitter page to respond to people’s posts. They may not get the response until in the morning but I’m responding now while I have time!
What inspires you?
MC: I’m inspired by people that have such a focused passion. When you see someone who has that, their energy, drive and commitment is infectious.
I don’t often have deadlines. When I do, because I’m a procrastinator, I get to that moment of panic and I just come up with something. Procrastination inspires me!
What were your most favorite career experiences/projects so far?
MC: Early on, I would work with Sam to make our ads for all the local papers. You know…out of paper and glue. You had to paste it all up. Then, we would have to drive the ad over to the paper. That was fun! But now we’re getting to do other fun stuff, like getting to work with the Firefly Music Festival. Also, we started going to Italy every other year with the brewer’s association export committee to a huge food and beer festival: Salone del Gusto – a part of Slow Food International. It was really cool traveling and getting to meet the Italian brewers.
I also think getting to know people virtually online through what I do. I spend a lot of time online. You see them online and you kind of get to know them a little bit, you know? And, you get to meet new people. That’s really kind of cool!
What are you most proud of in your career?
MC: The way that we’ve been able to be successful with growing our social media side of our business. Not just the numbers. Engagement. Being there to answer people’s questions. We adopted social media pretty early on and stayed open to it. I’m pretty proud of that. It’s totally worthwhile.
Also, our Beer & Benevolence Program that we started several years ago. The program is all of the philanthropy, donations, and community support initiatives that we do. For instance, the Dogfish Dash: it’s a 5k and 10k road race held the last Sunday in September. We’ve raised over $250,000 for the Nature Conservancy here in Delaware that has two preserves here in Milton, DE. Habitat for Humanity is another one. We shut down all of our businesses one day a year and build houses for them with all of our coworkers.
Has social media worked well for Dogfish Head?
MC: Yes. On Twitter, we have more conversation with people as opposed to say Facebook or YouTube. It’s quick, fast and free-flowing. Instagram is great, too. For example, the day the punkin’ ale growlers went on sale, we posted an announcement. Within two hours all of the growlers were sold. Amazing! You can see that kind of instant effect.
I don’t schedule our social media posts. All of the responses are live so that our conversations are relevant to what’s going on in the world. For instance, I don’t want to post that ‘Punkin’ Ale Is Coming Out!’ if something tragic has just happened. Like if someone has passed away and the trending online conversations are focused on that.
Dogfish Head is an icon in craft beer today. Did you ever expect the brand to get this popular?
MC: No. It’s crazy! When I go downstairs to the food truck for lunch (outside our tasting room) and I meet someone who came in from Ohio or Kentucky I ask “Do you have family in the area?” and their response is “No.” It kind of boggles my mind sometimes. Or, when people have driven all night to get to your beer dinner at the Pub to drink a specific Dogfish Head beer. Their passion really inspires me to go, “Oh my God! I better do a good job at what I’m doing. People care.”
Have you ever encountered opposition being a female in the craft beer industry? And if so, how did you handle it?
MC: I haven’t felt it in a negative way ever. Early on, I have had the ‘outnumbered” feeling when I would go to a craft brewers’ conference and there would be like 25 men and only 2 women. But, I’m also more marketing slanted and a larger number of women in craft beer back then were in that role. Now, there are more women working in the industry. Here at Dogfish Head Brewery, a lot of our accounting, marketing, and management teams are women. And, we do have a number of women brewers here as well.
Are you seeing an increase in female fans for Dogfish Head? If so, have you noted any difference in how they interact with the brand than your male fans do?
MC: Yes. We now do get bachelorette parties to the tasting room which is kind of cool. And, we have women who come in as beer geeks themselves, which is great! They know what they want and they know what they like. They’re not just there because their boyfriends or husbands who like beer dragged them in to the tasting room.
We also get excited for the opportunity to educate women who do come in and say, “I don’t drink beer.” We then respond, “Well try this Noble Rot, Tweason’ale, or Festina Peche,” because it doesn’t taste like a typical beer. Or, we may say, “You don’t like dark beer? Ok. Try this Bitches Brew with this truffle chocolate taste.” We have this broad palette of beer styles to sort of try to defy people’s expectations of what they think beer is. That gives us the opportunity to encourage them to try something different.
From a social media perspective, I’m seeing an equal percentage of men and women visiting our Brew Pub Facebook page (55% men; 45% women) and Inn Facebook page (52% men; 48% women). The biggest difference is visitors to our Brewery Facebook page which mostly consists of men (70% men; 30% women). We have also seen an increase over the years of women’s clothing that we have for sale.
More About Mariah Calagione:
- Hometown: Born and raised in Milford, Delaware
- College: BA Public Policy from Brown University
- Job Title: Owner & Vice President of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
- Role at Dogfish Head: Overall Company Management, Marketing Focus with direct experience in Advertising, PR, Website, Social Media, Branding as well as oversight of Merchandising, Philanthropy/Community Outreach, Events, Graphic Design and Storytelling.
- Husband: Met Sam in high school & married in 1996
- 2 Children: Sammy and Grier
- Currently Resides: Lewes, Delaware
- Untappd: Mariah Calagione
- Community Involvement (Past & Present):
- University of Delaware: Trustee
- Sussex Academy: School Board Member President
- Northfield Mount Hermon School Trustee Vice Chair
- The Greater Lewes Foundation: Board of Directors Member
- The Nature Conservancy Delaware Chapter: Trustee
- Friends of the Canalfront Park Lewes Delaware: Board Member & Secretary
- Rehoboth Beach Film Society: Founding Member, Board Member, Board President, Advisory Board Member
- Rehoboth Beach Main Street: Board of Directors Member
- ‘Campaign for the Park': Lewes Canalfront Park Fundraising Campaign Committee Member
- Bethel United Methodist Church: Staff/Parish Relations Committee Member
- Bethel Christian Preschool: Board of Directors Member
- Lewes Chamber of Commerce: Board of Directors Member
- Dogfish Head Beer & Benevolence Program (View Program Info)
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