Lost Rhino was recently founded by Matt Hagerman and Favio Garcia. They were Old Dominion shift brewers who left after it was sold to Fordham Brewing of Annapolis, MD and the brewing operations were moved to Delaware in May of 2009.
While the Old Dominion Brewery was being dismantled, Hagerman and Garcia we went through the now defunct brewery and pub purchasing everything they could find including: mill, brew kettle, fermenters, furniture and even windows.
They found a suitable place to set up their new brewery just a mile from the original Old Dominion site. They began brewing in early 2011 and hosted the grand opening on May 11, 2011.
Their focus is on using quality, local ingredients and fostering an open sense of community as much as building a business. They currently use noble Halertau and Saaz hops grown in Leesburg, Virginia, though they do import some from out of state as the local supply builds.
They have contracted with another Virgina farmer to grow their barley, but it will be some time until the have will an adequate supply line.
At the opening they were still under heavy construction and all that was available was glass and growler fills of their four current products (Rhino Chasers Pilsner, New River Pale Ale, Face Plant IPA, and a root beer) and tours of the brewery.
By the end of June they will have a tasting room completed offering their beverages and sandwiches and they will open a full Brew Pub as soon as construction is completed.
Also in the works is an Octoberfest event as well as a full canning line. Canning has been somewhat of a trend for small craft brewers, but there are several reasons for this. First is that canning technology has come a long way in the past few decades, and there are no longer any kind of taste imparted from the cans. Second, cans are lighter and easier to distribute. Finally cans are much more environmentally friendly than glass. Aluminum has a lighter impact on the environment to create and over 80% of aluminum is recycled and put back into immediate use (within 90 days). Glass has a much smaller conversion rate and does not see reuse for several months or years.
Lost Rhino is hoping to be in DC stores the third week in June, 2011 and throughout Virginia by the first of July.
But how is the beer?
I need to preface my opinions with the fact that I’m not a hop head. I do like a good IPA, but I’m very picky about how the bittering is balanced (depending on beer style, of course).
The three beers so far in the Lost Rhino line have a very similar taste profile to each other. They are all quite bitter using the same hops and for my taste far too much. The Rhino Chasers Pilsner and New River Pale Ale were very similar. The Pilsner was so over powered by hops that I couldn’t taste anything else going on.
The Pale Ale was better and allowed some of the grains to come through. Still over powered by hops. Again, the same bittering comes through in the IPA – but I expect it to be there. Again, not terribly complex, but a strong offering.
The root beer on the other hand was absolutely fabulous! We were tempted to request a growler fill of it!
Being their first batches I will definitely be coming back to see how things progress. My hope is that over time they will refine the recipes and develop them into top tier beverages. Matt said they have plans to spread out into several different styles (oak aged stouts, yum!) that I am eager to try.
For the brewery geeks out there, here are some stats:
- 4 vessels 25 barrel brew house
- With the equipment on site they will be able to produce 80,000 kegs a year when at full capacity. They do not anticipate reaching near that any time soon as they slowly and carefully grow the business.
- Their storage cooler was purchased from a Walmart in Kansas. It will keep 400 kegs nice and chilled, waiting for distribution.
- The fermenters are 1980s vintage, but still look and work like new
- The heat exchanger takes the wort from 180 to 60 degrees in 1.5 seconds!
- They are currently running four fermenters, each holding 100 kegs of brew
- The fermenters are cooled with glycol
The video of the vigorous yeast bucket is available in streaming, ogg and mpeg formats on the Internet Archive page
Here is a photo gallery of the trip: