There’s an old Irish sing-along song entitled “Mary Mac” which has the following verse:
Now Mary and her mother go an awful lot together
In fact you hardly see the one with out the other
People wonder if it is Mary or her mother
Or the pair of them together that I’m courtin’
The confusion alluded to in the above verse can somewhat apply to two Delaware breweries that seem to go an awful lot together; Fordham Brewing and Old Dominion Brewing. As the verse says, you do hardly see one with out the other, in the proper settings that is. You’ll almost always see Fordham and Dominion sharing a tent at local festivals. And this isn’t a coincidence or plot concocted by the people who do the tent assignments; no, the two breweries actually share a permanent common tent.
In fact at the recent Hogs and Hops event at Fordham Brewery, they had a beer truck with Fordham taps on one side and Dominion taps on the other. Luckily Old Dominion didn’t have that far to bring their beers, they just brought them out of the Fordham brewery, where they brew them. Or is it the other way around? No wonder I get the question, “are they the same brewery?” every now and then.
The answer is simple (I think), according to WIKI, Jerry Bailey founded Old Dominion in 1989, and sold it in 2007 to Fordham Brewery financed in part by Anheuser-Busch, forming the umbrela company Coastal Brewing. Leading up to 2009, both breweries consolidated operation, closed certain unprofitable operations and moved into a new facility in Dover, Delaware. The fall out of all this was that several brands brewed by Old Dominion including Tuppers’ Hop Pocket and multiple GABF medal winner New River Pale Ale were ceased. Jim Lutz (former VP of sales and marketing at Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, MD), took over as the new President and CEO of Coastal Brewing in 2011 and has been over seeing the breweries every since.
But that’s where the connection ends. Both breweries run separate social media sites and focus on unique brands marketing them independently of each other. In this review we’ll focus on one of those offerings, Old Dominion Brewing’s winter brew, Baltic Porter. Let’s taste.
THEM: Baltic Porter is built on German Pilsner, Crystal and Dark Specialty malts. A “touch” of rye is added to round out the grain bill. The brewery doesn’t state what hops are used for bitterness or give any other information about the beer besides ABV, but interestingly the bottle does give this description “Baltic Porter is a bottom-fermented lager…”. Traditionalists would rail at this, but the practice has been common post-prohibition amongst large US breweries whose beers are largely bottom yeast based. In fact, some breweries use additives like Siminar (a dark cereal extract) or porterine (an additive which Yuengling was suspected of using in its Porter) to darken lighter recipes to get a “porter” or “dunkel” style beer. Since Old Dominion specifies Dark Specialty malts in their recipe, I doubt that the brewery is using any of this devil-witchery on Baltic Porter. As for the use of lager yeast, well I’ll leave that to the style police to debate.
ME: The beer pours dark with a nice tan colored head. The nose is light, with a nice malt profile as well as a hint of chocolate. The first sip displays a nice mouth feel with some nice chocolate and toffee flavors up front, and ending in a clean finish. After a bit, the beer began to leave a pleasant stickiness in my mouth that helped round out the experience while drinking. I didn’t get any hint of the dryness you usually get from rye in this beer, but I’m sure it adds to the balance of flavor in some respect.
There really isn’t much to say about this beer, which I think is to its benefit. Dominion resisted the urge to take their “winter brew” down the road of over stuffed, candy spiced confections that so many breweries line the shelves with this time of year; and just brewed a descent porter. It may not be as big as some of the other Baltic porters out there, but with its depth of flavor and 6.8% ABV, Baltic Porter is certainly no wall flower either. It is an accessible, very drinkable beer you could easily enjoy next to fire on a cold winter’s night.
Time for another beer.