Old Dominion Brewing Co. is downgrading two brands that have been with the company since its beginnings in 1991: Dominion Lager and Dominion Ale. They’ll remain as draft products, but the bottles will be discontinued.
At the same time, Delaware-based Coastal Brewing — the umbrella company that makes and markets both the Dominion and Fordham brands — is debuting three new year-round beers in early 2013 to adjust to changing tastes for ever bigger, ever stronger, ever hoppier beers. Two of them are India pale ales — a style that neither Old Dominion nor Fordham, oddly enough, has ever marketed as a regular product.
Coastal took over Old Dominion in 2007. “These beers have been in decline since day one,” commented Casey Hollingsworth, Coastal’s vice president for marketing and sales, of the two Dominion labels. “We feel we’ve been hanging in there too long with the same old, same old.”
Hitting the market in mid-February, in six-packs and kegs, will be Dominion Double D IPA and Morning Glory Espresso Stout. The former is a massive double IPA (10 percent alcohol by volume, 90 bitterness units) hopped with American varieties like Simcoe, citra and bravo. The latter is an imperial stout (9 percent alcohol) made with coffee from Dover roaster, Espresso-N-Ice.
Infusing the coffee into the beer is a two-step process. First, seven barrels are drawn off from a 50-barrel batch and allowed to sit for 13 days on ground espresso beans. Then the beer is injected back into the fermenter, where the entire batch is aged on 25 pounds of whole beans. It’s complicated, but Hollingsworth insists that it lends the beer a better flavor.
Coastal has tested the waters by previewing Double D and Morning Glory, in very limited amounts, in 22-ounce bottles and draft. The company is also releasing a totally new beer, Rams Head IPA, as part of its Fordham line. The introduction is set for a mid-January VIP party at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, where Fordham Brewing originally set up shop in 1995, and the beer will be available in kegs and six-packs thereafter.
At 7.5 percent alcohol and about 75 bitterness units, the Rams Head IPA is a little less massive than the Double D, but more hop-forward in the style of a West Coast IPA, explains Hollingsworth. Among the hops used is a New Zealand strain called Motueka, which Hollingsworth describes as having a distinctive “lemon-lime” character.
Coastal also has a new spring seasonal in the works, Cherry Blossom Lager, and is moving up the release date for the annual Dominion Millennium Barleywine from February to December 20. The brewery continues to tweak the recipe for Millennium, this year giving it a German-American accent with a blend of Hallertau and bravo hops.
While brewers were once bears for consistency from batch to batch, experimentation and novelty are what keep craft-beer customers coming back today.
“We have to take a look at innovation and trends and styles,” says Hollingsworth.
Kitsock’s Beer column appears twice a month in Food.