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Virginia Craft Beer is both a print magazine and website focused entirely on beer and ciders brewed within the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to serving as a guide to all the breweries and beers they brew, Virginia Craft Beer will also include beer events, beer reviews, business updates and feature length articles penned by award-wining journalists and beer experts.
Green Flash Brewing Company, with production facilities in San Diego and Virginia Beach, announced it was cutting 15% of its workforce (33 people), primarily in administrative, marketing and events planning roles. Among those cut in Virginia Beach was popular marketing/events/promotions guy Eric Leach.
The brewery, known for its ultra hoppy West Coast IPA, is also shrinking distribution, cutting 32 states and instead focusing on markets closest to its manufacturing facilities.
“Virginia has been awesome,” said Mike Hinkley, Green Flash Brewing Company co-founder and CEO. “Sales in the state are booming. Tasting room is fantastic. We closed some big East Coast states far from Virginia like Massachusetts and Florida so we had to scale production in Virginia Beach a little. Very sad to see six of valued VB team leave the company, but it had to be done.”
In 2016, Green Flash was the 37th largest craft brewery in America.
Green Flash’s dilemma is similar to other large craft breweries seeking a greater nationwide footprint. More and more, consumers are choosing craft beer produced locally. That’s not good news for the likes of Sierra-Nevada and others.
Green Flash’s focus on more local markets will be welcomed in Virginia. The brewery opened its Virginia Beach production facility and tasting room in 2016.
Green Flash’s San Diego brewery will ship to Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Nebraska, while the Virginia Beach brewery will distribute to Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia.
One of Green Flash’s fresh beers for 2018 is Remix IPA, “a new IPA showcasing old-school hops and a modern IPA flavor profile.”
“Remix IPA is an extremely exciting new single IPA release for Green Flash,” said Mike Hinkley, Green Flash Brewing Co. Co-Founder and CEO. “Our brewers are taking the skills learned over the past 15 years of brewing awesome IPAs to create the next iconic front-line beer in the Green Flash portfolio.”
Remix IPA features piney and dank flavors from Green Flash’s “legacy hops” – Cascade, Columbus and Summit. The metallic gold packaging offers a dynamic brand story that draws a parallel between hip hop DJs and the Green Flash brewers – suggesting that the brewing team is skillfully remastering both ingredients and process to create the brand’s next big hit.
For Virginia craft beer drinkers, at least, Green Flash is local. Drink up!
(Isley Brewing Company settled on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront resort area for its satellite location. Photo courtesy of Isley Brewing)
By Annie Tobey
Mike Isley has mastered the art of riding the waves with his eponymous brewery, so it’s only fitting that his second brewery will open in Virginia Beach.
Isley Brewing Co. opened in October 2013 in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition (before Scott’s Addition was the cool neighborhood for breweries, cideries, a distillery and other hip spots).
Mike Isley’s first wave came with the peanut butter porter. Among Isley Brewing’s opening day line-up, the Choosy Mother would certainly be a one-and-done. Or so Mike Isley thought. “It’s a great novelty beer,” he says of the brewery’s best seller, “just not one of my favorites. It always amazes me how much people like it.” However, he admits, “The public dictates what you do.”
As the beer scene has grown over the past four years, so has Isley Brewing. To the rugged but comfortable tasting room with coffeehouse feel, Isley has added a deck and patio behind the brewery, accommodating larger crowds and al fresco imbibing.
The brewery has gained a loyal following since opening. Besides the ever-popular Choosy Mother, noteworthy Isley beers include The Bribe, a flagship oatmeal porter; Plain Jane blonde ale; Raspberry Razzle gose; and creative experiments such as Root of All Evil ginger golden ale and Drunken Uncle hard root beer, now retired. Isley promotes beer blending, too, like the Choosy Mother with Plain Jane Blueberry to make a PB&J.
The Way to the Beach
In choosing Virginia Beach for his second location, Isley rode several currents, considering several markets, before settling on a destination. He was offered a building at William & Mary but was more intrigued by the resort market. Virginia Beach “seemed like the right fit.”
Isley’s new digs are in the 300 block of Virginia Beach Boulevard, a short stroll to the Boardwalk and Atlantic Ocean. “I’m pushing to open by Memorial Day weekend,” he says. “I’m hoping we don’t miss much of the summer window.”
In 2016, Virginia Beach hosted 15.2 million visitors (7.1 million overnight visitors and 8.1 million day visitors) with average visitor spending of $1,955. (Source: Longwoods International)
Josh Stamps, brewmaster at Isley Brewing since the early days, will oversee opening up the new location—setting the equipment up, getting it running and making tweaks.
Virginia law allows breweries to transfer beers between their locations. “We’ll have a different line-up in Virginia Beach,” says Isley. “Fifty percent will be the same, giving us the opportunity to try different things as well. We may do a few more genuine sours. We’re really loving our kettle sours and goses.”
Despite the prospect of plenty of visitors during peak season, resort markets slow down off-season. To compensate, Mike Isley plans on offering winter classes on commercial brewing, hoping to partner with universities.
Besides a second location, this new space represents another growth point for Isley Brewing. The 3-barrel system and 7-barrel fermenters from Richmond will make their way to Virginia Beach, replaced by a larger system for Richmond.
In addition, he says, “We have signed a contract with a company that will be taking us into the Outer Banks about the same time we open the doors in Virginia Beach,” initially on draft only.
Fielding requests from his distributors, Brown and Virginia Craft Distribution, “We will be adding a lot of packaged products in 2018 once we up the size of our equipment,” he says.
Mike Isley’s background is not brewing, but in running Winter Plumbing and Heating, his family business. When opening Isley Brewing in 2013, he told Richmond beer writer Lee Graves, “‘I’m in a business where I sell products that people don’t really want to buy,’ he said about plumbing. With beer, ‘people are spending their money and they’re happy.’”
He also told Graves back then, “We’re going to let our customers and clientele tell us what to brew next and how fast to grow.” Apparently, Mike Isley is riding that wave, too.
If you’ve ever been to a traditional family farm you might have noticed a number of buildings and spaces, each designated with a specific purpose. There’d be the main farm house serving as the family living quarters, an exterior chicken coop, pig pin, fields for crops and maybe a few cows. Another building might also be found on the grounds to shelter the animal feed, tractors and plowing equipment. Call it a multi-faceted farm complex designed to sustain a family and serve the surrounding community.
Similarly, when the ownership team of 2 Silos Brewing Company conceptualized what their rural Manassas, Virginia brewery should look like the idea of creating a “campus” to service a multi-faceted set of potential needs took shape.
“It really started with an idea to do something different for the state,” said Two Silos co-founder and brewmaster Forrest Morgan. “Not that there’s anything wrong with being a brewery in a warehouse, but we wanted to do something that was just different – a place where you can spread out and bring the family.
“It didn’t happen on the first try either. There were quite a few design iterations. It kept growing.
We wanted a future purpose as well. That’s kind of the nice thing about having a blank canvas. On one hand we didn’t have a road or utilities, but on the other hand that was great, right? We were able to bring the adequate infrastructure to our facility – the campus – to get us what we need both for now and the future.”
The result is Farm Brew LIVE, which is anchored by Two Silos Brewing Company’s production brewery, The Pour House (tasting room, bistro), an outdoor concert stage and grounds.
Phase two of Farm Brew LIVE will open The Great Hall Event Pavilion in early 2018. The final phase will be completed in Spring 2018 to include the renovated Thomasson’s Barn that will open as The Black Sheep whiskey + wine + noshery and employ another 100 local residents. The Barn will also feature a pair of underground dining rooms.
From the outside, the “campus” is easily identifiable with its – you guessed it – two silos. It is a converted structure originally known as the Thomasson’s Barn, a 1929 dairy farm barn that had been vacant for over 40 years. The barn was built on land that was originally cultivated by corn fields and owned by L.J. Hornbaker. Hornbaker sold off 39 ½ acres to William T. Thomasson in 1905. Thomasson was a wheat and corn farmer. He eventually saved enough money to buy a Holstein Bull to begin Dairy Farming. In 1929 Thomasson built the two-story barn for his dairy farm out of terra cotta blocks. The blocks were finished with a rough finish to resemble bricks. The barn still consists of the terra cotta blocks.
The principle 2 Silos Brewing Company team is comprised of Forrest Morgan, along with Marcus Silva (Chairman), Erica Davidson (Quality Assurance), Bill McHugh (Brewer), Joe Ortega (Director of Operations), Meredith Arnest (Director of Brand Development), Clarice Lelle (Director of Events and Sales), Vanessa Tewilliager (General Manager of The Pour House) and Nelson Garcia (Head Sous Chef).
The management team has hospitality top of mind as it is associated with Villagio Hospitality Group. This element sets 2 Silos apart from most other upstart breweries. In fact, Arnest has 20 years of experience in the field, having cut her teeth at Richmond’s Legend Brewing Company and then at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center – home of the Grand Ol’ Opry – in Nashville.
Indeed, beer, food and music are essential ingredients to Farm Brew LIVE.
The Yard outdoor music stage will feature many local and regional musicians and can accommodate up to 1,200 guests.
“We believe in creating a complete experience for our guests,” said Arnest. “Pairing the live music with craft beer and craft food brings the experience to another level. Farm Brew LIVE will soon become THE place to come for families and friends alike; a place to enjoy time together while sampling our big, bold beers, our hand-crafted food and enjoying the sounds of our local talent.”
The Yard also includes The Pit, an outdoor bar serving both beer and BBQ.
As for the brewery, 2 Silos Brewing Co. is a 30-barrel brew house, capable of producing 20,000 barrels per year at full capacity. “We are committed to promoting the craft beer culture by making our 2 Silos Brewing Co. beer selections the finest in Northern Virginia region,” said Morgan. “Currently, 2 Silos Brewing Co. features 300 barrels of cellar space with an additional 240 barrels of space arriving soon. The brewery was ordered from American Beer Equipment out of Lincoln, Nebraska. Even with the additional tanks arriving soon, we still have more space to grow within our current location with a plan in place that includes a 6-inch glycol main to accommodate the future growth. This is a steam jacketed brew house with 2 million BTUs of steam and 60 tons of chilling capacity that is able to grow to 90 tons.”
Out of the gate, 2 Silos Brewing Company’s flagship beers are as follows: Cream Ale, Black IPA, Imperial Stout, Pale Ale and Belgian White.
“The Cream Ale, to me, is something that’s not represented enough in this area of the country,” said Morgan when explaining why he chose the starting lineup of beers. “I think Hardywood is really the only other brewery doing a year-round cream ale. If you go up to New England or the Midwest and they are everywhere. We put our twist on it and tied it into the history of our site – the Thomasson Barn – by using milk sugars.
“The other beers,” continued Morgan, “we wanted to diversify. We didn’t want to come out with six IPAs or eight lagers. We wanted to offer something for everybody. It goes across the board in colors and IBUs.”
Forrest Morgan conducted focus groups of local beer drinkers before deciding on his flagships. When asked about IPAs, roughly half of the sample group said they “hated IPAs.”
For the Belgian White, Morgan broke from tradition by drop-hopping it.
“The hops we selected do add the complimentary to the citrus and the spices without over-powering it,” he said. “It’s fun to watch people’s reaction.”
Morgan is working on a barrel-aged reserve series for the one-year anniversary. The bourbon barrels are from a local distillery, Smith Bowman Distillery, in Fredericksburg.
Erica and Forrest are researching possibly harvesting wild yeast from the site of the Thomasson’s barn to consider using in a recipe. The anniversary beer will be called The Silo-bration and released on October 25, 2018.
In addition to the core brands and upcoming barrel-aged releases, 2 Silos will rotate seasonals such as Gingerbread Ale, Coffee Stout, Blueberry Wheat, Dunkleweizen Dobblebock, Pumpkin Ale, Porter, and the 1776 Ale.
“We are excited about the Gingerbread Ale with all the Christmas seasonings that went into it,” said Morgan. “Some of the other fun ones will be variations of our flagships. We’ve been toying around with adding raspberries to the Cream Ale.”
The 1776 Ale will be considered a historical beer. Morgan will incorporate into the recipe ingredients used in ales during the time of the Founding Fathers.
2 Silos plans to use some ingredients harvest on its property. A portion of land around the primary yard will be used for growing hops.
“Our hops fields are about 1-acre of land where we are currently growing Cascade and Kent Golding hops,” said Morgan. “In 2018, Centennial hops will join as well.”
Each hop plant was hand-planted by Forrest Morgan and his team and they also planted clover as ground cover to deter deer. The support structure is built of steel piping and the twine that the hops grow up is made from coconut husk. It’s biodegradable and will be used in the compost in the hops fields.
There will also be a field called the Chef & Brewers Garden for plants used directly in the development of 2 Silos beer recipes as well as support Chef specials throughout the campus.
The only thing missing from Farm Brew LIVE is a lodging, but who knows? It’s a great experience for the whole family and a unique all-in-one destination to spend a few hours.
(Mark Thompson returns with The Brewing Tree in Nelson County)
By Jeff Maisey
Mark Thompson will return to Virginia’s craft beer scene in 2018 after three-year contractual hiatus. Before his “retirement,” Thompson spent 23 years in the craft beer industry.
Thompson earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from James Madison University, and then moved to Portland, Oregon where he worked in the craft beer industry during the mid-1990s.
Thompson returned to his native Charlottesville, in 1999, and co-founded Starr Hill Brewery with Kristin Dolan. The brewery was named for the C-Ville neighborhood in which it was originally located. Starr Hill moved to its current location in Crozet in 2005.
Thompson was a pioneer in Virginia’s new Renaissance of craft beer and was instrumental in creating the Brew Ridge Trail (Virginia’s original beer trail) as well as the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. It was the combined work of Thompson and a small group of Virginia breweries that garnered the introduction and passage of SB604, in 2012, that allowed for the successful explosion of the craft brewery industry today.
Thompson lamented late in his Starr Hill career that the success and growth of the award-winning brewery caused him to miss the days when he was just a small-time brewer, tossing kegs in the back of his pickup truck. He wanted one day to return to his modest roots. Now, that time has come.
On January 2, Thompson will take possession of the Blue Toad Hard Cider Pub & Tasting Room property in Afton, Virginia located on the famed Route 151 in Nelson County – yep, Brew Ridge Trail.
Thompson’s new micro-brewery is called The Brewing Tree. His focus will be on creativity and innovation, producing an ever-rotating assortment of beers to be consumed only onsite, with no plans to distribute. Thompson also plans to invite brewers from all over to collaborate on special, unique one-off beers.
The Brewing Tree is set to open in late April 2018. It’ll make full use of its 5-acre property with outdoor seating, lights and other amenities to provide visitors a memorable experience.
Mark Thompson’s voice, leadership, and vast experience will be a welcomed addition to Virginia’s craft beer industry.
Bridgette Turner (far left) with members of Pink Boots Society and Sister Doris at Kloterbrauerei
By Bridgette Turner
Being a woman in the professional brewing industry isn’t for every elegant lady, but for the past five years, I’ve dedicated my life to craft beer. From the beginning, I joined Pink Boots Society to link up with fun loving, beer making girls like myself. Pink Boots is an organization for women in the beer industry, and their main goal is to help women advance their careers through education. They offer a ton of amazing scholarships throughout the year. As I was perusing the Pink Boots website this summer, one of the scholarships jumped out at me. It was a trip to Germany for ten days to visit breweries and hop farms, and learn about German brewing traditions. I have a passion for traditional brewing, so I applied immediately. A couple of weeks later, I got the news that I was chosen for the scholarship along with six other professional beer ladies. It was off to Bavaria for us, and Germany did not disappoint.
As a professional brewer, I knew a little bit about German beers. The first thing to come to mind was the Reinheistsgebot law. The Reinheistsgebot is also known as the “German beer purity law.” It states that beer must only contain water, hops, and barley. It was written in Bavaria in 1516, before they knew about yeast. Now it’s 500 years later and the laws are still strictly enforced. That means no cocoa nibs, no orange zest, not even a little sugar. Some people think you can’t make very interesting beers with such limited ingredients, but Bavarians are extremely proud of the Reinheistsgebot and the traditional beers they brew are complex and fantastic.
The other thing I knew about Germany is their intense love of lagers. Lager is king in Germany, and I was expecting to drink a lot of German pils and Munich helles. Neither style can hide behind an extreme malt or hop bill, so the beer must be brewed to perfection so no off-flavors are produced. Other German lagers include festbier and marzen, which Americans fondly know as Oktoberfest beers. Many American Oktoberfest beers are ales, but they’re all lagers in Bavaria. Some of the lesser-known styles include Munich dunkle, a dark lager, and radler, a refreshing mixture of German pils and lemonade. My personal favorite lager is rauchbier. It’s a dark, ruby colored smoked lager, and it’s especially popular in the small, quaint city of Bamberg.
While every German brewery is unique, there are an exceptional number of similarities. This was especially obvious in the design of the breweries and their method of brewing and conditioning their lagers.
Every brewery design starts on the top floor with the grain mill. Before the days of electric pumps, brewers made the most of gravity. They milled in on the top floor, brewed on the second floor, fermented on the ground floor, and lagered the beer underground in the cellars. Nearly all the lager fermentation is open, and puffy happy yeast is visible in every tank. It’s a beautiful sight and you can feel the rush of CO2 when you walk into the fermentation room. Before CO2 monitors, brewers would light a candle in the room. If the candle started to flicker or burn out, they would evacuate because the oxygen was getting too low.
Lager fermentation is completed between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit and takes 7-10 days. Then, the beer is transferred to the cellar for conditioning. All German cellars are dark and cold, filled with countless horizontal conditioning tanks. Horizontal tanks are preferred to upright tanks because the beer has more surface area and less hydrostatic pressure, which is better for the yeast. The conditioning schedule varies, but most brewers slowly decrease the temperature from 55 to 32 degrees over a 10-day period. Then the beer is lagered at 32 degrees for 4-6 weeks. The yeast is dropped out every other day to achieve optimal brightness. Beer served while it’s still conditioning is known as kellerbier or zwickelbier. It’s young, unfiltered, and only available on draft or straight from the tank.
Aside from lager traditions, I learned most breweries are passed down throughout generations, some as old as 1,000 years. Often, the breweries are family owned and run. In the past, they were passed down to a male heir, but as times have changed, there are several family owned breweries run by women. They grew up in the breweries, attended school to hone their craft, and they’re proud to brew some of the same recipes as their ancestors. This tradition of passing down the breweries is also prevalent in the churches and abbeys. Monks were some of world’s first brewers. Many Bavarian abbeys are akin to small towns with bakeries, butcheries, schools, and breweries. Even today, they supply most of the beer for their town. We were even lucky enough to meet Germany’s last nun brewer, Sister Doris. She is a happy, endearing woman who loves her religion and beer. Her laughing face is on every bottle of beer she brews.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned in Germany is to embrace traditions and work to keep them alive. We don’t all have to follow the Reinheistsgebot or brew traditional beer styles, but it’s important to acknowledge where things started and have an appreciation for people who maintain those values. By no means am I a brewing “purist”. I love a beer with imaginative ingredients and experimental processes. But in the end, Germany has been brewing world-class beers for hundreds of years and I love everything about that too.
I would like to thank Pink Boots Society for sending me and the other women on this amazing beer tour through Bavaria. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I learned just as much from my fellow beer ladies as I did from Germany. If you’re a woman in the beer industry, you should absolutely look into joining Pink Boots. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones to visit Germany next year. Prost!
Team Solace: (left to right) CFO Mike Arms, Lead Brewer Bridgette Turner, and Production Manager Drew Wiles. Photo by Jefferson Evans
By Jefferson Evans and Chuck Triplett
There is a feeling you get when you walk into a place and in relatively short order you realize the place is nice, well-designed and cared for. You notice the people working there are enthusiastic, genuinely like each other and are creating a product they enjoy and take pride in. Solace is such a place, and in the end, I came to consider the name ironic because, damn, if they don’t seem some pretty satisfied brewin’ folk who work in a brewery that might be better named Field of Dreams Brewing.
Is this heaven?
No, it’s Sterling, Virginia.
Coulda sworn it is heaven.
Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but for now the motto remains “Find Your Solace.”
“We crazy over-engineered the floor,” said head brewer Drew “Wiley” Wiles. I add that to the notes about the over-engineering of the chiller, and the air-compressor, and the boiler.
“Getting the engineering correct and having in place a brewing process that is executed consistently, that’s what I’m OCD about,” said Wiles.
He and lead brewer Bridgette Turner both mention that the glycol system is already ready to handle eight additional tanks and that 80-barrel fermentation tanks are in discussion for future expansion.
Solace has over 15,000 square feet of space, with roughly 5K of that dedicated to the tasting room and 10K dedicated to the brewing space. This baby has some serious growth potential, and part of the need for that growth will come from the intent, as Bridgette tells me, to “not be just a great tasting room but also be well-distributed.” The efforts of each of the owners – Drew, John Humerick (director of operations), and Mike Arms (director of finance) – towards this goal have so far resulted in over 100 accounts from Purcellville, VA to Washington D.C.
Solace’s makes its home in a new building that didn’t even have a roof when the fellows first laid eyes on it, though it was big, modern, and conveniently located almost halfway between Drew and John’s houses. They signed a lease in October 2016 and opened to the public in June 2017.
The impressive facility sports a 20-barrel brew house outfitted with four 40-barrel fermentation tanks and one 40-barrel bright tank. The system is new and was bought from Craftwerk Brewing Systems out of Detroit, Michigan.
Mike said the brewery is approaching 1,000 barrels of beer brewed in 2017 and are on a 2,000 barrels-a-year pace.
As is most often the case, the paths that brought Bridgette, Drew, Mike, and John together were varied. John managed company-wide operations at a home healthcare company. Mike went from public accounting to executive at an IT Company. Drew was a genetic medicine researcher whose family founded Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, VA – the first farm winery in Fairfax County. And Bridgette had bartended for years when, during a “figure out what I want to do with my life” staycation, she saw a Samuel Adams commercial on TV that gave her an “a-ha” moment which lead to her researching how to get into the beer brewing business. Fate seems to have played a role in bringing three of them under the same roof when Bridgette, John, and Drew all ended up working at Sten Sellier’s Beltway Brewing in Sterling, VA. Bridgette worked in the tasting room and volunteered back in the brewery. John became director of operations, and Drew became the quality assurance/quality control manager and set up Beltway’s brewery lab. John and Drew became very good friends while working under Sten, with Drew overseeing production and John overseeing financials.
After 6 months, with Sten’s support, Bridgette left for the Brewlab Training and Analysis Services in Sunderland, England, where for 12 weeks she trained to be a brewer. She was the only woman student and finished first in her class.
After returning, Bridgette worked full-time in the Beltway brewery for a couple of years before taking a job in Florida as a brewer at Tampa Bay Brewing Company. In her heart, however, she knew she was likely to return, saying perhaps “it was naughty of me” taking the Tampa Bay job knowing it would be a relatively short stint.
She stayed in touch with John and Drew as they eventually left Beltway, teamed up with Mike, and began looking for the brewery space that would become Solace.
When Bridgette did return, the lease for Solace had been signed and that crazily over-engineered floor was being finished. Drew handled the brewing of the first four beers, but Bridgette has been the lead brewer on every beer since.
The first beer she brewed was called “Long Vacation” as a humorous homage to her time away in Florida. She thinks it was helpful to have that time at Tampa Bay Brewing as it meant she was the only one in the group who had brewed professionally somewhere other than Beltway, and showed her that successful businesses can have significantly different approaches to the same process.
As for Solace-brewed beers, their stout, session IPA, wit, and brown ales have been the staples. Quickly gaining popularity is the lager. Beyond that there is often a seasonal beer and at least an additional IPA/DIPA or two. The brewing philosophy at Solace is that they largely brew beers they enjoy and which are “fairly approachable.”
For their barrel-aging program, Solace recently had eight Cabernet Franc barrels from Paradise Springs Winery in which they were aging some of the Manhunt Stout. Next up will be aging some beer in bourbon barrels and doing a number of kettle sours. Canning is on the horizon and eventually bottling a few beers, such as high-gravity and/or barrel-aged beers of the types appropriate for bottling in 750ml bottles.
Solace joins a cluster of craft breweries within close proximity. It is just 3 miles from Ocelot Brewing, 7.3 miles from Lost Rhino Brewing, 7.5 miles from Mustang Sally Brewing, and 9.5 miles from Crooked Run and Beltway Brewing. This community of breweries also help each other out. As an example, Jasper Akerboom of Lost Rhino has provided Solace with yeast. Being part of this brewing community is a slice of heaven.
“For me, it was the greatest thing ever,” said Bridgette.
Virginia craft breweries scored 4 medals at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. The national beer competition is presented by the Brewers association.
Winning the only gold medal for the Commonwealth was Norfolk’s Benchtop Brewing Company for its Mermaid’s Scorn in the Leipzig-style/Contemporary Gose category.
Silver medals went to Wild Wolf Brewing Company of Nellyford for its American Stout in the American Stout category, and Bristol’s Studio Brew’s The Ferguson in the Oatmeal Stout category.
Dulles-based Ocelot Brewing Company won a bronze medal for its Powers of Observation in the Baltic-style Porter category.
There were a total of 98 beer categories covering 161 different beer styles (including all subcategories), establishing the best examples of each style in the country.
Winners were chosen out of 7,923 competition entries from 2,217 breweries in 50 states plus Washington, D.C. (a 15 percent and 24 percent increase respectively from the 7,301 entries and 1,783 breweries in 2016).
The competition took place in six sessions over a period of three days and was judged by 276 beer experts from 13 countries, including the U.S. In addition to commercial brewery entries, the judging panel also evaluated 118 Pro-Am entries. The competition was made possible with the help of 365 volunteers.
Less than one year after opening doors to their second brewery, in Virginia Beach, on the East Coast, San Diego-based Green Flash Brewing Co. announces they are expanding into the Midwest and opening a third location in Lincoln, NE. They have purchased a 10,000-square-foot production facility and tasting room with a restaurant in the Nebraska state capital, and will join Lincoln’s burgeoning craft beer community. The new brewery was purchased intact, and Green Flash expects the tasting room, restaurant, and brewhouse to be open and operating by the end of this year. Upon opening, Green Flash will be able to offer fresh beer with regional prices in the Midwest, and will focus on the consumer connection in their Lincoln tasting room. The move reveals Green Flash’s long-term strategy to increase their strength as a national brand by establishing regional footholds in key cities across the United States.
“We hope to become a local favorite in our new Nebraska home,” states Mike Hinkley, Co-Founder of Green Flash Brewing Co. “And we’re excited to be closer to our fans across the Midwest. We’ll be sending them fresher Green Flash beer, and hope they will visit us in Lincoln.”
The turn-key space includes first-class brewing, tasting room, and restaurant equipment. When it is up-and-running, the facility will employ 20-plus locals who will fill roles including front and back of house as well as brewing positions. This will be the first full-scale restaurant venture by Green Flash, and approximately 2,000 square feet of the space will be dedicated to food and beer service for about 100-seats. The menu will include beer pairing suggestions, and feature well-executed, simple dishes with fresh and seasonal ingredients. Most importantly, the tasting room and restaurant location will cater to the needs of the bustling downtown business district and is in walking distance to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“We will strive to offer the best possible guest experience and will cater to the community that surrounds us,” says Dave Adams, Vice President of Retail Operations for Green Flash Brewing Co. “This includes A/V provisions for Huskers sports during the season, allowing those in the immediate area to enjoy fresh Green Flash and Alpine beer both on and off premise.”
From a production standpoint, the new brewery will operate with a 10,000 BBL annual capacity under the direction of Brewmaster, Erik Jensen. In Nebraska, they will focus on brewing both Green Flash and Alpine beers to increase the supply of supply fresh, locally priced beer to the region.
Green Flash will celebrate their 15-year anniversary this fall and is currently available in all 50 states and select international markets.
(Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe taps a ceremonial firkin of Legend Coffee Bean Porter in Portsmouth on Monday)
By Jeff Maisey
As far as craft breweries in Virginia go, Legend Brewing Company is a dinosaur amongst newly hatched ducklings.
Back in 1994, Tom Martin opened a small tasting room and served pub-style food in the Manchester section of Richmond – a Legend was born. Martin would later expand his operation to include a large-size brewery paired with a 180-seat tasting room bar/restaurant with a full service kitchen specializing in both traditional German and British fare. The outdoor deck, or Beer Garden, is famous for its view of the downtown Richmond skyline from across the James River.
Before SB-604 was passed in 2012, craft breweries were far and few between in Virginia. There were only two types of breweries allowed by law: a manufacturing-only facility or a brewpub (a brewery that also operated as a restaurant).
In 2006, there were an estimated 26 or so breweries operating in Virginia. Today there are 206 and counting.
The increase in craft breweries has presented both opportunities and challenges for Legend. First, the increase in the overall popularity of craft beer is good for the industry. That said the available shelf-space in grocery store and other retailers is limited. Same is true with restaurant tap handles available in an environment where the pressure is to rotate taps and try the latest beer released. While Legend has enjoyed widespread distribution throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia it sees the increased volume of competition as a serious threat to their traditional, tried-and-true brews.
One of the new trends to take root in Virginia is the satellite brewery business model. A craft brewery can open what is essentially a bar/tasting room anywhere within Virginia as long as it brews a small amount of beer on-site. These small batches are often deemed experimental beers and allows brewers to test-batch new recipes while receiving feedback directly from loyal customers. The model also allows the brewery to send beer directly from its main production facility to the satellite location by a process called a “brewery-to-brewery transfer,” which bypasses the local distributor. But that’s not quite what Legend had in mind when developing its very first satellite location – Legend Brewing Depot – in Olde Towne Portsmouth.
Legend is sticking with its food/kitchen and brewery concept, though the brewery will be a small, 3-barrel system. And, instead of trucking its core beers from Richmond to Portsmouth it is doing something unheard of – ordering through the local distributor.
(Legend’s full portfolio of beers are on tap in Olde Towne Portsmouth)
Legend’s goal is to enhance its relationship with distributors while also increasing the visibility of its entire product line. Legend Brown Ale is known far and wide, but the brewery would like consumers to also try their Lager, Golden IPA, Porter, Pilsner, Z-dam, Belgian-style Tripel, and others. The idea is consumers will then request their favorite restaurant or retailer to carry the beer. It’s a promotional opportunity.
The kitchen philosophy deviates from the Richmond location in that The Depot will focus on seafood with a raw bar.
For the city of Portsmouth having a well-known, quality brewpub operating on the river-walk in Olde Towne is a great compliment to the nearby restaurants such as the Bier Garden and Roger Brown’s. Having the walkable, architecturally pleasing downtown serve as a beer and food destination will draw more locals through the tunnels, and this is likely to spur more growth in an area ripe with possibilities.
Legend Brewing Depot is located on the first floor of the historic, white, curved Seaboard Coastline Building. It was built in 1894 by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, which would later become CSX rail in 1978 after a merger with Chessie System.
Like Legend’s RVA location, the Depot in Portsmouth has a view from its outdoor patio of a downtown skyline – in this case Norfolk – from across a river.
While attending one of many soft opening events, I asked a variety of stakeholders a question or two regarding Legend Brewing Depot. The impromptu Q&As follow.
VEER: Can you tell us about the opportunity the Depot presents for Legend, being its first satellite location?
Legend’s Brewmaster of 23 years, John Wampler: It’s been a longtime coming. It gives us a chance to brew not only on a smaller system, but also for a different crowd. I think our name is pretty well known down here, and people are really excited about it.
Legend Vice President of Operations, Dave Gott: We’re looking at the way the market’s going right now with another five billion breweries opening up. Obviously, even with restaurants increasing the number of taps they have there’s still a finite number of beer drinkers out there. Everybody’s diluting the pool of beer drinkers. We’re looking at a strategy that’s basically opening places that are selling our beer only. We will continue to open places (brewpubs) that do food. We think people like to sit down to eat and drink. It also makes it a little more family oriented. We’re looking at markets that aren’t over-saturated and has something (a location) really neat. We’re not going into a strip mall. We’re into historical stuff and neat waterfront properties. Something with a beautiful view.
VEER: Will having a satellite outlet in Portsmouth increase Legend’s brand identity throughout Hampton Roads?
Wampler: Yeah, I think that will eventually happen that way.
Hoffman Beverage Company Craft Beer & Import Beer Manager, Greg White: I think it’s pretty important with the number of breweries that have opened up in the area over the last three or four years, and with the number of beers on the shelves. It’s becoming harder to distinguish yourself. Having a location in the Tidewater area where people can come and partake in the beer, see the brewing process, meet the brewers, the owner, it’s really important for the consumer to be able to identify with the brewery on a more personal level.
VEER: What is your brewing schedule for the 3-barrel system, which I understand will be producing sometime in late October?
Wampler: At this point we’re not exactly sure. We’re going to have at least two house-beers that we’ll brew here. I think we’ll do an Oyster Stout. We did one a few years ago with St. George. We’ll probably revisit that, and then something on the lighter side. We’ll do some experimental beers as well.
Gott: It’s nice to have a smaller system. You can play around a little more. It’s a lot less painful to dump three barrels of beer than it is 30 if you don’t like the way it turned out. We’ll do an oyster stout. We might even do a sour or two. All the beers brewed at The Depot will be proprietary beers for down here only. Hopefully it will draw people from all over. You’ll have beers here you can’t get anywhere else.
VEER: Can you explain the strategy of using the local distributor for receiving Legends core beers rather than doing a brewery-to-brewery transfer yourselves?
Wampler: We do what to keep a tight relationship with Hoffman. Our beers will then stay in their inventory so if a restaurant wants to pick them up in bottles or draft they’ll have ‘em in stock. I think everybody wins that way.
Gott: In Virginia you’re pretty much married to your distributor and there are no divorce laws. We figure that by working with the distributor it makes them part of it and gives them some skin in the game. It also brings all of our products into the market where distributors are cutting back on products. People (and businesses) that are interested in buying products that aren’t mainstream sellers can have them in their next delivery instead of waiting a month-and-a-half to go through a special order process.
White: I think it’s really neat. They’re one of the only breweries out there that have offered to do this. These guys respect the 3-tier system. They also respect the restaurants that sell their beer and they wouldn’t want to have what would be viewed as an unfair advantage being able to brew a beer and sell it at higher margins. They want to play by the rules that bar owners have to play by. So they buy the beer from us at the same cost as we sell to every other retailers.
VEER: Is this also a great way to introduce people to your Pilsner and other styles?
Wampler: The Pilsner came to mind when you started asking that. The Pilsner, Golden IPA, and all our seasonal. We’d like to get them more exposure.
Gott: The Pilsner is one of the products we want to focus on.
VEER: Why is the food concept different for Portsmouth?
Gott: It’s a smaller menu compared to Richmond. It’ll be heavier on the seafood. There’ll be a raw bar. Occasionally there’ll be some stout-boiled oysters.
VEER: How important is Legend Brewing Depot to your economic development team’s plan in luring more businesses to Olde Towne Portsmouth?
Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe: It’s very important. This is a destination. I had no idea of the magnitude of this place with its full-size kitchen, seating 149 folks, great beer, right on the busiest river in the United States. You can’t beat it. Our Economic Development specialist is here today and he’s swamped with people talking to him about High Street and it potential.
We’re developing quite a restaurant district in Olde Towne. People know Olde Towne by our restaurants here, like the Bier Garden.
Portsmouth Business Development Manager Robert Moore: We look at the brewpub as a destination. So like any destination you want something that brings them there, and now we’re working on those pieces around them. We have several restaurants downtown. We have a brewery downtown. We are anxiously awaiting on a distillery to come downtown. We want to make sure we have those other amenities in-between. This can truly be a live, work, play and enjoy yourself area.
(Smartmouth’ Safety Dance pilsner won Best of Show in 2017)
By Jeff Maisey
With the tragic loss of life and images of hate seen around the world from Charlottesville this past weekend it may be hard to fathom a festival celebrating the best craft beer produced in the Commonwealth, but perhaps the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival, scheduled Saturday, August 19 in downtown C-Ville’s IX Art Park will provide some symbolic positive vibes for a city in mourning. Perhaps the festival will be less a celebration and more a healing hand.
More the 100 craft breweries from Virginia will be onsite sampling their beers. The event is designed by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild as a showcase for the 2017 award-winning beers.
The actual awards ceremony was held on June 5 at Westrock headquarters in Richmond. The Virginia Craft Beer Cup competition was managed by master Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judge Tom Cannon and 40 judges.
“Last year we made a conscious decision to move up the competition so that there would be more time to promote award-winning beers,” explained Brett Vassey, president and CEO of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. “This year – because it worked – we moved it up even further so that all the award-winning beers would be able to market their beers for the summer peak season and at our Fest in August, and then leading up to the fall season when they’ll do additional competitions.”
This year’s Best of Show winner went to Smartmouth Brewing Company’s Safety Dance, a pilsner.
The Virginia Craft Brewers Fest is from 2-8 PM. VIP entry begins at 1 PM. Food trucks will be onsite. Live music provided by Jackass Flats, the Deer Creek Boys, and Tara Mills/Jimmy Stelling.
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