In this interview, Mariah Draper Calagione, Brown University class of 1993, talks about her path to attending Brown, her journey in co-founding Dogfish Head Brewing, and how the company evolved to meet community needs during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Calagione begins by sharing her family background. She describes her parents’ educational and career backgrounds, noting that her father was a member of Brown University’s class of 1964. She remembers applying to many universities, but sending several letters to Brown imploring them to take her off the waitlist. She explains that Brown’s size, urban setting, and open curriculum are what most appealed to her.
Calagione goes on to describe her interest in public policy and the media and how that led to an internship and her first job after college at WPRI, a local news network. She recalls how her then-boyfriend, now husband, started home-brewing beer during that same time and then set out to open a brewery. She details their process of trying to start the business in Providence and deciding to relocate to Delaware, her home state. At the time of this interview, the company was celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The conversation turns to the COVID-19 global pandemic when Calagione remembers first learning about the virus through her volunteer work on the board of Northfield Mount Hermon School – a school she, her husband, and their children attended. She describes taking a trip to Costa Rica with her daughter in early March 2020 and returning to the United States just as restrictions and safety precautions emerged. She talks about making the difficult decision to close the consumer-facing locations of Dogfish Head Brewing ahead of Delaware’s state mandates and then transitioning their consumer-facing workerforce to instead assist in the production of sanitizer. Dogfish Head took these steps in addition to maintaining rigorous health and safety protocols in the distillery, which continued beer production throughout the pandemic. She describes how initially the draft beer business vanished when restaurants closed but explains that beer sales remained steady.
Calagione closes her interview by insisting that there is a light at the end of the tunnel with states gradually reopening. She adds, “it’s been cool to see the way that leadership has evolved in different institutions and Brown has been a great example of that.”