Legions of Fans on Facebook make beer scene bubble

Fans of Virginia Craft Breweries, founded by David Hunter (at far right), has created a forum on Facebook for more than 14,000 craft beer lovers. What are their concerns and issues? What’s the No. 1 thread that the site has created? Hunter joins Jay Burnham and me to talk about these and other issues–a documentary about Virginia beer, legislative issues–on the RVA Beer Show on WRIR-FM 97.3. If you can’t tune in during the broadcast, here’s a link to the audio file.


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McAuliffe cuts ribbon at Hardywood, ties bow on term

When Gov. Terry McAuliffe cut the ribbon at Hardywood’s West Creek facility in Goochland County, he also tied a bow on his four years as Virginia’s craft beer governor.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (center, holding scissors), Patrick Murtaugh, Eric McKay and their family members take the stage for the ribbon cutting at Hardywood West Creek on January 8. Lee Graves photo

Join Jay Burnham and me on the RVA Beer Show (WRIR-FM 97.3) as we play some clips from McAuliffe’s remarks and give our own insights on the state’s craft beer scene, including the effect of a change in the federal excise tax, highlights of 2017 and some the exciting things ahead in 2018. Click the arrow below and you’ll be there!

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A Virginia craft beer pioneer visits RVA Beer Show

Join Jay Burnham and me on the RVA Beer Show as we talk with Mark Thompson, one of the seminal figures in Virginia’s craft beer scene.

Mark Thompson (left) joins Jay and me at The Veil in Scott’s Addition.

Thompson founded Starr Hill brewery in 1999 on West Main Street in Charlottesville–in the same building that held Virginia’s first brewpub–and led Starr Hill to becoming the state’s largest craft brewery. As chairman of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, Thompson worked with state officials and other brewers to improve the landscape of craft brewing in the Old Dominion. Listen as he recalls those early days, takes a look at the current scene and describes his new project, The Brewing Tree in Nelson County.

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Richbrau and more on RVA Beer Show

Photo by Lee Graves

When it comes to beer names, Richbrau is one of the most iconic in Richmond. It started as the most popular post-Prohibition beer of Home Brewing Company, became the banner identity of Richbrau brewpub in Shockoe Slip, and now is about to enter a third phase under new ownership. Join Jay Burnham and me as we talk about Richbrau, barleywines and more on the latest edition of the RVA Beer Show on WRIR 97.3 FM.


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Beer and cheese and more!

Join Jay and me on the RVA Beer Show (97.3 WRIR-FM) as we talk with Maggie Bradshaw of Truckle Cheesemongers about pairing beer and cheese. Let her tell you which of her favorites is like “a party in your mouth.”

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Greg Koch, Stone co-founder, is on the RVA Beer Show

Greg Koch, co-founder of Stone and one of craft beer’s most energetic and colorful figures (read “rock star”), and Jeff Martin, director of Stone’s brewing operations for the East Coast, join Jay Burnham and me for the latest RVA Beer Show on WRIR FM 97.3. If you missed the show, here’s a link to the broadcast. And don’t forget about the Stone Throw Down on Brown’s Island tomorrow (Saturday, September 9)


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Small brewers continue to have big impact

If you ever thought small brewers were small potatoes, the folks at the Brewers Association would like a few words with you. Or a few beers.

Described as constituting the “long end of the tail” of craft brewing, the small and independent brewers in the country have been the pioneers of a

Thousands of craft brewers and beer lovers are in Washington, D.C., this week for the 2017 Craft Brewers Conference. Photo by Lee Graves

movement that has spread from the neighborhood taproom to more than 50 countries.

“[That’s] illustrating how local the craft brewing movement has become,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association. The non-profit trade group based in Colorado represents the nation’s small and independent brewers, thousands of whom are in Washington, D.C., this week for the 2017 Craft Brewers Conference.

“Small and independent does matter–it matters big-time,” added Rob Tod, chairman of the association’s board of directors and founder of Allagash Brewing Company in Maine. He noted that craft brewers are producing nearly 25 million barrels of beer annually. And while the industry’s rate of growth had declined steadily over recent years–growth was 6 percent by volume in 2016–the number of microbreweries in the country grew by 21 percent, boosting the total number of breweries in the country to 5,301.

Tod praised early craft brewers such as Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada, Jim Koch of Boston Beer and Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing Company for their early efforts. “[They] stuck their neck out in a world of commoditized and industrialized beer.”

“We need to remind ourselves that before those pioneers got their start, there really weren’t too many communities in this entire country where someone was commercially making beer,” he said. “Fast forward to today. Instead of making that 25 million barrels in two or three facilities, we’re making it in thousands of facilities.” After illustrating how things have changed by taking a sip from a bottle of Optimal Wit brewed at nearby Port City in Alexandria, Tod added, “It’s no wonder the U.S. is the creative epicenter of beer today.”

Small brewers are hiring workers, spurring urban renewal, contributing to local causes and creating gathering places. “People are spending time together in our breweries,” he said.

Pease also stressed the importance of craft brewers adhering to their defining values–“independence, authenticity, a collaborative spirit and community-mindedness.”

A slightly different set of values–persistence, flexibility and not fearing failure–came into focus during the keynote address. Alison Levine, adventurer extraordinaire and author of the New York Times bestseller “On the Edge,” sprinkled nuggets of hard-earned insight in a lively recounting of her two attempts to climb Mount Everest.

The first came as leader of the American Women’s Everest Expedition in 2002. After preparing and hiking for two months to reach the tip of the 29,000-foot peak, a storm forced the team to turn back when only a few hundred yards from its goal.

“Backing up is not the same as backing down,” she stressed. “If the conditions aren’t right, you turn around, cut your losses and walk away.”

In a second solo eight years later after the death of a friend, Meg Berté Owen, she reached the summit. She had hiked without the team, but the effort required the concerted efforts of sponsors, friends and more. “Nobody gets to the top of the mountain by themselves,” she said.

The conference had its official kickoff reception Monday night with area brewers pouring beers at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. At the latter, crowds of brewers and beer lovers drank craft brews from plastic cups while gazing at the Hope Diamond or chatting in the shadow of a giant elephant frozen in mid-charge.

The conference continues through the week with seminars, roundtables, tap takeovers and a trade show.

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Richmond breweries linked on a trail of beers

Need help keeping up with Richmond’s burgeoning beer scene? Then tune into the RVA Beer Show today at noon on WRIR 97.3 FM and join hosts Jay Burnham and Lee Graves as they talk with Jennifer Hendren, vice president of marketing for Richmond Region Tourism, about the new Richmond Beer Trail. She answers questions about where to get maps and how to get swag by exploring the 23 breweries on the trail. Jay and Lee also talk about beer preferences of the Founding Fathers and why porter was such a popular style–then and now.

If you’ve missed previous shows, here are some links:



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Bold words and a bold beer evoke patriot’s spirit

I felt my father’s presence strongly at a beer event earlier this week.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe toasted the release of a collaboration among Stone, Ardent and Hardywood Park craft breweries. McAuliffe had a voice in designing the beer, an imperial stout made with Virginia blackberries and raspberries.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (third from right in gray suit) and Todd Haymore (second from right), Secretary of Commerce and Trade, join representatives from Ardent Craft Ales and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery at Stone brewery in Richmond to celebrate the release of Give Me Stout or Give me Death. Photo by Lee Graves

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (third from right in gray suit) and Todd Haymore (second from right), Secretary of Commerce and Trade, join representatives from Ardent Craft Ales and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery at Stone brewery in Richmond to celebrate the release of Give Me Stout or Give me Death. Photo by Lee Graves

The name of the beer: Give Me Stout or Give Me Death.

The phrase pays homage to perhaps the nation’s greatest ultimatum–“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”–uttered by Patrick Henry in 1775 at St. John ‘s Church in Richmond. The words fanned the flames of revolution and have been iconic in identifying an element of our spirit–remember that Virginia’s motto is “Sic Semper Tyrannis.”

The stout is not the first beer to borrow from that fiery rhetoric. Triple Crossing Brewing Company, which opens its expanded operation in the Fulton area of Richmond this week, produced a robust porter named Liberty or Death based on an English recipe from 1855.

The reason for my late father’s looming presence at Monday’s release in the Stone taproom has to do with Patrick Henry’s broader legacy. My dad spent his retirement years involved in all kinds of projects, from helping to invigorate a local library to transforming a ramshackle, deserted schoolhouse into a profitable restaurant. I believe his proudest and most useful project, however, was serving as president of the non-profit Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation. In that capacity he led an effort to have Red Hill, the final home and burial site of Henry, designated as the national memorial for Henry. It took years of letter writing and lobbying for the act to get through Congress; but dad’s “Give Us a Memorial or Give Us Your Heads” persistence paid off with the official designation in 1986, 250 years after Henry’s birth.

Chase Dipple serves a glass of the collaborative imperial stout at Stone's tasting room. Photo by Lee Graves

Chase Dipple serves a glass of the collaborative imperial stout at Stone’s tasting room. Photo by Lee Graves

What most people don’t realize is that Patrick Henry’s devotion to the cause of liberty goes far beyond those seven words. Henry was Virginia’s first governor, serving five terms and shepherding the state–and the infant nation–through trying times. He also was an adamant advocate of the Bill of Rights during the process of adopting the U.S. Constitution. It’s hard to imagine our country without those protections today.

It also turns out that Henry–along with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers–was a beer lover. These men enjoyed beer not only for its convivial aspects but also for its role in commerce and as a beverage of temperance. So McAuliffe was treading on familiar gubernatorial turf in proclaiming beer’s importance, as well as his approval for the brew at hand.

“Best beer ever made!” he said, a glass in one hand and a just-opened bottle in the other. Flanking him were folks from Ardent, Hardywood Park and Stone, as well as Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore.

McAuliffe had requested that the collaboration produce a bold beer, and the stout takes no prisoners with its richly roasted malt presence and 9.5 percent alcohol by volume. The berries are understated and add complexity to the flavor, especially a fruity tartness as the beer warms. Peter Wiens, director of East Coast brewing operations for Stone, told me that Belma hops were chosen because they add a berry quality as well as citrus notes and bitterness to balance the malts. A follow-up version of the collaboration–Give Me IPA or Give Me Death–is scheduled for February.

I think my dad would have liked this beer. He became adventurous in exploring new brews, partly I think to accompany me on my explorations in the beer world. He was that kind of father. I’m not so sure, however, if he would have been excited about the use of Henry’s signature phrase being commandeered for commercial purposes (and this is not to point a finger at those involved in the collaboration, for their intent is honorable). Dad’s bottom line, though, was always to honor the spirit and memory of a great patriot and dedicated steward of the principles he espoused.

“Patrick Henry has been dealt short shift for many generations,” he wrote in a letter that I revisited yesterday. He was irked that a national TV broadcaster had attributed the immortal words to Nathan Hale, not Henry. “Due to the controversial nature of some of his positions in later life, and thanks to some poison penmanship of contemporary politicians, [Henry] has never received the acclaim and honors justly due. … Please give us a break and help do something to commemorate a great patriot.”

Yes, I think dad would have been a huge fan of this and any other well-made beer that would bring Patrick Henry’s spirit to our lips.

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Legend expansion shows knack for location, location, location

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.’”

The view of Richmond's skyline drew Legend Brewing Company to locate in Manchester just south of the James River. Photo by Lee Graves

The view of Richmond’s skyline drew Legend Brewing Company to locate in Manchester just south of the James River. Photo by Lee Graves

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.


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