When I saw these new labels from FoDo, my initial reaction was, “it’s kind of soon for a rebranding isn’t it?” But as I looked over the new artwork, I began to believe that there was possibly more here than initially meets the eye.
The repeating pattern of these labels really strike me as beer can labels and at 7 x 5.25 in dimension, puts them at around the right size for can art. Still, they could be bottle labels, I guess we’ll see, but being able to soon pick up some FoDo beers in cans would be a nice thing.
And yes, FoDo beers, because for years Fordham and Dominion have kept the two brands independent of each other when it comes to their respective beers, each brewery having its own distinct style. But, notice that on these labels both brands are predominantly displayed together, not just in one place, but in two, with one of them echoing the branding that the breweries use on their merchandise and marketing.
As I wrote in last week’s post, I’ve changed up my beer drinking habits lately in an attempt to get back to the simple pleasure of enjoying beer, while stepping away from all the usual frenzied brand snatching I’ve tended to do over the past couple of years.
This time I want to talk about Fordham’s Rosie Parks Oyster Stout, a beer that is no stranger to me as I named it as one of my six picks for Brian Roth’s Six-Pack Project as well as making no apologies for declaring it in the past as one of my favorite beers brewed in Delaware.
This hangout happened on a bit of a whim as I was getting ready for our yearly St Paddy’s day celebration, mulling over the possibility of adding some oysters to the menu. I loved the idea, but wasn’t digging the added expense or possible hassle of finding good oysters at the last minute when I remembered that I’d seen this very metaphorical (but adequate) substitute on one of my locals’ shelves.
So spending nothing but a quick stop after work the next day, plus the price of a six pack and bingo – “oysters” for St Paddy’s day.
Of course there was plenty of Murphy’s and Guinness as well, but Rosie didn’t seem to mind hanging out with the boys. This was a short hangout, just a couple of days, but it was very pleasurable.
The St Paddy’s celebration? Well long time readers know that I’m a bit of a St Paddy’s Day snob due to some culture programing by a Irish Jedi. So every year we get together with the kids and rock some Irish inspired food, drink and music. I’ll embed a couple of songs we added to the playlist this year at the bottom of this post. For now, let’s talk beer – and a little something else.
As always click on a photo to enlarge and cycle through the gallery to read a little comment or two about each photo
Continious Bubbles – Always good.
Late breakfast is always bangers and mash, and a beer (don’t judge).
“Making a triumphant return, the Oyster Stout was formerly in the Fordham Brewing portfolio and retains a loyal group of followers. Containing Chesapeake Bay oysters and shells, contributing to a slight briny taste in the beer, this stout contains pale, torrified wheat, caramunich, roasted barley and chocolate malt. In addition, it is hopped with Bravo and Glacier hops. Black and 5.2% ABV, this beer is very distinctive.”
THE BUZZ: Ratebeer (3.18/5), Beer Advocate (3.55/5), Untappd (3.44/5)
DE AVAILABILITY: Most fine beer outlets.
ME: I’m going to admit, I didn’t really crawl into the glass during our celebration to re-analyze a beer I’ve had dozens of times. I simply enjoyed it throughout the day, which is what these types of reviews are all about. So let’s just go with my thoughts from my six-pack project post:
“Rosie is pure smooth drinking from front to back, with light chocolate and (even lighter) roasted notes, along with that kiss of mineral that comes from the added oyster shells. The finish is clean and not bitter (24 IBUs) and the after taste is simply a slight roastiness.”
Yeah. Seems right. Don’t let the oyster thing turn you off, this is one fine beer and was a nice change of pace from the traditional dry stouts poured throughout the day.
I’ve been changing my drinking habits lately. Running around trying to grab every beer that one has never tried is a young man’s game, and I just don’t seem to have the energy for it like I used to. And yes, you can do the logic problem and conclude that I’m not a young man anymore.
Instead, I’ve been grabbing some local beers off the shelf and just kind of hanging out with them. Whether it be a six pack over a long weekend, or a couple (or maybe three) over a period of a couple of weeks (or months). I’ve been just hanging out with the beer, kicking back, relaxing, experiencing it at different times and in different situations, while trying not to let too many other beers distract me.
What is this beer? Does it have a story? Does the story change over time?
Will this improve my reviews? Probably not. But they’ll be changing a bit as well as the wordy intros will probably be whittled down to a few words so that the review is more concise and quicker for you to read.
I also want to use this beer ‘quality time’ to take some photos of the beer and let you all have a peek at what the beer and I are doing in our lives. And the truth is, I’d rather be playing in Lightroom and Photoshop lately than writing long, rambling reviews.
So with that, let’s check out the first beer in this new format, Fordham Brewing’s Dilated Pupilz.
THEM: From the website – “Dilated Pupilz has a solid malt backbone and well balanced hop character. This golden pilsner showcases a distinct hop nose and malty flavor up front but finishes with a floral bitterness. A great beer to enjoy any time of the year.”
The grain bill includes Vienna and Caraform malts, while Bravo, Tradition and Saaz hops balance the load. Pupilz clocks in at 5.0%ABV and 38IBU.
THE BUZZ: Ratebeer (no ratings), Beer Advocate (one rating), Untappd (3.4)
DE AVAILABILITY: Most fine beer outlets.
ME: As you can see by the below photos I’ve been drinking this one for a little while now. I’ve found it mostly to be a beer that drinks pretty nice in most situations without demanding too much attention on itself.
When stored in my super turbo beer over-chiller (aka, my fridge) Pupilz has a clean nose and a just apparent malt taste with some classic Pilsner hop flavors. Every now and then the beer tosses me a citrusy/lemon notes towards the end, not sure if that’s really there, or if it’s my palate doing some of that slight-of-hand stuff that it does sometimes. The end is pretty crisp and doesn’t linger.
I wasn’t sure I liked this beer at first, but in the end it really started to grow on me. In fact, once I had everything I needed for this review, I found myself picking up one last six-pack – you know, just for the hell of it.
As always click on a photo to enlarge and cycle through the gallery to read a little comment or two about each photo.
Time for another beer.
Last major snow storm of the year – last major snow clean up.
Dilated Pupilz is just the name, not the side effects, but still drink responsibly.
Of course after the snow finally thawed it was time to start leaf detail.
A little simmerinig tomato sauce on a Sunday, along with a beer or two.
I was sad to hear that Bill Paxton passed away so I grabbed a beer and cued up one of my favorite movies.
A pleasant surprise finding them both at my local.
This post has been quite a while coming. As you may or may not know the Brewer’s Association awhile back released a list of breweries in the US that did not meet their definition of “craft brewery”, and of course, a little uproar ensued.
For those of you who are not aware of this, or really don’t see why people should care, let me fill you in.
The Brewer’s Association is the self-appointed watch dog of all things “craft beer”. In order to be labeled a “craft brewer” you have to meet a number of requirements set out in a multi-part definition that they have put forth. Requirements such as barrel output (size), types of ingredients used, and ownership.
Now that last one might seem a little strange but indeed, it matters to many people (and to the Brewer’s Association) who owns breweries that are trying to pass themselves off as “craft” breweries. And by definition, if your “craft brewery” is owned more than 25% by an entity that is itself NOT a craft brewery, than by the trickle-down theory of zymurgnomics you are non-craft.
Although I feel that the 25% number is a bit arbitrary, the reasoning behind this stipulation is pretty straight forward. The Brewer’s Association does not want big corporations swooping in and buying smaller craft breweries, changing things around and then trying to continue to pass them off as “craft breweries” to the unsuspecting public.
Again, if you know nothing about this situation the whole thing may seem pretty odd, but believe me there are many evil specters in this world that want to infiltrate your favorite small brewery and then, while you sleep soundly at night, replace your brewery’s six-packs with six-packs made under the guise of your brewery, but having a big corporation taint about them. Kind of like a craft beer changeling if you will. They look like your beer, cost like your beer, hell they may even taste like your beer, but there are people out there who can sense their malevolent aura liquor stores away. Like how a mother always knows which baby is not hers.
Or at least that’s what some people would have you believe.
The problem with approaching this situation from this perspective is that not all ownership partnerships are created equal.
[Author’s note: Since I wrote this article, AB snatched up Elysian Brewing to much outcry and now there are reports that they’re courting Cigar City]
And why should they? Although it is above the 25% limit the BA sets, 30% is far from a majority interest in the brewery. Add to that Founders co-founder and CEO Mike Stevens’ assurance to the craft beer world that “Founders will remain Founders”, and most people are probably willing to simply hold their breath and hope for the best.
And if nothing changes at Founders? Well isn’t that the more important concern we should be considering here? If Mahou San Miguel is willing to let the people at Founders run the brewery as they have in the past, does the ownership issue really matter? I guess it depends on your point of view.
Anyway, back to the list that the Brewer’s Association put out. I was of course curious to see who was on it, and see which aspect of the definition the offending brewery had broken (NOTE: Due to continued desire of the Brewer’s Association to not kick Sam Adams out of the sandbox, it’s never ‘size’). Of course, I never expected to see a brewery from Delaware on the list, let alone two. But there they were – Fordham Brewery and Old Dominion Brewery, under the umbrella company Coastal Brewing. Reason? “Brewery is owned 49% by AB InBev”.
What? That was news to me. Now granted, I wasn’t intimately familiar with the backgrounds of these two breweries (for clarification, while the breweries currently operate as separate entities with different packaging and portfolios, they share a single facility, brewing equipment, sales representatives and head brewer) but I never suspected that AB InBev had a large stake in their operations.
A quick internet search revealed that indeed, back in 2007 before the two breweries merged and moved to their current location in Dover, DE; Anheuser-Busch entered an agreement with the then Annapolis, MD based Fordham Brewing which did eventually give Anheuser-Busch (which hadn’t been bought up themselves yet) an apparent stake in the breweries. But I couldn’t find any reference or statements to back up the 49% asserted by the BA.
Not long after that, Fordham/Dominon Maryland representative Casey Hollingsworth tweeted that the breweries were not owned 49% by AB InBev and challenged the Brewer’s Association to “do their homework” (sadly I could not find this tweet using Twitter search to include in this post).
At that moment I thought, “Yeah, maybe someone should do that homework. And maybe that someone should be me.” But sadly, time passed and the idea of finding out what was really the truth concerning Coastal Brewing got pushed onto the back burner. And I’ve seen it stated several times since, but when someone recently posted the statement in a Facebook Group, I decided it was time to see if I could get some clarification concerning the matter.
I reached out to Fordham/Dominion through their website, and Jim Lutz, President/CEO of Coastal Brewing agreed to take some time to talk to me about his company’s relationship with AB InBev and (more importantly to me) the conglomerate’s dealings with the everyday operations of his company. And to help clarify the situation as much as possible, Jim invited Ryan Telle, VP of marketing for Coastal Brewing to join in on the conversation.
Jim began by filling me in on the back story of how AB InBev first came to acquire a stake of Coastal Brewing. [Author’s Note: Some of this information is on the Old Dominion Brewery Wikipedia page, but the page information was incomplete and out of date. Not really knowing about the page, Jim and Ryan said they’d look into updating it and in fact, Ryan must be updating in now, because I’ve notice that changes have been made to it as I’m writing this].
Back in 2007, Fordham Brewing and Ram’s Head Taverns owner Bill Muhlhauser entered an agreement with Anheuser-Busch, which at that point, gave AB a 49% stake in the brewery plus control of the brewery’s distribution.
Bill then reached out to purchase Old Dominion Brewing which owner Jerry Bailey had been trying to sell since the mid-2000s. Once the transaction was complete, Muhlhauser found himself in ownership (along with other partners) of both breweries, with AB still having a stake in the companies as well as the distribution rights to the breweries’ beers. So where does that arrangement stand today?
“In-Bev’s current stake in the two breweries is less than 40%,” Jim related.
OK, it would have been nice if it had been below 25% so we could have killed this thing dead once and for all, but as I said above, what was more important to me was to find out what that truly meant to the day-to-day operations of Coastal Brewing.
Did they have input in the recipes that head-brewer Dan Lauder formulates for the two breweries, brewing philosophy, or marketing direction? What exactly is Coastal Brewing’s obligations to AB InBev because they have an approximately 40% stake in the company?
“We send them a financial report every month,” Jim stated.
Really? No quarterly meetings with AB Inbev where you have to present a ridiculously huge slide deck laying out all your business and marketing strategies for the coming year?
“In the years I’ve been here (Jim came over from Flying Dog in January of 2011) I’ve only met with the AB InBev people twice, both times in New York City. In fact, the two people I met with no longer work for AB InBev.”
So at the moment Jim wouldn’t know anyone from AB InBev if they walking into his office? “I wouldn’t know them from Adam.”
Ryan echoed that statement, “In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve never talked with anyone from AB inBev.”
Of course I really wanted to nail this point home so when I asked if an entity that owns close to 40% of a business operation doesn’t at least check in every now and then, the assurance was quick, “No.” Jim would then go on to add, “AB InBev has never stepped inside the brewery.”
In fact, since the years that have followed their initial agreement, Coastal has worked to distance themselves even further from AB InBev by reacquiring the distribution part of the business. “We now have the ability to go into any state and negotiate with all distributors until we find the one that we feel will serve us the best,” Jim said. “When we went into New Jersey, we chose a non-AB InBev distributor. When we pulled out of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama because we felt it didn’t make sense for us to be there, WE made that decision.”
I asked Jim how he felt about the Brewer’s Association and the fact that his breweries would never be considered craft under their current definitions. It was here that Jim’s passion for what Coastal Brewing has accomplished really came through. “I’m sure they have to draw a line for a definition. The managing board meets and they need to have a definition. It’s a shame. We pay our dues to the Brewer’s Association. We’ve won craft beer medals. We won a Gold medal in the 2014 World Beer Cup. We won a Silver medal at this year’s GABF. But if they don’t want to acknowledge us a ‘craft’ well…”
Winding up the interview I wanted to ask a few other questions that I myself was interested in knowing the answer to, after all it’s not every day I get to talk to the CEO and Marketing VP of one of Delaware’s major breweries. Having recently noticed some changes in the social media concerning the two breweries and the wording on the new packaging of one of the breweries, I asked if we had officially come to the time when we could drop the “OLD” from “Old Dominion.”
“Oh, yes,” Jim responded.
Ryan added, “We’ve recently consolidated the two brewery’s websites into one site. We’ve started using ‘FoDo’ as a marketing designation and everyone who works for us has it in front of their names on Twitter.”
So is there any chance of this on going consolidation including the two brewery’s portfolios in the future? “No, we’ll be keeping them separate as they are two different [brewing philosophies],” Jim replied. “Fordham is more sessionable, while Dominion is where we brew bolder beers.”
Regrettably, I walked away from this interview feeling less than totally satisfied. The bottom line is that until such time as the ownership agreement changes, Fordham and Dominion will not be considered “craft” by the Brewer’s Association. And that’s sad, because they are two fine breweries that in every other way, symbolize what it means to be a “craft brewer”.
But armed with the fact that AB InBev has no input into the day-to-day operations of the breweries, and that Fordham’s Rosie Parks Oyster Stout and Dominion’s Double D IPA are two of my favorite beers brewed in Delaware – that’s “craft” enough for me. Especially when you take into consideration that I’ve never liked using the word “craft” to describe a brewery anyway. But that’s another post.
I’d like to thank both Jim Lutz and Ryan Telle for taking some of their valuable time to talk to me.
Well this is a first here at tDoB. I posted a preview of Hogs and Hops on Friday, attended the event on Saturday and here I am today posting the rundown only a few days later. Usually I’m no where near this on the ball. Oh, and as a TOTAL aside, this is my 200th post. Anyway, as I said in my preview, a lot has changed since the inaugural event last year.
First, let me say that although it is a little bit more of a drive for us, the new digs at Harrington were awesome. Plenty of room for the competitors, the food/beverage trucks and the vendors; plus a huge open field in front of a good sized bandstand. We got there a little bit before they could start serving/pouring so after we surveyed the area, we decided to take a moment to walk down the BBQ truck line and see what everyone had to offer.
Soon it was time for the event to start so we checked out the three beer trucks to see who had what on tap. I started with an Old Dominion MonkCzech and Tracey started with a Fordham Wisteria Wheat.
With beer in hand we strolled around the venue and checked out the vendors. We finally got the chance to meet Cindy Small of the Kent County & Greater Dover, Delaware Convention and Visitors Bureau, who were there promoting their up coming Delaware Wine and Beer Festival. I’ve done some promoting for Cindy, but this is the first time we’d met. It was great to relax a bit and get to talk about the up coming festival. But soon it was time for lunch. VIP ticket holders were served a BBQ platter from Mr. BAR-B-CUE which consisted of two out of three choices: brisket, whole hog pork or ribs. I told you I’d see that hog later.
It wasn’t long before the bandstand got rocking, as Tyler Toliver and perennial local favorites Love, Seed, Mamma, Jump supplied the music for the afternoon and early evening. Entertainment was also provided by the folks from Cowboy Up Saloon, who not only set up a fine tent, but got some of the crowd up for country line dance lessons and demonstrations in between sets.
“Pit row” as I like to call it was fun as always. As first all we could do was enjoy the smell of smoke wood in the air, and drool over all the different equipment that the teams brought (we were asked not to bother the teams until turn-ins were done). I always enjoy checking out the teams’ equipment, because you never know when you might see something you’ve never seen before.
And of course, many of them used the opportunity to show off.
But after last turn-in we walked through again and got to stop and talk to a few of the pitmasters including George and Kim Przybylski from Bang Bang BBQ, last year’s Hogs and Hops second place finisher in points. I asked them how they liked the bigger event. “I love bigger events,” George commented. “I normally don’t do small events, I just gave it a try last year. And this year’s just the beginning. This year he [Mark Hoffman, event coordinator] had to keep it small due to the KCBS sanctioning, but next year the sky’s the limit.”
Soon it was the time everyone was waiting for, the awards presentations. The field topped out at 45 BBQ teams from the surrounding area and as far away as North Carolina. The event consisted of four meat turn-ins: chicken, pork, ribs and brisket. The top ten in each category were awarded, along with reserve champion (second place all around points) and grand champion (first place). The Mid Atlantic BBQ Association was on hand as well to award the highest placed team from Delaware as “Delaware State Champion”.
When I asked event coordinator Mark Hoffman about the turn out, he indicated that he was happy with the numbers, “We estimate attendance to be around 3500 at this point but we won’t know final numbers for a week or two.” Of course being a beer guy, I couldn’t help but ask about what got poured out the three beer trucks and the on-field beer bar, “It looks like we burned through about 45 barrels [ETA: I believe he meant half-kegs] of beer, about the same as last year. That may be because we had the wine option with Fenwick wine cellars this year.”
For the most part I think Hogs and Hops surpassed itself in just about every way when compared to last year. But there was one feature of the event last year that I (and several other people I talked to) sorely missed. “We could not do a peoples choice this year due to health [department] regulations on contests like ours,” said Mark when I asked him about the missing Peoples Choice Award from last year. However, Mark recognizes how much people enjoyed that aspect of the event last year and although he knew he couldn’t implement it this year, he had already been formulating a plan to bring it back. “But we are working on something for next year already where teams would turn in a tray [of] pulled pork and WE would serve 1/2 oz cups and you vote for your favorites,” he told me. “It was just too late in the planning stage to add that in this year but we are already trying to develop that system for next year.”
And if everything works out, we’ll be there next year. After all, what dog doesn’t love a BBQ festival?
Last year I had the pleasure of attending the first annual Hogs and Hops (H&H) beer event and BBQ competition hosted by Fordham Brewery and Old Dominion under the shadow of their brewery itself. And it didn’t take but a couple of hours of sipping on a beer while walking through the rows of smokers, the aroma of hickory, apple and other smoke woods wafting in the breeze; for this to become my favorite annual event. Yeah, that’s right. The event struck a chord with me almost immediately.
And apparently I wasn’t the only one. Event founder Mark Hoffman organized what I’m sure he considered going into that Saturday to be a very successful event. Hogs and Hops was designed as a combination beer event and competition BBQ whose proceeds benefited the local FOP’s emergency relief fund. Twenty-four BBQ teams signed up to compete and advanced tickets sales were brisk, topping out at approximately 1000. So no doubt Mark was sure they had succeeded in generating a good buzz about the event. Then suddenly (and admittedly not so suddenly) something happened.
The day of the event walk-up sales quickly reached the advanced sales, doubling the crowd and causing the event to outgrow its venue in the first year, which resulted in the competition being moved to the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington. The crowd consumed 44 half kegs of beer and made it obvious that more beer trucks would be needed to alleviate the long lines (although to be fair, I didn’t think they were that bad). Not long after the event, Mark reached out to the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) and was able to get the event sanctioned as an official KCBS event, only the second such event in the state of Delaware. Governor Markell then signed a proclamation back in May designating Hogs and Hops as a Delaware State Championship barbecue event, again only the second in the state.
This Saturday, marks the second annual Hogs and Hops and the event looks amazing. The competition field has almost doubled to the event’s maximum (KCBS set the limit at 50), drawing BBQ competition teams from the Mid-Atlantic region and several from other parts of the US. Fordham and Old Dominion are again supplying the beer this year, tapping Rams Head Ipa, Victory Lager, Copperhead Ale, Spiced Harvest Ale, Wisteria Wheat, Morning Glory Espresso Stout, Double D Ipa, Gigi’s Farmhouse Ale, Monk Czeck, Oak Barrel Stout, Octoberfest and for the kids and designated drivers, Old Fashioned Root Beer. Because of regulations, the people’s choice award got shelved (hopefully only for this year), but VIP ticket holders will still get a chance to try competition BBQ in the form of food presented by Milford, Delaware competition team Mr. BAR-B-QUE.
But they aren’t the only team representing Delaware this weekend (some teams had very little if any website or social media presence so if I’ve inadvertently missed someone, I’m sorry). TFFBBQ (Wilmington), Big Bang BBQ (also Wilmington, last year’s H&Hs 1st in ribs and 2nd overall), Slower Lower BBQ (Milton), Pigheaded BBQ (Middletown), Gone Hoggin’ (Bear, who I’ll be rooting for because in their Bios they list their favorite competition food as “beer”) along with That Guy BBQ and Rub Me Tender BBQ (both from Smyrna) will be hoping to cook their way into H&H’s first Grand Championship. And why not? The highest scoring team from Delaware will be named Delaware BBQ Team of the Year by the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association (MABA). On top of that, due to the sanctioning by the KCBS and Governor Markell’s proclamation, the Hogs and Hops winner (regardless of state) will represent Delaware at the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg, Tenn. Well not this year. And maybe not next year. Or the next.
See, as I said Hogs and Hops is the second KCBS event and the second Delaware State Championship barbecue event. The first is the Middletown BBQ Cook-Off which just celebrated its fourth year and attracts over 50 competition teams. Because of its solo State Championship status over the last three years (as well as this year, I guess they figured it wasn’t fair to do it this year since Markell signed the proclamation only weeks before the winner of Middletown was crowned) the winner of the Middletown Cook-Off was the undisputed representative of Delaware at Lynchburg. But starting next year, the winning teams from Middletown and Hogs and Hops will compete for the honor of representing our state. What will that competition entail? I don’t know right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it involves some large chunks of meat and some smoke.
One person who is probably very aware of the situation is David Marks, owner of the Famous Dave’s BBQ Restaurant franchise and pitmaster for Wilbur’s Revenge BBQ Team, this year’s Middletown Grand Champion. Dave’s team will be on hand at Hogs and Hops and no doubt would love to walk away with a second Grand Championship, a claim to the undisputed Delaware BBQ Champion title (that doesn’t exist but it should!) and set the tone for next year’s round of competitions.
But he’s not the only big dog in the yard. There’s a lot of great teams in the field this year, including 3 EYZ BBQ (2012 KCBS and MABA Team of the Year, current MABA points leader for 2013 Team of the Year) led by Dan Hixon; two time Pennsylvania State Champions LO’ N SLO’ BBQ led by Tom Perelka; and Hawg Nation (Pennsylvania state brisket champions three years running and MABA Team of the Year for brisket in 2012) led by Michael Czajka.
So Saturday I’ll be strolling around rows of smokers again. The smell of smoke wood permeating the air (and my hair, it will probably take a shower or two to get it all out), sipping on a cold beer and discussing BBQ with some very knowledgeable competitive pitmasters (we’ve been asked to hold back from talking with the competitors this year until 3:00 due to the later turn in time from last year. I have a suspicion that the real party will start at 3:15). It probably would inspire me to do a little smoking myself on Sunday, if my smoker hadn’t nearly collapsed to the deck during my last smoking session.
But that’s another post.
Good luck to all the competitors on Saturday, I’m sure you’ll do Delaware proud. And to Mark, Fordham and Old Dominion Breweries, all the volunteers and sponsors; thanks again for putting on an amazing event. See you there!
Delaware. Or as some people like to joke, DelaWHERE? My own little 2,490 square mile slice of craft beer USA that a lot of people just can’t seem to figure out. A bizarre contour that allows me to visit three other states (NJ, MD, PA) by traveling only 20 minutes from where I live, but yet I could get to Max’s Taphouse in Baltimore to enjoy a DFH beer quicker than I could drive down to the brewpub in Rehobeth to drink one (and depending on traffic, some days I could make Blind Tiger in NYC faster as well). The state that brought you George Thorogood, Dallas Green, “Sugar Ray” Leonard, Valerie Bertinelli, our current Vice-President Joe Biden (I leave you to decide if you should be thanking us for that), and more Du Ponts than you can fling a Teflon frying pan at.
I would tell people all the time that from a craft beer perspective, Delaware was a pretty great place to live. Washington, Baltimore and NYC with all their breweries and craft beer bars are only day trips away. Pennsylvania has a nice collection of brewers dotted over its south-east corner, all within a short distance. But within the last 15 or so years, Delaware has been slowly building into to craft beer force of its own. We now claim home to industry giant Dogfish Head, to Argilla Brewing, which head brewer Steve Powell started in a family pizza business with a 1.5 barrel system – to everything in between.
Oh, we’ve stumbled along the way. Marty Haugh worked hard to get the laws changed in Delaware so that he could open up the state’s first microbrewery Rockford Brewing, only to see the business not take hold, and sadly eventually close. Brandywine Brewing flourished for awhile, even opening a second location in the heart of Wilmington only to eventually fall by the way side. Downtown Brewing came and went.
But as the resurgence of craft beer began, establishments did start to take a major foot hold. Stewarts Brewing survived and still enjoys a healthy business today, recently celebrating their 18th birthday. Iron Hill started what would soon become a 9 location mini-chain in Newark. Old Dominion and Fordham joined forces to become a major brewing entity in Dover. Twin Lakes, Evolution and 16-Mile all opened and remain active. And when Evolution stepped over the state line into Maryland, 3rd Wave filled the void it created, literally moving into Evolution’s old building. And right now, Mispillion River and Smokestack Lightening are working hard at their start-up breweries.
Yes, I think from a craft beer perspective Delaware is a pretty nice place to live. So when Bryan over at This Is Why I’m Drunk asked me to participate in his Six-Pack Project, I gladly accepted. The format is very simple. I’m tasked with creating a “Delaware Craft Beer” six-pack. The beers should best represent Delaware brewing and her culture. I can only select shelf product – meaning no keg-only beers. The shelf product can be any form or size I wish. Current seasonals are OK, but in general they’re discouraged. Sound easy? Let’s find out.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking “well of course he’s going to include DFH”. Guilty, although I’m going with this beer for a reason. Delaware is know as the “First State”, and Delawareans hold that description very dearly. It was the first state to ratify the United States Constitution (which is where the nickname comes from), it was the first state to fly the Stars and Strips, held the first beauty contest, introduced the first Christmas Seals, passed the first Coastal Zone Act and (to my knowledge) the first state to tell another state to go F*@& itself (sorry PA, nothing but love for you).
So with that in mind, any discussion of Delaware beer should include Shelter Pale Ale, as it was the first beer brewed by Sam Calagione at his Rehoboth Beach brewpub. But sadly, DFH apparently not longer bottles Shelter Pale Ale, which is fine because I want to talk about 90 Minute IPA anyway. Although it seems a little backwards, 90M IPA proceeded it’s thirty minute shorter brother 60M IPA onto the market by two years, making it the first (there’s that word again) in what would be DFH’s continuously hopped series. The concept that started it was simple, continually introduce hops throughout the 90 minute boil. Oh, and just to keep the theme going, have it clock in at 90 IBUs and 9.0%ABV. The fact that this beer has a mixture of hops continuously added to it for 90 minutes (plus dry hopping) would make one think that this thing is just hop water. Don’t buy it. Not for a second. It is…ah, I don’t want to say it…hop forward, with notes of citrus and resin in the nose and flavor. But there’s enough malt to balance everything out, and dangerously hide the 9% ABV. I’ve always thought the continuously hopped beers had a smoothness to them. A mouth feel on the palette that borders on creamy. There’s a slight hop prick (which is about four notches below a burn) in the cheeks and a crisp, lingering finish. An IPA lovers IPA .
One of the beliefs the Brewer’s Association has about craft breweries is that “Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism, and sponsorship of events.”
In this regard Delaware Craft Breweries (along with beer bars) excel.
– Fordam/Old Dominion partner every year for Hogs and Hops which last year raised $15,000 for the local FOP’s emergency relief fund.
– Argilla Brewing partnered with BELVEDERE FIRE CO during their Fall Festival to help raise funds for the local fire company.
– Twin Lakes host The Wilmington Burger Battle which benefits the Emmanuel Dining Room a local program that feeds the needy.
– Two Stones Pub hosts the “Giving on Tap” which benefits the local Meals on Wheels program.
In that tradition I offer you Responders Ale. Brewed by 16-Mile Brewery (which gets its name because it’s Georgetown location is 16 miles from anywhere in the county it resides in) an English styled ale with a touch of wheat that is clean and drinkable, with notes of hay and citrus. I’m not going to lie, this beer isn’t going to blow you away with it’s light biscuit/cracker base and mild, but balance hops, but it’s nicely constructed, and has a very pleasant aftertaste. In the spirit of the BA’s statement, $3 from every case and $5 from every keg of Responders Ale is donated to the National Fallen Fire Fighers Foundation.
With the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball team, The University of Delaware football team, and two major NASCAR events; Delawareans are no strangers to tailgating. And although we may not be spoken in the same breath as Kansas City, Memphis, etc; we’re no slouches when it comes to the backyard cookout or barbecue either.
But as everyone knows, when you get your friends together for some grill/cookout type food, you should have a good beer to go with it. Enter Greenville Pale Ale. The beer, brewed with American 2-row along with cascade hops presents itself as a pretty straight forward pale ale, but has a slight spiciness that I think makes it an awesome food beer, whether you’re serving hotdogs, burgers, crabs, shrimp, or pulled pork. It’s probably not going to go toe-to-toe with huge, deep BBQ sauces, but really, does it need to? Sometimes you just need something to cleanse your palette with before your next bite of ribs or BBQ chicken. I’ll admit, I’ve been drinking the crap out of this beer all summer. Twin Lakes was also nice enough to package Greenville in the tailgate friendly can. Bottle snob? Get over it.
Ok, so I’m going to cross into Bryan’s “it’s OK, but I really wish you wouldn’t” territory. But I think with good reason. It’s summer as I write this, and in Delaware summer for many people means one thing – beaches. Every weekend all summer long, thousands of people brave the congestion that is “beach traffic” to claim their own small spot on our sandy shores – whether it’s in Rehoboth, Bethany, Dewey or Lewes. Many go for the sunshine and salt water, many go for the night life, and some just go for the Grotto Pizza (where Tracey slaved her summer, college youth away), Thrashers Fries and Snyders Candy.
And of course, everyone needs a good beach beer. Why not Old Dominion Brewing’s Beach House Golden Pilsner? A Bohemian style Pilsner, brewed with Tettanger, Perle, and Saaz hops, this beer has an awesome crispness in the back that is really the highlight. The nose is subdued, with a slight touch of grassy hops and what comes across to me as honey. The malt is there, light, almost bready. Plainly said, this is a rock solid pilsner, and is a perfect beer for washing the beach heat out of your mouth. It probably would also go well with a slice of Grotto’s pizza.
If Stouts represented the Baldwin family of actors, than the oyster stouts would be the youngest (the first record of oysters used in the brewing a stout was until 1929) brother Stephen. Good, serviceable, and for some reason someone that no one thinks of until they see him and go, “oh yeah”. Many people cringe at this style and really shouldn’t. When done properly oyster stouts are smoother, less dry than their well known brothers and are just a pleasure to drink. And Fordham’s is done properly.
Rosie Parks (which is named after a legendary skipjack that once dredged for oysters on the Chesapeake Bay) is built on a grain bill of CaraMunich, Wheat, Chocolate, and Roast; and hopped with Bravo and Glacier. Rosie is pure smooth drinking from front to back, with light chocolate and (even lighter) roasted notes, along with that kiss of mineral that comes from the added oyster shells. The finish is clean and not bitter (24 IBUs) and the after taste is simply a slight roastiness. This is one of my favorite styles of beer and I happen to know that it’s also a favorite of Michael Stiglitz, owner of Two Stones Pub. So I think that puts me in good company. The skipjack Rosie Parks is currently being renovated by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
And that leaves me with one more. Oh yeah, I could give you another DFH beer, but let’s be honest, if you ever get to my little state they will probably be on your list anyway (and to that end I recommend Theobroma, Hellhound on My Ale, Chateau Jiahu, and any of the continuously hopped beers, especially 120-Minute if you can find it). So instead I’m going to suggest a beer that you might actually walk past, but definitely should not.
A while back, Old Dominion released a beer called GiGi’s Farmhouse Ale. The beer was only distributed in 22oz bottles and as a nod of these size bottles being known as “bomber bottles”, OD’s label artwork payed homage to the old pin-up woman and bomber-nose paintings of World War Two. Soon, Double D IPA and Morning Glory (an espresso stout) joined the line up. The beers were so well received that OD released Double D and Morning Glory in 12oz six-packs, and later bottled GiGi’s in 12oz bottles to include it with the other two as part of a “Pin-up 12-pack”. GiGi’s will be replaced in September with Candi, a Belgian Tripel.
Double D IPA is built on Pale, Munich and Chocolate Malts, and hopped with Zythos, Crystal, Citra and Bravo. The beer has a light floral/grapefruit nose. The taste is well balanced, with the hops slightly out front, but it’s probably close enough to be a photo finish. The hops are again grapefruity, a touch of rind, and some pine that builds up after a bit. The 90 IBUs gives you a light kiss at the end, but nothing harsh, or creepy. Double D manages to hide it’s 10% ABV pretty well. So mark her “D” for dangerous.
Double D is solidly constructed and a damn fine IPA. If you get a chance to pass through our state, don’t miss the chance to pick her and her sisters up. You’ll be glad you did.
I’d like to thank Bryan for asking me to be a participant in his Six-Pack Project. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing what everyone else has written about their respective states. If you’re new to my blog, I hope you stick around. I will be focusing on Dogfish Head beers all through August. If not, thanks for stopping by anyway, and I encourage you to check out the rest of this month’s Six-Pack contributors:
If you live in this area, or more so in the Annopolis, MD area, you’re probably aware that Rams Head Tavern and Fordham Brewing are pretty much joined at the hip. Rams Head owner Bill Muhlhauser owns a stake in the now Dover, Delaware located brewery and Fordham beers can pretty much be considered the “house beers” of the tavern.
It was with this knowledge that I stood in my kitchen looking at my bottle of Fordham’s new Rams Head IPA with my head tilted, much like that of my editor as he watches me take cookies out of a package. Has Fordham really never had an IPA in their catalog before? Have they never used the term “Rams Head” in association with one of there beers before? It struck me as odd, that they’ve wait so long to make what appears to be such an obvious connection from a branding standpoint. Then I went to open the beer. Are all Fordham beers screw tops? How unobservant have I been? What other things in the world have I missed because of my lack of attention?
AHHHH! Ok, maybe walking around in a kalnienkic hazy isn’t a bad thing. So let’s focus what little attention I have to the beer at hand, Fordham’s Rams Head IPA.
THEM: Rams Head is built on a grain bill of pale, munich and rye (interesting) malts. A combination of Bravo, Chinook and Motueka hops are added to give the beer its hop flavor and balance the beer out at 75IBUs. The beer clocks in at 7.5%.
A triploid aroma type developed by New Zealand’s HortResearch. This hop was bred by crossing a New Zealand breeding selection (2/3) with Saazer parentage (1/3). First selected by a notable Belgian brewery lead to this variety being called Belgian Saaz and later shortened to “B” Saaz so as not confuse country of origin.
Ahhhh, go ask Scott what it means.
ME: I’m going to say right off the bat that this is a pretty good IPA. There are no surprises here. The aroma is pretty straight forward with citrus (grapefruit/slight lemon), floral and pine notes that carry over into the flavor. The hop flavor isn’t overly aggressive, this is a pretty easy sipping beer. It starts clean in the front with the hops coming up in the middle. I would have liked a little more malt support but that’s just how I like my IPAs, not a knock on this beer. The finish is clean, a little lingering “bitter rind” hop that stays with you and gives your mouth a little water. Rams Head is an attractive beer in the glass as well. After the initial white, fluffy head dissipates, A steady vortex of bubbles rise up to support about a quarter inch of white foam on the top and the generous coating of lace that was left on the glass after every sip. In my glass it starts as a shade lighter then yellow at the bottom, ends at the top in a nice orange. The over all balance is enough to hide the 7.5%ABV.
The New Zealand Hops page says that lemon (and lime) are not uncommon flavors with Motueka hops. Sounds interest. I’ll be keeping my eye open for more beers with this hop in it. As for Rams Head, I think local hop heads are going to like it. It’s a solid IPA.
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.