An analog match made in Firefly heaven
Seven years in and Dogfish Head is still the brewery of record at The Woodlands. Since 2012 when Firefly Music Festival first filled the Dover air with the music of some of the best bands in the world, the brewery tent has been the place to see and be seen.
Just footsteps from the Firefly main stage, the beer garden offers a cool interior, cold craft beer and phone-charging stations for the masses.
But each year across the grounds, changes are made and upgrades are implemented to improve the overall fan experience. Inside the tent this year, Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione was happy to bring on a new roommate of sorts, when Newark’s own Rainbow Records was invited to set up shop and spin some old school vinyl.
“We have an event that we love called Analog-A-Go-Go every year in the fall, and it’s a mixture of a beer and music festival where we ask indie record stores from all over the country to come,” Calagione said. “So having Rainbow here was a natural fit in line with that idea. We say Dogfish is all about great analog beers for the digital age, so having a vinyl record dealer in Rainbow Records is a perfect marriage.”
That marriage also includes an arcade of old school video games on the opposite end of Rainbow Records, where festival goers of all ages were packed in to test their hand at everything from Ms. Pacman and Street Fighter 2 to skee-ball and foosball. Red Frog Events decided to bring the arcade facet back this year, and were also the ones who reached out to Rainbow about being part of the festivities.
Rainbow Records Owner Todd Brewer, who had that sort of happy-to-be-here smile plastered to his face Friday afternoon, had loaded in nearly 3,000 pieces of vinyl and was spinning relentlessly. This was Brewer’s first time on site for Firefly, and it’ll be a long weekend, for sure, as he planned to be working non-stop, including 14 hours of DJing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“If the brewery is open and pouring, we’ll be here spinning; we’ve got everything from Firefly artists to old funk and jazz, electro, reggae, all sort of genres planned out,” said the appropriately named Brewer considering the partnership with Dogfish Head. “Every year Firefly came up, we were always double-booked with something. But this, the Red Frog folks reached out to us about four or five months ago and asked us to consider a DJ booth and shop here. I was amazed they reached out and was willing to do whatever I could to be here.”
Brewer said Red Frog reps had actually visited the store in Newark and had a “great experience” flipping through old records and talking music with the employees. The goal was to create a local record store experience on site at The Woodlands, so Brewer and his crew are on site to sell and talk vinyl.
“They were very cool to reach out to us, and we’re looking at this as a trial run to see how things go,” Brewer said. “But it makes sense: Dogfish Head is the official beer of Record Store Day and we do the biggest event in the state each year, so we’ve worked together in the past.”
As for contracts, Calagione says his team and the Red Frog folks meet post-festival every year to discuss the future and how things will shake out. Calagione says they’re in the midst of a two-three year “contract,” but that as of Friday morning, Firefly was looking to be yet another successful endeavor.
“A good sign is having to go pick up more kegs by Friday afternoon because we’re selling way more than we thought; that’s awesome,” Calagione said. “This weekend is our single biggest marketing spend nationally, so we don’t really look at Firefly as a profit-based event. It’s more about representing Delaware and making sure our fans aren’t disappointed; running out of beer would be disappointing.”
As for the beer menu, Sam and his team changed the lineup a bit. The 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPAs – Dogfish Head’s top two sellers by far – are still on tap, as is the Sea Quench, which has moved to third. But they added the Dragons & YumYums, a tropical pale ale they collaborated with the guys from the Flaming Lips, and a new Firefly recipe that was crowd-sourced through their social media.
“We went through our social media and Red Frog’s social media to give fans an option on how we would change the Firefly Ale recipe for the first time,” Calagione said. “They came back with pink guava, and I think it turned out really nice. It’s got a little more sweetness and is really refreshing.”
From a fan perspective, the Rainbow team has been talking vinyl since they opened their doors Thursday afternoon. What was originally planned as just a market for purchasing vinyl, soon turned into a sort of demonstration on how to play the records on their turntables.
“We talked about doing a listening station here so people could try before they buy, but a lot of these younger kids have never used a turntable before,” Brewer said. “So it went from a ‘try before you buy’ to a demonstration on how to use the turntable. We loved it, they loved it too, and we’ve so much fun with it.”
Brewer said they worked out a deal with the U.S. Post Office, also on site, to offer discounted shipping for a reasonable price, so that people who buy vinyl didn’t have to worry about storing their records in their cars or on their campsites. Otherwise, the vinyl would melt in hot temperatures.
“We were lucky because we needed air conditioning for the vinyl records, and then tent supplies that,” Brewer said. “It’s hot out here, so we couldn’t be out by the campers with all our equipment. It was very gracious for them to offer us this spot.”
Last year, the Dogfish Head tent had been expanded in terms of overall footprint, but removed the air-conditioning element. Rainbow’s presence made the AC a near requirement, and the fans have been thankful for the addition. As of Friday afternoon, Red Frog officials estimated that more than 50,000 fans had visited the brewery tent, and with the perfect weather forecast the rest of the weekend, that number will likely double, if not triple.