Fellow beer lovers, if it broke your heart when Old Dominion Brewing Company left Virginia, I have good news. Two of its brewers, Matthew Hagerman and Favio Garcia, have opened their own brewery—the delightfully-named Lost Rhino—and they’re off to a great start.
To refresh your memory, Old Dominion was launched in the late 1980s, and had a number of signature beers – Tupper’s Hop Pocket and the New River Pale Ale spring to mind. But the brewery was sold in the late 00s and moved to Delaware. That’s right: beers with the Old Dominion label aren’t brewed in the Old Dominion any more. Sigh.
But while we lost Old Dominion, we gained Lost Rhino. Hagerman and Garcia officially opened their doors in Ashburn in June 2011, and they’ve done some great work over the past year. This is not the second coming of Old Dominion. Hagerman and Garcia are clearly pushing themselves, and I’m excited to see what comes next from Lost Rhino.
So, let’s talk about the beers:
Icebreaker is an imperial India pale ale (IPA), coming in at a whopping 9.2 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). This seasonal brew is beautiful, but dangerous. It pours with a nice head, has good carbonation and is a slightly cloudy, honey blonde. The aroma and taste are very floral and smooth, with just a hint of alcohol on the back end. It’s dangerous because you wouldn’t expect it to have such a high ABV. I couldn’t quite place the hops flavor (I did my homework later–it uses Columbus and Amarillo hops), but it was just right. The hop flavors were prominent, but not overwhelming. A well-balanced imperial IPA, without the bitterness you often find in beers of this style. This one gets a solid A, and would pair well with foods that are strong enough to stand up to it: spice-rubbed steak or a jambalaya.
Face Plant IPA (6.2 ABV) is a reddish, dark-blonde ale. It’s one of Lost Rhino’s regular brews, and rightfully so. It has a nice, hoppy flavor with grassy and floral notes. The hops–Cascade and Centennial–are strong, but not overly aggressive. In short, Face Plant is a very good representative of its style. I’d happily drink it again. B+. It’s got clean flavors that would cut right through the grease of a good burger and onion rings. Yum.
Rhinoel (7.5 ABV) is a seasonal Belgian-style dubbel. A rich copper-colored ale, with a light head, this is one of the most interesting beers I’ve had in years. It has a slightly dark, fruity flavor–almost prune-like–which fades to a faint alcohol aftertaste that reminded me of scotch. There’s a lot going on here, flavor-wise. My friend Greg Andres pointed out a slight bubble-gum flavor as well. That may stem from the use of candi sugar, which is often incorporated into Belgian beers. It’s a strong drink, and certainly not a session beer, but I highly recommend trying it. I give it an A-. Note: this isn’t a beer you pair with food. This is what you linger over after dinner.
New River Pale Ale (5.4 ABV) is an old friend. Hagerman and Garcia bought the recipe from Old Dominion, and have made it one of their standard brews at Lost Rhino. I was really looking forward to drinking this one, because it was one of the first beers I’d tried from Old Dominion, years ago. The dark straw color I remembered was there. The flavor was grassy and fairly neutral on the palate – neither bitter nor sweet. Kevin Cox, who tasted it with me, summed it up nicely: “A very smooth, traditional pale ale. A good session beer.” Unfortunately, the beer also had very little carbonation – it was virtually flat, with no head at all. I hope it was just a bad batch. But since I have to grade it based on what was in my glass, I give it a C.