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Scott Zetterstrom, The Old Dominion Brewing Company Brewmaster

WB: Why and how did you get into brewing?

SZ: Like many people in the microbrewing industry, I started out as a homebrewer. I had graduated from college with a degree in mechanical engineering and was working as a "Beltway Bandit" for the Navy. However, I was trying to figure out a way to turn my hobby into a job. About this time, a friend of mine moved next door to John Mallet, the brewmaster of The Old Dominion Brewing Company. John was looking for some help at the brewery and my friend passed my name along. Within a few days I had an interview and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse: more work for less money with a two year-old company that had not yet made a profit. I jumped at it. That was eight years ago.

WB: What distinguishes your brewing style from other brewers?

SZ: The main difference between The Old Dominion Brewing Company and many other microbreweries is the education and experience of our brewing staff. Three out of five people on our brewing staff have taken the diploma course at the Seibel Institute of Brewing Technology. This means that they have the knowledge and skill to be brewmasters themselves. This gives us a flexibility and depth of knowledge that many small breweries just don't have. If you look at the types and quantity of beers that we make, you can see how flexible our staff really is. We produce about twenty-eight different beers. Six of these beers are of a rotating seasonal style. We brew both ales and lagers. Many small breweries only produce ales due to the management requirements of lager yeasts and to the cost of aging lager beer. During some seasons, we may have three yeast strains in the brewery at one time. (There are some major brewers that balk at having more than one yeast strain in their brewery.) This year we will produce approximately 27,000 barrels of beer with only five people working in the brewhouse and cellar. This is a testament to the ability of our staff and I think that it sets us apart from a large number of other small brewers.

WB: What will be the most significant trends in microbrewing?

SZ: I believe the most significant trend in the microbrewery/craftbrewery industry will be an increase in quality. The industry is moving from its honeymoon stage where we had tremendous growth and a large number of breweries offering an almost unlimited range of beer styles, to a more mature industry that is focusing on providing a quality product to the consumer. A few years ago you could go into a store and choose from a vast array of microbrews. It might cost you five or six dollars for a six pack to try something new, but then the industry was hip and people were willing to experiment. That was the honeymoon. Unfortunately, there was a large number of beers out there that was either poorly made or poorly handled before it reached the consumer. It didn't take long for people to lose their inclination to experiment. Now the industry is going/has gone through a weeding out period. The breweries that weren't able to put a good product into the consumers' hand have not fared well. The survivors and thrivers in the industry are, and will be, the companies that produce a high quality product and can get it to the consumer in good condition.

WB: Could you give us some examples of how you like to match your brews with certain foods?

SZ: In general, I want a beer that can stand up to, but not overpower, what I am eating. As the food becomes more assertive, so should the beer. For most shellfish, I enjoy the slight fruitiness and balanced hoppyness of Dominion Ale. However, as the spiciness goes up, I would switch to the 'bready' 'malty' body and assertive earthy hop character of Tuppers Hop Pocket Pils. When your done with your [meal], the coffee and chocolate notes of our Dominion Stout compliment any chocolate dessert. Finally, I always like to finish any busy palate-confused day with a good Belgian Lambic [not ours]. The sour fruitiness refreshes my mouth and leaves me asking. "What's Next?"

Interviewed by Will Blunt.

SELECTED AWARDS

Tupper's Hop Pocket - Gold Medal Winner, 1997 Great American Beer Festival (American-Style Pale Ale Category).

Lager - Gold Medal Winner, 1997 Great American Beer Festival (Dortmunder/European Style Export Category).

Oktoberfest - Bronze Medal Winner, 1996 Great American Beer Festival (Oktoberfest Category).

CONTACT INFORMATION

Old Dominion is located just outside of Washington, DC in Ashburn, VA. A pioneer of microbrewing in the Washington area, Dominion was the area's first microbrewery when it was established in 1989. Their beers are available throughout Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland. Contact: Old Dominion Brewing Co. 44633 Guilford Drive Ashburn, VA 20147 (703) 729-6717.

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