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Virginia Craft Beer Magazine by Jeff Maisey - 21m ago

Commonwealth Brewing Company’s Jeramy Biggie savors a hazy NE-style IPA

By Jeremy Bender

Each summer, millions of people flock to the coast like seagulls hovering over a fish fry. 

In Coastal Virginia there are some two hundred miles of varied communities ranging from the small fishing town of Chincoteague near the Maryland border on the Eastern Shore all the way down to the resort strip in Virginia Beach, and then over to the Chesapeake Bay where Shore Drive and Chicks Beach thrive. 

These areas on the coast offer a sea swell of outdoor activities that include everything from deep sea fishing excursions, para-sailing, sea kayaking and surfing like a champ at the 1st Street jetty to hiking in the Spanish moss covered swampiness of First Landing State Park, riding beach cruisers up-and-down the boardwalk, enjoying free outdoor concerts at 24th and 31st Street parks and watching wild ponies in marshy wetlands.  

And talk about fresh seafood and outdoor patios with clear views of coastal marinas, the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay — there are many attractive options to choose from for lunch, dinner and after hours.

The one thing this region has lacked within walking distance to the sandy coast is a craft brewery.   That’s all changed within the last two years, and now there are multiple options for weeklong vacationers, weekend tourists, day-tripping Virginians, and locals who pedal a few blocks from home for growler refills.  

Virginia Beach attracts an estimated 15.2 million visitors each year. There’s a lot of beer sales and branding opportunity for sure. 

Following is a brief summary of Coastal Virginia independent craft breweries grouped geographically. Most will offer extended hours during the summer. 

Virginia Beach Oceanfront

Home Republic Brewpub

You can read the positive reviews online stating “here on a Wednesday, great atmosphere, food, beer and staff” and “great selection of beers and simple brewpub entrees” to get a feel for what others think of Home Republic. We totally agree.

Home Republic is a much needed brewpub positioned just a block away from the Neptune/31st Street Park on the Virginia Beach oceanfront. 

The super friendly staff and brew crew operate a tiny, nano scale brewery with all of the R2D2-sized shiny equipment in clear view. 

The interior is dark and cozy, offering a nice break from the bright sun and heat of summer. The brewpub also has an attractive outdoor patio that’s totally covered. It’s ideal seating for people watching while offering protection from a sudden rain shower.

As you might expect, Home Republic serves both a cast of year-round flagships and some one-off seasonals. We recommend anything unique, of course, but also try the Gladiator Session IPA, Galaxy Pale Ale, King Kolsch, Salted Caramel Ale and for dessert enjoy a Cup of Joe Coffee Brown Ale. 

As for eats, you’ll find plenty to satisfy during the heat of summer. Try the Fried Goat Cheese Salad, Cuban Panini, crab cakes, shrimp tacos or build your own burger. 

Home Republic Brewpub, 328 Laskin RD, Virginia Beach, homerepublicvabeach.com 

Smartmouth Brewing Pilot House

The Pilot House is the recently opened satellite location of Norfolk’s award-winning Smartmouth Brewing Company. It’s just a 2-block stroll from the Boardwalk.

While the craft brewery is often known for its big IPAs like Notch 9 and Rule G, its perfectly brewed pilsner called Safety Dance was deemed the best in state and won the Virginia Beer Cup in 2017. 

Visitors will find all of Smartmouth’s widely distributed flagship brands like Alter Ego (a saison) and Murphy’s Law (amber red ale) as well as tasty seasonals like Sommer Fling (Bavarian-inspired hefeweizen). 

The primary mission, however, of The Pilot House is test batching experimental recipes brewed onsite, and that’s a real plus for vacationing beer enthusiasts. 

Smartmouth’s Pilot House sports a clean, modern decor with views of the brewing equipment and both indoor and outdoor seating. 

Trivia nights will be held every Thursday night. On June 23, they’ll present the Lupulin Effect IPA Festival at the brewery.  

Smartmouth Brewing Pilot House, 313 32nd Street, Virginia Beach, smartmouthbrewing.com/vb 

Back Bay Brewing Company

One of the more interesting tasting room experiences you’ll find is at Back Bay Brewing Company. It’s a few blocks from the main resort area in a cluster of locally-owned businesses that includes an artists’ gallery, coffee shop, and an excellent fish taco joint — all within a few yards of each other. This is where the locals hang to get away from the tourists. So, keep it quite.

The tasting room at Back Bay shows off its nano brewery setup, but the true uniqueness is the aesthetics: the bar has a secondary, beach cottage-like storefront, the walls are old vintage outbuilding inspired tin with mallard and goose decoys nicely mounted. There’s also a small room to relax in on the second floor with open interior windows for looking down upon the brewing equipment. 

Among the Back Bay beers to try this summer are the Mango Hefeweizen, POG IPA (passion fruit and Guava), Lotta Colada Belgian Tripel Ale, Leishman Lager, and the newly packaged Scotchy Scotch Ale (aged four months in highly peated Scotch barrels).  

Back Bay Brewing Company, 614 Norfolk Ave., Virginia Beach, backbaybrewingco.com 

Coming Soon: Young Veterans Brewing Company will open its satellite location dubbed The Bunker mid-summer, with a grand opening likely in July. The Bunker will feature all the exceptional flagship brands the brewery is known for such as Pineapple Grenade Hefeweizen, GI Pilsner, Jet Noise Double IPA and Night Vision American Stout, but its primary mission, like most satellite ventures, is to operate as an experimental laboratory for unique beers. The Bunker will also allow the brewery to have entertainment and lots of live music, something forbidden in its manufacturing home-base due to US Navy zoning (its near an air base). 

Also coming to the Virginia Beach oceanfront this summer is Richmond-based Isley Brewing Company. We broke that announcement back in February, and the expectation is for Isley to open to the public in July. Isley’s location (315 Virginia Beach Blvd) is in the newly trendy Vibe District — just 3 to 4 blocks from the boardwalk — where outstanding restaurant/beer bar Esoteric operates. 

Owner Mike Isley said, “Fifty percent of the beers will be the same (as in RVA),” but noted “we may do more genuine sours. We’re really loving out kettle sours and goses.” 

Get ready to pucker-up to Isley come July in Virginia Beach. 

 

Near the Oceanfront Strip

Wasserhund Brewing Company

A German admiral serving at NATO headquarters in nearby Norfolk stated the hefeweizen brewed by Wasserhund was as good as any from Bavaria. What more do you need to know before making this place a must visit?

Wasserhund specializes in German-style beers, but also delves into many interesting brewing excursions. In addition to the Shepeweizen, be sure to enjoy the Berhund Lager and Purebread Pilsner on a hot summer’s night. Also recommended are Summer Fetch Citrus Honey Wheat, Kettle Sour Gose and Sunny Dog IPA. 

Wasserhund doubles as a brewpub and features top notched gourmet pizzas and salads. 

Wasserhund Brewing Company, 1805 Laskin RD, Virginia Beach, wasserhundbrewing.com 

Reaver Beach Brewing Company

Quietly, Reaver Beach has been producing some of Coastal Virginia’s finest hoppy beers for eight years, and has recently greatly enhanced its sour program. In fact, Reaver has a real cool ship — just like Belgian brewers use in Lambicland. 

For hop lovers try Hoptopus Double IPA. Sour lovers will be in heaven this side of Brussels when enjoying seemingly endless sours re-fermented with everything from apricots, black currents, blueberries and even watermelon. 

Reaver Beach Brewing Company, 1505 Taylor Farms RD, Virginia Beach, reaverbeach.com 

Young Veterans Brewing Company

In addition to the flagship beers previously mentioned, Young Vets vintage military-themed tasting room is a nice showplace for its arsenal of sour beers like Private Plum Sour Ale, The Objector (sour IPA with hibiscus) and MOPP 4 Sour IPA. 

You’ll need a vehicle to drive to this industrial zone craft brewery, but it’s a must for all veterans and active duty personnel. 

Young Veterans Brewing Company, 2505 Horse Pasture RD, Virginia Beach, yvbc.com  

Coming Soon: When Green Flash Brewing exited its Virginia Beach facility in January, it left behind a fully functional, large scale brewing operation. Atlanta-based New Realm Brewing Company acquired the equipment at auction and struck a deal with the city and property owner to operate this turn-key business, with the addition of a full-service kitchen. New Realm expects to open at 1209 Craft Lane later this summer. 

Shore Drive/Chicks Beach/Chesapeake Bay (Virginia Beach)

Commonwealth Brewing Company

In the Chicks Beach neighborhood in close proximity to the mighty Chesapeake Bay, Commonwealth Brewing Co is housed in a former fire station. The “garage” was converted into a tasting room with the large rolling doors opened to let the bay-breeze filter in on cool summer nights. 

The tasting room decor smacks of coastal vibes and is most relaxing. An outdoor patio uses barrels for barriers and lightbulbs dangle overhead for evening atmosphere. 

The brewery does an exceptional job with barrel-aged beers and sours. The core lineup and hazy IPAs are equally on-par. You really can’t go wrong with any selection, but we certainly recommend whatever limited release featured the day you visit as well as There Gose Gravity (IPA), Tina Rosa (gose), Bodhisattva (tropical gose), Dysphotic (black saison), Cheval de Trait (Belgian quad), and Cheval au Soleil (Belgian wit). 

Commonwealth Brewing Company, 2444 Pleasure House RD, Virginia Beach, commonwealthbrewingcompany.com  

Pleasure House Brewing

These folks know their beer and have fun developing the recipes their local clientele prefers. There’s a constant rotation of new beers that keep things as fresh as they are interesting. For example, Shark Tears is a fruity gose made from chopped rhubarb and salt extracted from gallons of sea water brought to the brewery from a local fisherman who frequents the brewery. The brewers have also used rainwater collected from the nearby Brock Environmental Center to create a fine pils. 

It’s a fun place just to select something described with the most unusual ingredients. We also encourage visitors to try the Ambie-Dextrous Doppelbock, Shrove Tuesday English Bitter, Light Tower Wine Barrel Aged Saison, and Glo.  

Pleasure House Brewing, 3025 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach, pleasurehousebrewing.com 

Deadline Brewing Project

The trio of owners hail from local media outlets and brand these qualities with craft beer for a fun experience. Their beers include Airline Cookie Amber, Pacer Blonde, Chocolate Porter, IPA and Pale Ale. 

Deadline Brewing Project, 2272 W. Great Neck RD, Virginia Beach, deadlinebrewing.com 

Ocean View/Chesapeake Bay

Coming Soon: Norfolk’s The Bold Mariner Brewing Company will open a satellite location in the Ocean View section of the city, just 2 blocks from the sandy shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Surprisingly, it’s this community’s first craft brewery. 

The satellite brewery will be known as The Reserve (1901 East Ocean View Avenue) and located in an attractive two-story beach house-like structure with outdoor porches. 

The brewery will serve Bold Mariner mainstays such as Frogman Lager, but the showcase will be on premium craft ales, sours, and barrel-aged beers. 

Opens in the Fall of 2018. 

Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Black Narrows Brewing Company

The first brewery to open on the Eastern Shore calls the storied fishing village of Chincoteague home. Tourists come to see the wild ponies, natural wildlife refuge and pristine beaches of Assateague Island (a US National Park) during the day, and then spend the night in the town. Black Narrows is an ideal addition to a community lacking in craft beer. It’s also a lot of fun, especially with beers like Cockle Creek (Scottish ale), Plum Wild (fruited barrel-aged wild), Salts (tart oyster wheat) and How Bout It (heirloom corn lager with grits, pear). The beers are on rotation so what you see is what you get. If you’re lucky they may have Chicken City Pale Lager on tap when you visit. 

Black Narrows Brewing Company, 4522 Chick City Road, Chincoteague, VA, blacknarrowsbrewing.com

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Russell Carpenter, PhD, is Rocket Frog Brewing Company’s mad scientist and head brewer

By Jeff Maisey

Rocket Frog Brewing Company — Loudoun County’s newest brewery — leap into orbit on May 19, debuting with five beers on tap: Angry Alice IPA, Minotaur American Golden Ale, Wallops Island American Brown Ale, Double IPA and Dry Saison.

The brewery is owned by twin brothers David and Richard Hartogs along with Jennifer Showell-Hartogs (David’s wife). 

If you think the name Rocket Frog sounds fun, you’ll love the story behind it. 

The Hartogs brothers initially sought to open a brewery in Arlington and name it either Great Falls Brewing Company or Arlington Brewing Company. After eight months of prospecting for a building they changed course all around.

In the meantime, Richard Hartogs saw the 2013 story of rocket frog go viral, sometime after the actual event took place. The story goes like this: A frog was caught by the ignition of a Minotaur V rocket and hurled high in the air in a cloud of smoke as the LADEE spacecraft lifted off the ground during a Wallops Island Spaceport launch on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. A NASA photograph captured the event. The New York Daily News published the amazing photo with the headline, “One Giant Leap for Frogkind.” 

Amused by the event, Richard decided to rename his fantasy football team Rocket Frog as a joke. 

“I emailed David and asked, ‘What about Rocket Frog Brewing Company?’”

A frog is captured during a lift off of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, September 6, 2013. (Chris Perry/NASA)

After a little more research, the Hartogs learned the launch of the rocket occurred on their shared birthday and the spacecraft design was done a mile down the street from their Sterling, Virginia home. 

“We sort of backed into this story all because we thought it was a funny name,” said Richard. 

Rocket Frog, as you can imagine, has a lot of branding potential. They met the folks at Blind Tiger Designs last year at the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, DC. They’ve contracted with the company for their logo, can designs and other merchandising and marketing creative work. Each beer brand will have its own story. 

The brewery’s mug club for frequent patrons will be called the Launch Pad Society. For a yearly subscription, Society members will get a one-off designed growler. Refills will be discounted by a buck. Other benefits will include the reward of a barrel-aged beer, a glass, and T-shirt. 

Rocket Frog’s website states the company’s brewing philosophy will be influenced by the beer cultures of San Diego — where their older brother lives — and Belgium — where their father was born. The Belgian connection, however, goes far deeper than a love of Flemish reds and Lambics. 

“Our dad was born in Antwerp in 1938,” explained Richard. “We are a Jewish family. In 1942, his whole family, including himself, was rounded up and taken for deportation. For some reason he and five other kids were put inside a crib in a building. He never saw his family again. They were taken to Auschwitz.”

The child’s name was Max. He was placed in an orphanage in Belgium until World War II ended and later became adopted by a family in North America and given the name Michael Hartogs.

The Belgian aspect of Rocket Frog will be as much about honoring the heritage of their father as brewing Belgian-style beers. They’ll brew Tripels, sours, saisons, a barrel-aged quad and others. 

The Hartogs brothers are big IPA hop-heads and will make the style a highlight of the brewery, but they are keen to insist they want to be a brewery for everyone, and that includes a full spectrum of styles. 

Rock Frog Brewing Company is starting out as a 15 barrel brewhouse. The Hartogs hired Russell Carpenter, PhD (Biochemistry), as their head brewer and given him complete freedom to have at it.

Carpenter was working at a brewpub in Massachusetts and came across an ad in Brewbound placed by the Hartogs in search of a brewer. 

“I guess we had the right situation for him,” explained Richard. “We’re a slightly bigger brewhouse than he was working on. We’re giving him a lot of creative freedom, with some direction. I tell people the back of the house is his.”

Rocket Frog Brewing Company is located in Stirling, Virginia in close proximity to Dulles Airport. There are numerous hotel option nearby for those wishing to make a weekend of brewery hopping. It’d be easy to spend time at Rocket Frog, and also visit these nearby breweries: Twinpanzee, Crooked Run, Beltway, Solace, Ocelot, Lost Rhino, Old Ox and Quattro Goomba’s. 

Get hoppin’. 

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By Jeff Maisey

If you’ve ever heard Dick Cantwell speak on the topic of beer you know he’s both incredibly knowledgeable on the subject and an engaging storyteller — both qualities that make for an excellent book. 

That said it’s perhaps no wonder the Brewers Association’s publishing division is behind Cantwell’s new book, Brewing Eclectic IPA: Pushing the Boundaries of India Pale Ale (Available June 4, $19.95).

Cantwell co-founded Elysian Brewing Company in 1996. Elysian was crowned Large Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival in 1999, 2003 and 2004, before being sold to AB in 2015.

According to the Brewers Association statistics department, IPAs are today the third most popular style of beer in the country, trailing American lagers and light lagers. While IPAs account for 3.1 percent of total beer by volume, in the craft beer category the style is attributed to between 24-33 percent of sales. Nearly one in three craft beers sold in America are IPAs. 

So why are IPAs so popular with American consumers?

“It’s an interesting stretch of history in craft brewing, “ explained Cantwell. “IPA were one of the styles that were rediscovered by American craft brewers. It practically died-out in its country of origin — the UK — where they were making pretty insipid versions. IPAs for craft brewers were a real way to showoff. They were a way to show that you knew how to make a real tasty beer that was also really strong and hoppy.”

Cantwell also credits the emergence of fruity hops entering the craft marketplace for more floral and citrusy notes.  He believes consumers have shown their overwhelming desire for the style.

“The way bitter beers and hops react on the palate, it is naturally an acquired taste. People taste hoppy beers at first and they might be a little off-putting, but you just keep going back to them. IPAs are a statement on how much a consumer can take. There’s a little bit of that endurance aspect to them. It’s the combination of excess, both in terms of conception and in terms of consumption, that keeps it such a popular style.”

Cantwell was one of the judges for the recent World Beer Cup competition. Whether he’s judging a beer competition or consuming several for enjoyment with friends or at home in San Francisco, Cantwell schedules and delays having an IPA for the end of a session. 

“If you keep hammering on those (IPAs) there is some palate fatigue,” he said. “One way that I will pick the sequence of beers that I’ll have at the end of the day is that I’m very conscious of what order I drink them in. If I drink something hoppy and then go back to something less hoppy, it’s not going to show that beer off to its advantage because your palate is already kind of ranched by that intense bitterness. In fact, it can sometimes display aspects somewhat artificially because of that experience you’ve just been through.”

Cantwell said cloudy, fruit-forward New England-style IPAs have become almost as popular on the West Coast as in the East. 

“I like them,” admitted Cantwell. “Like any other style there are good and bad examples of them, but I find them really interesting. They present a really interesting sequence and technique of hopping that really hasn’t been completely explored before. I find it kind of curious how divisive it has become.”

In Nashville, at the Brewers Association conference, Cantwell heard speakers rant against cloudy IPAs.

“I just don’t see what the big deal is,” he said. “It’s a new sub-style. Will it last? Who knows. The consumer will speak loudest about that.

“Several years ago we had Black IPAs, and now there aren’t many of those around anymore.”

Throughout Brewing Eclectic IPA, Cantwell delves into the evolution of the IPA, provides guidance for designing unique beers, and shares 25 original IPA recipes.  The books is a must-read for commercial craft brewers, home brewers, and consumers wanting to know more about their favorite style — the IPA. 

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Big Lick Brewing Company, in Roanoke, started as a nano brewery producing 112 barrels each year to a brewhouse expected to reach 1,000 barrels in 2018. As seen in this photograph, the tasting room is greatly enhanced as well.

By David Hunter

In April, The Brewers Association released its inaugural list of the 50 fastest growing small and independent craft brewing companies of 2017 and three breweries on that list are from right here in Virginia: Vanish Farmwoods Brewery from Leesburg, VA coming in at #25; Big Lick Brewing Company from Roanoke, VA at #45; and Fair Winds Brewing Company from Lorton, VA at #47. To be considered, breweries must have had data from the last three years and opened by 12/31/2015 or earlier.

I reached out to Jonathan Staples (owner) with Vanish, Bryan Summerson (owner) from Big Lick and Casey Jones (owner) from Fair Winds and asked them to reflect on their growth over the last few years, and this is what they had to say…

Jonathan Stapes

Vanish Farmwoods Brewery #25

“Our first goal was to make the best beer we could, showcasing the work of our brewer, Larry Pomerantz, and his team. Our location, on a 61-acre farm, has four bars spread among three tasting rooms, two stages, and over three acres of outdoor picnic areas.  Vanish is a place for families, we have massive playgrounds, arcade games, space to run, and as many food options as we can manage (last weekend we had pizza, BBQ, hamburgers, and a Mexican food truck.   Of course, none of this would matter if we were not creating beer that our guests liked as much as we do.”

“Our growth will always be limited by the fact that we purposely have very little distribution, over 90% of what we produce is consumed on-site. We don’t want to be in gas stations or in bars that we wouldn’t go to ourselves, so a lot of the conventional measures of a brewery’s growth don’t matter to us. A metric we do care about is that we now have 62 employees at the farm, and as we grow that number will increase.”

“Having 18 different beers on tap, constantly pushing and experimenting so that it is never boring, our beer list is different every week. Creating a place where the entire family has something to do and having so many different places onsite that you can choose your experience, ranging from a packed stage area to a quiet space under a tree.”

“For beer, we’re adding an aging facility at the farm that will focus on sours, and we’ll be expanding our to-go options by adding the capacity to do more canning runs.  On the facility, we are expanding the playground, adding another outdoor bar, and opening our new winery/cidery in May.”

Bryan Summerson

Big Lick Brewing Company #45

“We started out as a 2-bbl nano brewery.  We had real jobs, myself teaching.  We were open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a total of 17 hours/week.  The whole space totaled 1,500 sq. ft., with a capacity of 45 people.  We’ve never distributed.  We were extremely busy/well received from day 1.  Had a three-year plan to see how it went, and at the end we’d either expand or go back to our day jobs. Well, it went really well.  We were approached about the space we’re in now and immediately took it.”

“The new space is over 11,000 sq. ft., with 6,000 of it being outdoor beer garden.  We moved up to a 15-bbl brewhouse from Deutsche Beverage.  We are now open every day except Monday and Tuesday.  See our website for pictures, as it is quite something.  I now have a dozen taproom staff, a taproom manager and two brewing assistants.  At the original space it was pretty much two partners and our wives doing everything.”

“In 2015 & 2016 we brewed around 112 bbls each year.  In 2017, after being open in the new space for only three months, it rose to close to 500 bbls.  We are on pace to do 1,000 this year.  At this point we still only serve out of our taproom but are getting ready to start distributing to tap accounts by the end of May.”

“I attribute our growth to the fact that we create a very good product.  We also started out brewing different beers, rarely the same one twice.  Four years ago, when we opened, all of the breweries in our area had four or five core beers with a rotating seasonal.  People love our variety.  We also are located in downtown Roanoke, which has become a bustling/thriving area with lots of young professionals.  We try to get involved in the community as much as possible too.”

Casey Jones

Fair Winds Brewing Company #47

“We built Fair Winds Brewing Company to provide fresh, local, flavorful craft beers to our neighbors and friends in Fairfax County and throughout the Commonwealth and the District of Columbia. We don’t believe in one-size-fits-all; instead we believe that craft beer, like food, should complement the moment and add to the overall experience.”

“Our fastest growth in 2017 was in barrel-age produced (which is what the BA used to calculate the top 50 fastest growing breweries). We produce beer to meet demand in the market, so our growth in production was motivated by a growth in sales. While we saw growth in both taproom and distribution sales, our greatest growth in 2017 came from distribution sales. We have been slow to hire to ensure that the new positions we create are supported by sales and that we can ensure that once we create them they will stay. We are up to 16 employees (vs. the 5 when we started in 2015).”

“Our growth has been motivated by three key factors; Partners, People and Process. Our greatest sales growth in 2017 came through distribution sales. Our distribution and retail partners were key for helping us deliver our draft and packaged beers to consumers in both on premise (restaurants and bars) and off-premise locations.”

“We were rated one of the 50 fastest growing breweries in beer volume 2017-2018. This was enabled by people. Our dedicated and hard-working Brew Crew met the massive increase in production while only adding one PT member to the team. Also, our Brand Ambassadors managed to significantly increase the number of retail partners that carried our beers in the market. Finally, our service-oriented Thirstmates worked to engage more customers in our taproom and educate them on the Fair Winds beers.”

“In order to achieve high amounts of growth without a significant increase in the size of the team, you need to have strong processes in place. For Fair Winds these processes include a very strong focus on QA/QC to ensure we provide shelf stable beers to our distribution and retail partners.”

“Our focus for 2018 is around adding new SKUs of packaged beers. The first was released this spring, Hells Navigator a VA Beer Cup Gold and Silver medal winning Maibock. We plan to release three more in 2018.”

David Hunter is founder of Fans of Virginia Craft Breweries. Find him on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/FansofVACB/, Twiter: FansofVACB and Instagram: fansofvacb

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Center of the Universe’s brew team is one of the best in the world for 2018 (Pictured top L-R: Nathan Landers, Joseph Cross, Doug Pike, Skyler Hinkel) (Pictured bottom L-R: Corey Johnson, Brett Dillon)

By Jeff Maisey

Nashville might be known as Music City, but in May it became Medal City for two independent Virginia craft breweries and one non-independent from Nelson County. 

Ashland-headquartered Center of the Universe Brewing Company won a Gold medal for its Bad Irishman in the Irish-style Red Ale category and its Session Pale Ale scored a Silver medal in the Session Beer category. 

Alexandria-based Port City Brewing Company earned a Silver medal in the Robust Porter category for its Porter.

For both independent craft breweries it was their first-ever medal in the World Beer Cup.

“We have entered the competition since we opened,” said Port City owner Bill Butcher. “It is only held every two years, so we have competed in four: 2012, 2014, 2016 and this year. I could not be more proud of our team, and we are all super excited to win this award. For me personally, the best part was having 11 of us from the brewery there to share the moment. It really is a special recognition to be considered among the finest in the world.”

Bragging rights certainly are also in order for Center of the Universe; their Irish red ale was deemed the best on earth for 2017.

“Phil and I were thrilled as we heard our brewery’s name called out via the live stream on Thursday night,” said co-owner Chris Ray. The COTU team was not in Nashville to accept the awards. “But really, these awards are for our staff.  They are for the guys in the back who work tirelessly in extreme conditions while maintaining a high level of precision.  It is for our sales staff that are out on the streets everyday pushing products they believe in.  It is also for our front of the house managers and servers that enthusiastically great our fans on a daily basis with such pride in the brewery they represent.  It was just really exciting to be recognized on the world stage and have those rewards reflect the hard work of everyone who makes Center of the Universe what it is.”

So what makes the Bald Irishman with best of its style in the world?

“It is truly delicious,” a confident Chris Ray said. “Phil changed this recipe up for the 2017 brew to round out the flavors a little more and we just hit the nail on the head.  It doesn’t hurt to have a little karma on your side for what this beer represents.  We brew this beer annually and donate the proceeds to the Balderinos, our Satellite club’s group of fundraisers, to benefit the St. Baldric’s Foundation.  This year, the group raised over $35,000.  Perhaps the judges could taste their passion for improving our community.” 

Center of the Universe is well situated to experiment with recipes since opening its satellite location known as Origin Beer Lab in downtown Ashland. It’s impact is credited with the brewery’s new successes.

“Origin has had a monumental impact on Center of the Universe,” Ray said. “From new techniques, to new ingredients, to complete recipe formulation, Origin Beer Lab does it all.  We decided to get a “mini-me” style system, one not seen very often in breweries that small, in order to allow our team to scale-up new recipes and practice on a system that mimics our main facility. Origin’s brew system isn’t a playground, its a vessel that makes extremely good beer on its own.”

The non-independent brewery winner from Virginia was Devils Backbone Brewing Company for its Danzig (Bronze, Baltic-style Porter) and Alt Bier (German-style Altbier). 

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(Air Marshal Sir Graham Stacey of the United Kingdom (pictured at Norfolk NATO Festival) said his favorite style of beer is now American IPAs)

By Jeff Maisey

By now, every American citizen has likely heard of craft beer, if not tasted one. From sprawling metropolitan hubs to small towns like Bedford, Virginia, rural counties such as Nelson County to tourism magnets, including Colonial Williamsburg and the Virginia Beach resort strip, independent craft beer is taking root and expanding in popularity. 

The revolution that is craft beer has spread from “sea to shining sea,” and it hasn’t gone unnoticed in the eyes of visitors from overseas. 

“Most bits of the US have gone from a beer desert to a beer lover’s paradise in a few short years,” said Air Marshal Sir Graham Stacey of the United Kingdom.

Sir Graham Stacey is currently serving his last two months as Chief of Staff at NATO’s Allied Command Transformation headquarters in Norfolk. It’s NATO’s only headquarters in North America. 

Stacey’s go-to beer style is India Pale Ale, more commonly called IPA.

“I’ve always enjoyed hoppy beers,” he said. “I moved on from English-style bitters and ales to American-style IPAs.”

His taste in beer has certain changed over time. He recalled having a can of Watneys Red Barrel at age 16 when one of his classmates snuck a 4-pack into the dorm at boarding school.

“I thought it was disgusting and vowed I’d never drink beer again, and I’ve spend my whole life completely ignoring my own advice,” he admitted. 

Graham Stacey, like so most who serve in the armed forces, has been deployed to the far ends of the world, from Indonesia, Cyprus, Afghanistan, Belize, and Kuwait to the Falkland Islands, Kosovo, Iraq and Tampa.

Air Marshal Stacey has both visited and worked in the United States for many years. He often found it a challenge to locate quality beer. 

“As we jokingly used to say, ‘The good thing about Bud and Miller is you’d drown before you got drunk,’” he said with amusement. “I think for me the revolution — if that’s the right word — was the first time I stumbled across Sam Adams. That appeared to be a beer that had the taste and flavor I really wanted. Now, I say to people, if you want an adventure in beer then come to the States. 

“I was an early member of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) in the UK when I was at university. That was in the late 1970s. So I’ve always been an advocate for real ale.

“I think the US has now overtaken many parts of the world. What great is that you’ve embraced craft brewing, but you’re also prepared to use innovation and imagination — different flavors, different hops, different mixtures, different styles.”

Since serving at NATO headquarters in Norfolk for the past three years, Stacey has tried a wide array of American-made IPAs and visited local breweries O’Connor, Smartmouth, and The Bold Mariner. Last year, he participated in a collaboration with Bold Mariner brewers Mike Stacks and John O’Reilly on a beer called Cross the Pond IPA.  

“I actually studied chemistry at university, so I understand the science of brewing quite well,” he said. “The thing I probably enjoyed most about that adventure was the people and just dealing with people who’ve got a genuine passion, a genuine commitment, and a genuine love for beer and what they do. And it is that image of the people I take away from Bold Mariner, and the other places I’ve been to in the States.”

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The Virginia Craft Brewers Guild announced the 2018 Virginia Craft Beer Cup winners on Monday, June 4, 2018, at WestRock in Richmond, Virginia. There were nearly 300 brewers and supporters in attendance to celebrate excellence in independent Virginia craft beer. The Virginia Craft Beer Cup competition was managed by Master Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Judge Tom Cannon, 38 judges and 15 stewards. Bill Butcher, Port City Brewing Co.; Bill Madden, Mad Fox Brewing Co.; and Duke Fox, Starr Hill Brewery, served as advisors. This year 375 beers in 27 categories competed for awards. The judging took place Saturday, May 19 at Fair Winds Brewing Company in Lorton, Virginia.

The Virginia Craft Beer Cup continues to be the largest state competition of its kind in the United States. The VCBG is committed to giving its members the opportunity to compete, obtain critical feedback from certified judges, and get statewide recognition that will help build their brands. “Contributing to the development of outstanding independent craft beer is central to our mission,” said Brett Vassey, President & CEO, Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. “The Cup is an important part of helping to expand public recognition and peer appreciation for great craft beer.”

The 2018 Virginia Craft Beer Cup winners are as follows:

BEST IN SHOW

First Place         Brothers Craft Brewing, Lil’ Hellion

Second Place     Blue Mountain Barrel House & Organic Brewery, Adambeor

Third Place          Port City Brewing Company, Optimal Wit

Amber and Brown American Beer

First Place            Legend Brewing Company, Brown Ale

Second Place       Alewerks Brewing Company, Tavern Brown Ale

Third Place           MoMac Brewing Company, Craney Island Brown Ale

Amber Malty and Bitter European Lager

First Place               Mustang Sally Brewing Company, Article One Amber Lager

Second Place         Caboose Brewing Company, Vienna (VA) Lager

Third Place              Starr Hill Brewery, Jomo

American Porter and Stout

First Place               Wild Wolf Brewing Company, American Stout

Second Place          Old Ox Brewery, Black Ox

Third Place              Stone Brewing, Totalitarian Imperial Russian Stout

American Wild Ale

First Place                The Oozlefinch Craft Brewery, Dr. Rendezvous

Second Place           Reaver Beach Brewing Company, The Reaver

Third Place               Väsen Brewing Company, Guava Gose

Belgian Ale

First Place               Port City Brewing Company, Optimal Wit

Second Place         Garden Grove Brewing and Urban Winery, Belgian Wit

Third Place             Castleburg Brewery and Taproom, Queens Guard

British and Scottish Ale

First Place               Ballad Brewing, Fast Mail

Second Place         Port City Brewing Company, Monumental IPA

Third Place             Twin Creeks Brewing Company, Across the Pond British Brown Ale

Czech Lager

First Place               Port City Brewing Company, Downright Pilsner

Second Place         Ardent Craft Ales, Bohemian Pilsner

Third Place             Champion Brewing Company, Shower Beer

Dark and Strong British Beer

First Place            The Virginia Beer Company, Elbow Patches Oatmeal Stout

Second Place       Adventure Brewing Company, Black Sail Scotch Ale

Third Place           Brew Republic Bierwerks, Nightmare

European Dark and Strong Lager

First Place            Wasserhund Brewing Company, Doppeldog Lager

Second Place       Barrel Oak Farm Taphouse, Winter Solstice

Third Place           Beer Hound Brewery, Zoeie

European Sour Ale

First Place            Red Dragon Brewery, Here Be Dragons

Second Place       Beale’s Beer, Bearliner

Third Place           Strangeways Brewing, Uberlin

Fruit Beer

First Place            Olde Salem Brewing Company, Swag Surfin’ Oceanside Gose

Second Place       Big Lick Brewing Company, Smile Like You Mean It

Third Place           The Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Monkey’s Fist

German Wheat Beer

First Place             Black Hoof Brewing Company, Weissbier

Second Place        Alesation Brewing Company, Das Weizen

Third Place            Crooked Run Brewing, Best Days

Historical and Smoked Beer

First Place              Blue Mountain Barrel House and Organic Brewery, Adambeor

Second Place         Rock Bottom Restaurants and Brewery, Oh, Here is Gose-gain

Third Place             Portner Brewhouse, Portner Porter

International Lager

First Place              Coelacanth Brewing Company, Tailgate

Second Place         Bick Lick Brewing Company, A Huevo! Mexican Lager

Third Place             South Street Brewery, VA Lager

IPA

First Place              Final Gravity Brewing Company, The Doppler Effect

Second Place         Final Gravity Brewing Company, Retrograde

Third Place             Starr Hill Brewery, Looking Glass

Irish Beer

First Place              Pale Fire Brewing Company, Red Molly

Second Place         Old Busthead Brewing Company, Vixen

Third Place             Ono Brewing Company, Black Pearl

Pale American Ale

First Place              6 Bears and a Goat, Mae West

Second Place         2 Silos Brewing Company, Mason Pale Ale

Third Place            Three Notch’d Brewing Company, Ghost of the 43rd

Pale Bitter European Beer

First Place              Bull Island Brewing Company, King Street Kolsch

Second Place         Fair Winds Brewing Company, Quayside Kolsch

Third Place             Backroom Brewery, Kiss-Me-Kolsch

Pale Malty European Lager

First Place              Brothers Craft Brewing, Lil’ Hellion

Second Place         Random Row Brewing Company, Not Yours Maibock

Third Place             Beale’s Beer, Gold

Specialty Beer

First Place              Center of the Universe Brewing Company, Brandt

Second Place         Apocalypse Ale Works, Dreamsicle

Third Place             Precarious Beer Project, Reve Du Jour

Spiced Beer

First Place               Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, Heir Apparent

Second Place          Steam Bell Beer Works, Tiramisu

Third Place              Old Ox Brewery, Kristin’s Passion

Standard American Beer

First Place               Trapezium Brewing Company, Mexican Lager

Second Place          Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Richmond Lager

Third Place              Bald Top Brewing Company, Manor House Ale

Strong American Ale

First Place                Precarious Beer Project, Everything Is Lava But the Swings Are  Base

Second Place           Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, Citra Happens

Third Place               Ballad Brewing, Home

Strong Belgian Ale

First Place                Belly Love Brewing Company, 50 Shades of Gold

Second Place           Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Singel

Third Place               Reaver Beach Brewing Company, Oceanus Arum

Trappist Ale

First Place                Barrel Oak Farm Taphouse, BOFT Dubbel

Second Place           Blue Mountain Brewery, Marsedon

Third Place               The Farm Brewery at Broad Run, Wes’ Maul

Wood Beer

First Place                Brothers Craft Brewing, Resolute

Second Place           Wasserhund Brewing Company, Bourbon Barrel Haywire Husky

Third Place               Kindred Spirt Brewing, Barrel “The Goodness” Imperial Stout

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BY JEFF MAISEY

A year and a half ago it seemed Green Flash Brewing Company was on top of the world, expanding its distribution to all 50 states with fresh product and production breweries on both coasts.

Then in January of this year, the announcement of staff reduction in Virginia Beach, and then the complete closure of the Beach location and distribution pull-back from all markets east of the Mississippi.

Now, the bank has foreclosed upon Green Flash and its recently acquired Alpine Brewing Company.

Following is a letter to shareholders and staff from CEO Mike Hinkley.

Dear GFBC, Inc. Shareholders,
On behalf of myself and the Board of Directors of GFBC, Inc. (the “Company”), I am truly sorry to report that the Company’s senior lender, Comerica Bank, has foreclosed on its loans and sold the assets of the Company (other than the Virginia Beach brewery) to WC IPA LLC through a foreclosure sale which closed on March 30, 2018.  As such, the Company no longer owns the Green Flash and Alpine businesses. Comerica Bank is currently conducting a separate process to sell the Virginia Beach brewery.

After a general slowdown in the craft beer industry, coupled with intense competition and a slowdown of our business, we could not service the debt that we took on to build the Virginia Beach brewery, and in early 2018, the Company defaulted on its loans with Comerica Bank.  While we took substantial efforts to recapitalize the Company over the past several months, both before and after the bank default, we were ultimately unable to close a transaction.

While the Green Flash and Alpine brands will continue they will do so under new ownership, and GFBC, Inc. and Alpine Beer Company will be wound down and dissolved.  I sincerely thank you for your support over the years.

Sincerely,
Mike Hinkley CEO GFBC, Inc.

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Bold Mariner Brewing in Norfolk, Virginia.

By Jeff Maisey

The Bold Mariner Brewing Company will open a satellite location in the Ocean View section of Norfolk at 1901 East Ocean View Avenue. The brewery will operate in a former Bank of the Commonwealth building.

According to owner Michael Stacks, the brewery will open in late fall or early winter.

The Bold Mariner Brewing Company got its start after a successful Kickstarter program. Since opening in 2016, the craft brewery has produced numerous award-winning beers such as Scurvy Dog and Red Maiden from its warehouse/tasting room location on Bowdens Ferry Road.

Stacks said he originally wanted to open his brewery in Ocean View but the timing and opportunity didn’t present itself — until now.

“We were looking in Ocean View for the original location,” he said. “At that time, the type of building and size we were looking for wasn’t available. Ocean View is been on our radar and is the place we’ve wanted to come to. Ocean View is ideal. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a brewery to open there yet.”

The concept for Bold Mariner’s satellite brewery, which will be named something different but maintain the Bold Mariner brand, will feature unique, small-batch experimental beer. It will include an outdoor deck area and parking spots reserved for food trucks.

“The focus will be high-end, rare beers,” said Stacks. “We’re going to do a lot of barrel-aging and experimenting with sour beers.”

In addition to the rare recipes, the satellite brewery will offer the flagship beers consumers love like Bold Dominion Pale Ale and Frogman Lager.

The Bold Mariner Brewing Company recently added a second brewer — Lewis, formerly of Green Flash — to support head brewer John O’Reilly. They will also hire a third assistant as well as tasting room staff for the satellite location.

Craft breweries have often become the catalyst for further economic development. Stacks sees the same for that stretch of road connecting East and West Ocean View.

“I think you’re going to see restaurants, developments, and a lot of exciting things coming to Ocean View,” he said. “It’s going to be the place to be.”

Boldly spoken.

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The Brewers Association released its 2017 report on the beer industry and it spells good things for craft breweries.

With over 6,300 breweries operating during the year, small and independent craft brewers represent 12.7 percent market share by volume of the overall beer industry.

In 2017, craft brewers produced 25.4 million barrels, and saw a 5 percent rise in volume3 on a comparable base and an 8 percent increase in retail dollar value. Retail dollar value was estimated at 26.0 billion, representing 23.4 percent market share. Microbreweries and brewpubs delivered 76 percent of the craft brewer growth. Craft brewing’s growth occurred in the context of a total beer market which dropped 1 percent by volume in 2017.

“Growth for the craft brewing industry is adapting to the new realities of a mature market landscape,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “Beer lovers are trending toward supporting their local small and independent community craft breweries. At the same time, as distribution channels experience increased competition and challenges, craft brewer performance was more mixed than in recent years, with those relying on the broadest distribution facing the most pressure.”
Additionally, in 2017 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 16 percent, totaling 6,372 breweries, broken down as follows: 3,812 microbreweries, 2,252 brewpubs, 202 regional craft breweries and 106 large or otherwise non-craft brewers. Small and independent breweries account for 98 percent of the breweries in operation. Throughout the year, there were 997 new brewery openings and only 165 closings— a closing rate of just 2.6 percent. Combined with already existing and established breweries and brewpubs, craft brewers provided more than 135,000 jobs, an increase of greater than 6,000 from the previous year.

“Beer lovers want to support businesses that align with their values and are having a positive impact on their local communities and our larger society,” added Watson. “That’s what small and independent craft brewers are all about. The ability to seek beers from small and independent producers matters.”

To educate beer lovers about which beers are independently produced, the BA launched the certified independent seal in June 2017. More than 3,100 independent brewers have committed to adopting it.

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