What Dogfish Head Ales Can Teach You About Creating a Fun, Engaging Culture

Dogfish is a brewing company in Delaware that’s grown immensely over the years. In fact, they’re probably one of the bigger craft brewers in the US.

That didn’t happen by accident – Dogfish has done a great job of defining their culture so they attract “off-centered” people who are aligned with their core values… and repel people who aren’t.

Here are the core values they’ve laid out:

  1. Remembering that we’re incredibly lucky to create something fine that enhances people’s lives while surpassing our consumer’s expectations.
  2. Producing world-class beers.
  3. Promoting beer culture and the responsible enjoyment of beer.
  4. Kindling social, environmental, and cultural change as a business role model.
  5. Environmental stewardship: Honoring nature at every turn of the business.
  6. Cultivating potential through learning, high involvement culture, and the pursuit of opportunities.
  7. Balancing the myriad needs of the company, our coworkers and their families.
  8. Trusting each other and committing to authentic relationships and communications.
  9. Continuous, innovative quality and efficiency improvements.
  10. Having fun.

These core values give you a clear idea of where they’re coming from, and you can see them reflected in pretty much everything they do on their site (dogfish.com).

The copy itself, the look and feel of it, and even small little details like bottle openers for buttons and napkins for menus – all work to give you a picture of the kind of culture Dogfish represents. They’re fun and don’t take themselves too seriously.

What Dogfish Head Ales Can Teach You About Creating a Fun, Engaging Culture
What’s more, you can also see a really fun and engaging picture emerging of the kind of experience you can expect being at Dogfish. You get the impression that it’s more than just a business, it’s a way of being – the “Dogfish way.”

They also have a philanthropic branch called “Beer and benevolence”. That’s part of their Cause being tied together with their culture.

Because Dogfish is openly owning their quirky, off-center style, they’re able to do things that would seem strange, but actually fit them really well. Take a look at this copy, for example:

“Call us scattered, but we have a little more on our minds than beer, spirits and food… we’ll call them Tangents. They might seem a bit like diversions, but to us, these are as much a part of Dogfish Head as the malt and barley that brings you the beer.”

Then there are bizarre things like the Steampunk Treehouse they proudly display on their site. Originally conceived as a piece of art, the owner loved it, and then had it moved over to the brewery.

Strange? Yes. But it fits with their culture, and it attracts attention from the right people.

Then they do kayaking excursions they call “Pints & Paddles.” On the surface, that seems completely out of left field. The idea is to mix tasting beers with going paddling, and at the same time help provide awareness and support for the environment.

All of these things really tie-in nicely with their culture.

One of their main slogans is “Off-centered ales for off-centered people,” and you can see that reflected in everything they do.

Even the bios for their people are quirky and fun, and that makes for engaging copy. For example, “Nick is the Chief Executive Officer at Dogfish (geez, that sounds kinda official huh?!)”  It shows their fun, playful aspect to anyone who might be interested in doing business with them.

I also really like their approach to hiring. A big reason for defining your culture is to attract the people that you want and repel the people that you don’t.

Dogfish does that incredibly well:

“We’re always looking for off-centered rock stars to join our team. If you’re talented, hard-working, and fun… And you love off-centered-ness… Not to mention, beer… You’ll fit right in…”

It’s obvious they have a big sense of humor about what they do, and it really permeates through the entire culture. This is a great example of how to create a culture that’s totally unique to your business.

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