Next time you pop the cap off a bottle of craft beer, take a moment to reflect on what you’re about to enjoy. I don’t mean chant om or get “Deep Thoughts With Jack Handy” philosophical about it. Just pause for a moment and think of all the time and effort that went into creating that amazing quaff you have sitting majestically in front of you.
What types of grains and hops went into it? How long did it ferment? More importantly, who created this and where did it come from? Craft beer drinkers are curious creatures, by nature, so knowing what you’re drinking is very important. Of course, you can go on-line or read books to research any craft beer that interests you. It’s really amazing how much you can learn about a particular beer from start to finish. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live near a craft beer maker, you can take a brewery tour and see the process in person (and smell that tantalizing cooked cereal aroma that hits you when you walk inside). A long weekend visiting family in Dover, Delaware, provided us with this opportunity.
Having been to Dogfish previously, we decided to stay more local and take a tour of the Fordham and Old Dominion Brewing facility located on the outskirts of town. Fordham, located in Maryland, originated in 1703 (when England’s Queen Anne commissioned Benjamin Fordham to start a brewery in the port of Annapolis, Maryland) and re-born in 1995 in Annapolis. In 2003 the company decided to move their operations to tax-friendly Delaware. In 2007 Fordham bought out Virginia-based Old Dominion Brewing and has carved out a niche in the craft beer world, distributing their beers throughout the Northeast.
The brewery offers tours six days a week and beer tasting events every Saturday. For just $5 you’re given a four-ounce tasting glass, five wooden tokens to redeem for beer samples in the tasting room, followed by a tour of the facility. At the end of the tour, you simply turn in your sampling glass and you’re rewarded with a free Fordham pint glass. Not bad for five bucks.
After sampling several beers, our tour guide, Lee (who resembles actor Zachary Levi, but shorter and with a beard), took the 25 or so of us through the inner workings of Fordham Brewing, showing us step by step, beginning to end, how beer is made. It’s fascinating to see the process take place. If you’re the ambitious type and have ever taken a stab at home brewing, then you’re familiar with the process: the mashing in of the grains, the primary and secondary boiling, the sparging, the fermentation and the bottling. It’s been said, “If you can make oatmeal you can make beer.” Now, take your kitchen-sized brewing operation (one- to five-gallon production, most commonly) and expand that by thousands of square feet; add in boiling tanks large enough to swim in; booster rocket-sized 50- and 100-barrel fermentation tanks, plus the requisite bottling, capping and packaging equipment – and you can see for yourself that’s a whole lot of oatmeal. The entire tour, from start to finish, took around 45 minutes.
Touring a craft brewery like Fordham puts the whole beer-drinking thing into perspective. And I can honestly say you’ll never look at a bottle of beer quite the same.
Fordham-Old Dominion beers available on tap in the tasting room:
- Helles Lager – 5.4% ABV,; Brewed with Pilsner, Carafoam, Vienna & Munich malts; Perle & Hallertau hops
- Oak Barrel Aged Stout – 6.1% ABV; Willamette & Cascade Hops; Pairs well with oysters, clams, brie cheese & chocolate; Serve in a pint glass at 50-55ºF
- Dominion Lager – 5.3% ABV; Pilsner, Munich & Caramunich malts; Pairs well with Fish, Pork & Poultry as well as Havarti, Swiss & Gouda cheeses; Serve in a pilsner or pint glass at 40-45ºF
- Baltic Porter – 6.1% ABV; Willamette & Cascade Hops; Pairs well with oysters, clams, brie cheese & chocolate; Serve in a pint glass at 50-55ºF
- Hop Mountain Pale Ale – 6.6% ABV; Nelson-Sauvin, Cascade & Columbus Hops; Pairs well with Pan Asian cuisine & Poultry; Serve in a dimple mug or pint glass at 50-55ºF
- Rams Head IPA – 7.5% ABV; Hops: Bravo, Chinook and Motueka; Malts: Pale, Munich and Rye
- Copperhead Ale – 5.2% ABV; Brewed with German Magnum, German select & German Tettnang hops combined with Caramunich malt.
- Rosie Parks Oyster Stout – 6.8% ABV; German Pilsner, Crystal & Dark Specialty malts; Pairs well with grilled meats, hearty stews & even chocolate; Serve in a mug, tulip glass or pint glass at 45-50ºF
- Millenium Ale – 10.2% ABV; 2-Row Muntons Pale Malt & Hallertauer Mittelfrühfull hops; Pairs well with sharp cheeses and a variety of desserts; Serve in a snifter or pint glass at 50-55ºF
Our favorites were the Oak Barrel Stout and the Baltic Porter. Each boasts distinct coffee and chicory notes, plus hints of caramel and spice. One of Fordham’s small batch seasonal beers (and one of the most popular amongst local beer aficionados), the Scotch Ale, wasn’t available in the tasting room. Fortunately for us, the night before we enjoyed it on draft at a local eatery called Restaurant 55. Unfortunately, after two drafts the keg of delicious Scotch Ale kicked. Maybe next season.