When Tom Martin was casting about in 1993 for a place to locate Legend Brewing Company, his eye settled on a spot looking out on weeds, trash, scruffy trees, grimy buildings, grumbling trains and a dump.
But there also was a sparkling river and a dramatic skyline to enjoy from that vantage point in South Richmond.
“Through [everything] that was growing up, there was a very nice view of the city,” Martin told me some years ago. “I thought, ‘This is a nice spot, right here. Right over this end a deck could be built eventually, and we could have a great location.’”
That eye for location—the Legend deck provides arguably the best view of Richmond that can be savored with a pint of delicious beer—has served the brewery well over the years. Now, another river view will be part of Legend’s identity.
Brewery officials announced Monday their plans for a second location in Old Towne Portsmouth in a historic building looking onto the Elizabeth River.
“There will be no deck, but we will have outdoor seating in the adjoining park area,” Dave Gott, vice president of operations, told me on Tuesday. “We’re excited about the new location.”
Legend plans to open a full-service brewpub in the first floor of the Seaboard Coastline Building, which dates to 1894 and once served as a train station. The spot is on the water near the south landing ferry at 1 High Street.
Gott said the area has always been a strong spot for sales of Legend beer. “It was one of the original places that we delivered beer to,” he said.
When the 120-seat facility opens in late spring or early summer of 2017, patrons can expect stalwarts such as Legend Brown Ale and Hopfest as well as beers brewed on site. Possibilities include an oyster stout similar to the 2014 collaboration with Hampton’s St. George brewery that yielded Teach’s Oyster Stout, named after Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard) and brewed as part of the Urban Legend Series.
That and other small-batch offerings will be brewed on a three-barrel system on site (one barrel equals 31 U.S. gallons). Compare that with Legend’s 30-barrel capacity in Richmond, which enables the brewery to produce about 10,000 barrels annually for distribution around the state.
The Monument Companies, a Richmond-based developer, has been key to renovating the historic site. “Having seen firsthand how much Legend helped transform the Manchester neighborhood in Richmond, I’m really excited to see what good things they can bring to downtown Portsmouth,” Tom Dickey, principal of Monument Companies, said in a news release.
Legend’s stature as the oldest operating craft brewery in Virginia will add to the brewing history of that region. In 1982, Chesapeake Bay Brewing Company began building its operation in an industrial park in the Lynnhaven area. It was the first commercial craft brewery in the South and won kudos and medals for its beers.
Much has changed since Legend poured its first batch of Legend Brown Ale at Commercial Taphouse & Grill in 1994. From being the only craft brewery in the city in 2010, Legend now rubs shoulders with a score of breweries in the greater metropolitan area and more than 150 around the state. And it joins several RVA operations that have announced expansions in recent months. Triple Crossing on Foushee Street is building a new facility near Rocketts Landing; Strangeways on Dabney Road plans to open a tasting room and brewery in Fredericksburg; Hardywood Park on Ownby Lane has a major expansion under way in near Goochland County and a smaller venture planned in Charlottesville; and Center of the Universe in Hanover County has targeted a specialty brewery in the town of Ashland.
If the past predicts the future, Portsmouth patrons can look forward to years of river views and Legend brews.