Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Dirty(?) Deed is Done

Md. Firm, Anheuser-Busch Buy
Old Dominion Brewing

By Thomas Heath
Washington Post
Saturday, March 3, 2007
Page D01 (Business section)

Old Dominion Brewing, whose pub is a favorite of the high-tech crowd near Dulles International Airport and whose microbrews are sold throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, will soon
have new owners from the Free State.

The company has been sold to a joint venture of Maryland-based Fordham Brewing and Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis, the new owners announced yesterday.

The new company, to be called Coastal Brewing, will sell and market Old Dominion and Fordham brands, including Dominion Ale, Dominion Lager, Oak Barrel Stout, Fordham Copperhead, Fordham Lager, Oyster Stout and others.

Coastal also will assume ownership of the Old Dominion Brewery and Old Dominion Brewpub, both in Ashburn.

Entire article here.

Domion Brewing was founded in 1990 Jerry Bailey, a former U.S. government official. His skill lay in recognizing and hiring talented staff. Names like Mallett, Barchet, Allen, Mullins, Zetterstrom, Frasier, Garcia, Lake, and more come to mind.

Early on, Bailey recognized the value of a strategic alliance with a large brewer like Anheuser-Busch. His tapping into A-B's distributor network in northern Virginia was a vital linchpin to Old Dominion's sales success - and did not sap the craft spirit or flavor of the beers.

Fritz Hahn of the Washington Post summed up the feelings of many area good beer fans

Craft beer lovers in the Washington area owe a debt to Jerry Bailey and the Old Dominion Brewing Co. Bailey, who recently announced he's selling his shares in the company, opened his microbrewery in Ashburn in 1990, making him one of the pioneers of the movement. The Old Dominion Beer Festival draws dozens of breweries from across the country and across the Atlantic every summer for three days of tastings and live music.

Bailey has been a father figure to many of the brewers and brew pubs that have sprung up in recent years, offering advice on equipment and grains, helping spread the gospel of good beer.
Along the way, Old Dominion has racked up plaudits, being named one of the top 20 breweries in the country by Gourmet magazine and picking up 13 medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. In 2006, Old Dominion sold the equivalent of 27,000 barrels of beer.

But the end has come. So long, Jerry, and thanks for all of the great beers!

The recorded message, this morning on the telephone at the brewery's attached brewpub, states that the pub will be closed for renovations until 19 March. New owner Bill Muehlhauser owns and operates the Rams Head Taverns; his successes there may bode well for the Old Dominion brewpub. Maybe a music venue?

Also at issue is the future of the Old Dominion Beer Festival, for 10 years a major East Coast summer event. [UPDATE: Coastal has announced that they have no current plans to sponsor or conduct a festival.]

Muehlhauser has in the past, however, stated his preference for light beer over fuller-flavored craft beer. Knowing this, one hopes that time will also treat kindly the brewery at Old Dominion.

Good luck and good brewing.

Earlier posts on the sale.

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