MILTON, Del. (AP) — Jeff Gordon may as well have been any average sports fan, sliding up to the bar and ordering a beer.
But for a guy who has mastered winemaking as well as he has winning races, Gordon needed a remedial course on the finer points of handling a cold one.
"Do you smell the beer like you do with wine," Gordon asked.
He raised the glass to his nose, inhaled the fruity complexity and pungent hoppiness of a Dogfish Head 61, and started to drink.
One sip turned into two sips. And with a few more swigs, Gordon was suddenly the Delaware version of TV barfly Norm Peterson.
"I could drink this all day," Gordon said, to the delight of the Dogfish Head staff.
Gordon has been soaked in champagne in Victory Lane three times this season. He's sipped wine from his private stock at Jeff Gordon Cellars.
After a personal tour of one of the top craft breweries in the business, Gordon was willing to make 24 stand for more than the number on his car — he could use a case of the good stuff to lug back to North Carolina.
"I think I have a new appreciation for a good beer," Gordon said, laughing.
Gordon has had plenty of hops in his step this year, enjoying a career renaissance with Hendrick Motorsports that has him with three wins and a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. He's coming off a win Sunday at Michigan International Speedway that thrust him to the top of the points standings. Gordon, who fueled retirement talk at the Daytona 500, has backtracked from any thoughts about hanging up the helmet.
He looks every bit a title contender — and his cars are as stout as some of the dark, roasty and complex beers Dogfish stirs up.
"I feel like we're the best team," Gordon said Wednesday.
So do the folks at Dogfish Brewery.
Gordon toured the brewery (with beer in hand) and lunched at the brewpub (complete with a five-beer sampling flight) to promote the Sept. 28 race at Dover International Speedway.
Dogfish is widely considered the top of the field, the Jimmie Johnson of the east coast craft beer scene. It's No. 1 and always the beer to beat. Victory Brewing, Yards Brewing and Flying Fish would make up the rest of what could be considered the Hendrick Motorsports of craft beers.
Gordon seemed as interested in the ingredients that go into brewing beers as most fans would be at an inside racing tour at the Hendrick shop.
Forget fuel tanks. Tanks and tanks of beers, enough to satisfy the palate of all the race fans at Dover, filled the brewery.
Dogfish founder Sam Calagione led Gordon on a personal tour of the complex and they startled the rest of the public who had their routine stroll turn into so much more. Many fans were left with their mouths agape when the four-time NASCAR champion walked by with his safety goggles on.