Saturday, October 29, 2011

Old Dominion - Living the Root Beer Dream (factory tour and onsite review)

During my brewery tour extravaganza in the greater Philadelphia area I was very much looking forward to my very last stop of the tour. The Old Dominion Brewery is located south of Philly in Dover, Delaware.

I was already a fan of Dominion Root Beer from way back in the late 1990's when a friend of mine brought me a case from his home state of Virginia. Back in those days Dominion was actually brewed in Virginia and used local honey as a way to secure a very distinguished taste. I was very interested to see if this relocated brew had maintained that very distinguished flavor.

I quickly learned that in fact that Virginia Honey was easily maintained because they simply ship that same local honey all the way to Delaware in 5 gallon buckets. I also learned that the move occurred in 2009 soon after Jerry Bailey passed his brewing torch to the current owners. Jerry began way back 1989 when he first started experimenting with home brew kits (of the other beer) and quickly began dreaming about having his own brew pub. That dream became reality and Jerry not only had his own brew pub but he established a renowned brewery.

One tradition that the new owners of Old Dominion maintained was that constant search for a better brew. Their root beer (along with many of their other beers) have gone through a host of changes and improvements over the years. The current recipe of their root beer is believed to be their best yet. Two ingredients have remained the same however, that Virginia honey and pure cane sugar. They still refuse to use HFCS.

During my tour of the brewery I personally witnessed how all their root beer magic happens. It begins in this very large mixing vat where the honey and sugar are mixed with water. From here the mix is sent to even larger vats where the brew master carefully regulates the chemical soundness of the formula.

It was certainly an awesome experience to watch the brew master at work. I wished Mike could have been with me, he would have had really good questions to ask. Me, well I just stood and stared with amazement in my eyes....

Once the mix has reached its optimal goodness it is passed down the line where the root beer extract and carbonation is added. From there it is forced into long neck amber bottles and into Cornelius kegs. While watching this amazing fast process I was told that at this brewery, despite them having so many "other beer" varieties, root beer reigns king. They bottle/keg more root beer than any of their other selections!

Having thoroughly enjoyed my tour it was then time to truly investigate the issue at hand. I grabbed a cold standard from my car and they provided me a six-pack straight off the line and the root beer review began.

My first impression was the divine sweetness Dominion carried. The honey was subtle, and the cane sugar strong, together providing a perfected delectable introduction to this dreamy root beer. I was surprised by the subtle bite that grabbed me and softly landed me into a bed of tantalizing root beer extract. The flavor was distinct, indeed distinct, and slightly different than what I had remembered. Not bad or good different, just different. The color was similar to the standard and provided a moderate head. If a solid sweet brew is what your after, take a trip to the Mid-Atlantic states and ask for Dominion by name!!! I offer 4 Frosty Mugs to this root beer dream....

I also extend my deepest thanks to all of the staff at Old Dominion who were extremely welcoming of this displaced Rootbeer Brother..... they made me feel like I was right at home :)

p.s. I am also grateful for the opportunity they gave me in being able to take part in their tasting panel for their current effort to improve their ginger ale. That was so cool!!!!! I am not a huge fan of ginger ale.... but hey it was still awesome to be a part of that.... BIG THANK YOU for that!!!!


check out Old Dominion Brewery at

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