Zetterstrom, The Old Dominion Brewing Company Brewmaster
Why and how did you get into brewing?
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.
What distinguishes your brewing style from other brewers?
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.
What will be the most significant trends in microbrewing?
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?
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?"
by Will Blunt.