Historic recipes getting new life among craft brewers

Danny Fain (right) and Ryan Kelly at Ardent Craft Ales in Richmond get the mash started for the historic molasses beer. Graves photo

John Marshall, fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and a Richmond resident, was known to favor other drinks over beer, but he would certainly smile on the historic molasses beer brewed at Ardent Craft Ales in collaboration with the John Marshall House in Richmond. Brewer Danny Fain talks about the beer and the recipe’s history, taken from an 1824 cookbook by Mary Randolph, on this week’s RVA BEER Show on WRIR 97.3 FM Richmond Independent Radio. Join Jay Burnham and me for the broadcast, Friday at 11:30 a.m., or click on the link below.

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Precarious Beer Project balances edgy, traditional styles

Precarious Beer Project is adding one more feather in the cap of Williamsburg’s beer scene with a mixture of styles ranging from traditional Bohemian pilsner to a watermelon gose using 600 pounds of locally grown melons.

Greg Fleehart (left) of Precarious Beer Project joins Jay Burnham and me on WRIR FM’s RVA Beer Show.

Greg Fleehart, head brewer at Precarious, joins Jay Burnham and me for the August 31 edition of the RVA BEER Show on WRIR 97.3 FM Richmond Independent Radio. If you weren’t able to listen to the morning broadcast, check out the show at the link below.

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From Waynesboro to Manchester–Basic City comes to RVA

Basic City Brewmaster Jacque Landry (left) and co-founder Bart Lanman are preparing the former Twisted Ales brewery site in Manchester. Graves photo

The vacant Twisted Ales brewery site in Richmond’s Manchester area didn’t last long, as Waynesboro’s Basic City Beer Co. quickly moved to stake out its second location in Virginia. Basic City co-founder Bart Lanman and brewmaster Jacque Landry join Jay Burnham and me for the July 27 edition of the RVA BEER Show on WRIR 97.3 FM Richmond Independent Radio.

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New brewer, new brews and the latest in RVA beer


Aaron Thackery (left) and Willey Broaddus (with mic) at Three Notch’d RVA Collab House. Graves photo

Aaron Thackery and Willey Broaddus of Three Notch’d RVA Collab House join Jay and me on the RVA Beer Show as we discuss Willey’s new duties as head brewer at the Broad Street location and Aaron’s perspective on Three Notch’d’s role in the beer community. The show airs every other Friday at 11:30 a.m. on WRIR-FM 97.3, but if you weren’t able to catch the broadcast, the link below will fill you in. Cheers to all!

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Talking about beer cup awards, SAVOR and more

Tyler Shifflett (from left), Chris Ward and Jason Shifflett of Brothers Craft brewery in Harrisonburg hoist the gold Best in Show award for Lil’ Hellion Lager at the Virginia Craft Beer Cup awards. Graves photo

Which region in the state scored the most awards at the recent Virginia Craft Beer Cup awards? What’s the story behind the Best in Show Lil’ Hellion Lager by Brothers Craft Brewing in Harrisonburg? Find out by listening to Jay and me on the RVA BEER Show, WRIR 97.3 FM Independent Radio. We get an exclusive interview with the folks at Brothers talking about the beer and their brewery. If you can’t check out the morning broadcast, the can still hear the show at the link below.

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Black Heath making its mark with elegant meads

Mead can lay claim to being one of the oldest fermented beverages, but it’s the cutting-edge creative approach of owner Bill Cavender and fellow mead-makers Mike Palese and Zack Napier that sets apart Black Heath Meadery in Scott’s Addition.

Mike Palese (from left), Bill Cavender (owner) and Zack Napier join Jay Burnham (right) and me in the WRIR studio. Graves photo

Join co-host Jay Burnham and me on this week’s broadcast of the RVA BEER Show, 97.3 FM WRIR Independent Radio at 11:3o a.m. for a spirited discussion of mead, its ingredients, its history and the success of Black Heath. If you can’t catch the show, click on the link below for the broadcast. And don’t forget to support local breweries during American Craft Beer Week!

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Starflies make their seasonal debut in my meadow

The meadow of a thousand starflies–be patient. It’s not night yet. Photo by Lee Graves

Two nights ago, fireflies appeared in my meadow for the first time this season. A blink here, a flash there, tentative sparks floating above the meadow. In coming weeks they will increase by the score until at season’s height they will create a spectacle of magical proportions—a silent fireworks display on the grandest scale, challenging the mind and the eyes to fully absorb the glittering display. Sunday night, though, the sparks were sporadic, nomadic, minutes apart, so that I felt I could trace the individual insects hovering above the grass. There was an intimacy to the moment that will not come again.

I struggle with their names. Calling them fireflies doesn’t really capture their presence. They don’t burst into flames, like some single-handed conflagration. Nor are they bolts of lightning, as the name lightning bugs suggests. How about starflies? I like the grace of that, and in my meadow they certainly create a flickering galaxy of ever-changing constellations.

The accompanying photo is of my meadow as I look out this evening from my deck. The air is soft tonight and less fragrant than Sunday, when the first starflies emerged. Then there was a thick honeysuckle pudding of smells in the air. Regardless of the weather, the view is a jewel. Deer often nestle among clumps of grass below during the night; my flashlight catches their eyes, red coals in the beam. Skunks, possums, turkey, foxes—I even saw a bear waddle across the creek once. The deck is sheltered by four trees—a pine (Virginia pine, I believe), a sweetgum (damn those pesky spiked balls they shed) and two grand old oaks, one a pin oak, the other a red oak. They are the lords of the meadow, reigning from this ridge over the poplars, oaks, pawlonia, locusts and others that form an amphitheater below. A perfect setting for a starfly festival.

I started renting this cottage three years ago. My stated purpose was to have a base in Charlottesville as I worked on my second beer book. Those who know me know better—I am a lover of the outdoors, of solitude (though I’m not a recluse), of birds, of breezes, of feeling the ocean of change swirl in waves, seen and unseen, passing within and without. At this moment I hear the yacking of a pileated woodpecker, its call like the sputtering of an old jalopy. A Canada goose just honked by, probably headed for the pond on the other side of the hill. Earlier I saw my first scarlet tanager of the season; Sunday, an indigo bunting. Wrens have built a nest among the beams that hold up the deck, only a few feet from where I sit now.

This cottage, this meadow, these trees and birds and all—they have changed me. Perhaps it’s my age as well—I’ll be 70 in November—but my soul finds rest here, like the artificial snow in one of those watery globes you shake up and watch as the flakes settle. Peace comes if you let it. Also, I have read more extensively in spiritual matters and tried to put into practice some of the disciplines of mindfulness. Meditation, yes, though I lack the discipline at the moment to make it part of the daily routine. Still, I try to pay attention to the small things I might ignore if I were in a hurry. The swallowtail butterflies clustered around a puddle in the driveway. The bumblebees that police their territory like buzzing bullies. The tracks in the mud—two hooves, like knuckles pressed in the ground, showing that a deer has passed recently. And, yes, the starflies. I’m eager to see the first one tonight. Wish I may, wish I might…Can you wish upon a starfly? I don’t see why not. If so, I wish you were here to share this with me.

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Beer news you can use from Nashville to RVA

Thousands of brewers from around the world gathered for the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America in Nashville this week.

The Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America draws thousands of brewers and beer industry folks for the latest in trends, innovations and programs. Graves photo, taken at the 2017 conference in Washington, D.C.

We bring you some insights from that event, plus a look at stubby lager bottles, some fun aspects of Cinco de Mayo and the latest new beer releases and upcoming events. Join Jay Burnham and me on the RVA BEER Show, WRIR 97.3 FM at 11:30 a.m. today. If you can’t make it then, click on the audio below and we’ll bring you up to speed. Cheers, and tune in May 18 at 11:30 for the next show with our guest Bill Cavender, founder of Black Heath Meadery in Scott’s Addition. P.S.–a big shout-out to Center of the Universe, Port City and Devils Backbone–all Virginia breweries that brought home medals from the prestigious World Beer Cup. Congrats!

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Fastest-growing breweries, anniversaries and Bière de Garde

So much good stuff for Jay Burnham and me to talk about this week on the RVA BEER Show, WRIR-FM 97.3.

Tuesdays always draw a line at The Veil for the weekly can release, but this week is special as the Scott’s Addition brewery celebrates another anniversary. Lee Graves photo

Three Virginia breweries made the list of 50 Fastest Growing Breweries in the U.S. The Veil is celebrating another anniversary, joining Triple Crossing, Legend and other local breweries toasting another year of growth. Plus we take a look at Biére de Garde, a complex Belgian farmhouse style dating to 1888 that straddles the line of ales and lagers. Click the link below to listen to the April 20 broadcast.

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All the beer news that’s fit to print–and share

Jeff Maisey, founder, publisher and editor of Virginia Craft Beer magazine, joins Jay Burnham and me on the RVA Beer Show this week. Tune in at 11:30 a.m. today (Friday) to hear the broadcast on WRIR 97.3 FM. If you can’t catch the broadcast, click on the link below and you won’t miss a thing. Cheers to all.

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