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Kelly Young, City Paper‘s former operations manager and a beer geek nonpareil, took my original question (“Will the move out of the state affect your opinion and/or purchase of Old Dominion beer?”) and gave me a master’s thesis on the importance of drinking local. An edited excerpt is below.
Now there are myriad decisions I make when purchasing brews. I like to try new and exotic things and explore this country and the world via its fermentables, but I always keep a special place in my heart for the local; after all this is, to me, what brewing is about at its core: a locally produced foodstuff. I think back to when I travelled frequently and there was nothing more disheartening than being at some far-flung locale and there being no local flavor at all. Stipmallism. [i.e., strip-mall-ism] One of the points of pride I had when visited here by fellow beer drinking brothers and sisters was introducing them to Tupper’s or Oak Barrel Stout (still in production, sort of). We could lay claim to it as ours, a truly local product. You could go to the brewery and drink out of the fermenters. You could talk to the actual human beings that brewed your beer. Now if you want to drink Dominion out of the fermenter or talk to the human that brews your “local” beer it’s 100 miles one way to Dover. BTW all their talk of environmental concern is bullshit. If they wanted to be truly green they’d leave ODBC alone and let them drive the 30 miles to downtown from Ashburn and sell their other product in Delaware. Bit of rant that.
Now obviously I drink beer that gets trucked in/shipped from all over but a goodly portion of my drinking has been tilted to the local and certainly regional. ODBC was a solid brewing operation, but the beers were not necessarily better than some of the competition out there, including some that’s as close as Ashburn (Clipper City), some that’s as close as Dover (Victory Brewing, Sly Fox Brewing), and a few that are only slightly further afield (Dogfish Head, Penn Brewing). With those choices out there what reason now do I have to buy ODBC if it’s going to be no fresher and there are superior choices? Certainly the coin I give to them will be flying out of the local economy so that small part of the decision I used to make has been rendered moot.
Lest all of this seem doom and gloom I think we are well served by several excellent local brewpubs: Gordon Biersch (chain but solid), District Chophouse & Rock Bottom (chain again but very good, particularly the Bethesda branch of RB), Franklins (independent and funky as fuck). Clipper City is almost the same distance away as ODBC was and they’re a solid operation. Charm City has rocking brewpubs in the Wharf Rat and Brewer’s Art. R.I.P DeGroens (I miss DeGroens far more than I’ll miss ODBC).
In the end I’m disappointed that an important part of local flavor is gone. Being able to go to Ashburn and pick up fresh kegs or sample all manner of specialty brews and at least one world-class beer is out the window. What’s in a name? Well if the name is Local Brewery I have an answer for you.