BREW NEWS: On the Beer Town

(Michael Claar celebrates during his farewell party at DoG Street Pub in Williamsburg. He now moves over to Alewerks as operations manager. )

(Michael Claar celebrates during his farewell party at DoG Street Pub in Williamsburg. He now moves over to Alewerks as operations manager. )

By Diane Catanzaro and Chris Jones

This month we are inspired by Sam Martinette, whose articles in the Virginian Pilot’s Compass kept us informed about goings-on in the local restaurant and drinking establishment scene for many years, back in the day. So, here we bring VEER readers an update on some of the many goings-on “on the beer town.” Proof positive that our local beer culture is more than nascent….it has reached a rolling boil and is an engine for economic growth, small business opportunities, and jobs across Hampton Roads. So much is happening in our local beer world you may feel like your head is spinning like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. Except, this is a good kind of spin…the kind you might get from too many beers. Just before you pass out. Better sit down before reading further!

Happy birthday, Pleasure House Brewing!  The Shore Drive craft brewery celebrated their one-year anniversary in early November, with friends, food and beer.  Alex and Drew Stephenson, Tim O’Brien and Kevin Loos started a brewery, bound together with a common dream and some duct tape, and have grown it into a pretty fine place to partake a pint. Together with brewer Bre Ingargiola, they’re brewing out-of-the-box beers, including a pumpkin saison, a robust porter with cinnamon, beers infused with locally roasted coffee, and a bevy of bourbon-barrel aged beers.  What was Drew’s biggest surprise after operating a brewery for a year?  There’s a lot of paper used in the brewing process, not to make the beer, but to document how the beer is made.  So you see kids, even if you realize your dream of opening a brewery, you can’t get away from the paperwork.

Happy birthday, Smartmouth Brewing!  You know, the New York Mets may not be able to turn two in November, but this fine Chelsea brewery turns three this month.  Celebrate at their Third Birthday Street Party on Nov 14. Smartmouth has a new Head Brewer, Jimmy Loughran. Jimmy has been Lead Brewer for two years, and steps into the Head Brewer role to fill the shoes of Greg Papp. Greg has been instrumental in the success of Smartmouth, and we wish him well in his next adventure. You have already been drinking Jimmy’s beers so rest assured that Smartmouth is in good hands.

As excited as we are about San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Company building their East Coast brewery in Virginia Beach, we were bummed by last month’s announcement that their Brewmaster and V.P. of Brewing Operations, Chuck Silva, has parted ways with Green Flash to start his own brewery in San Luis Obispo. Chuck brewed the collaborative Man Crush Saison at Smartmouth with Greg Papp and is a heck of a guy. We wish him the very best, but are crestfallen that we won’t see him regularly visit Hampton Roads and be part of our local beer culture.

Home Republic at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront has a new Head Brewer, Vaughn Erschens. The local beer community knows Vaughn as part of the Homebrew USA family working at his family’s homebrew supply shop at JANAF. Go check out Home Republic and their brewed-on-premises small-batch beers. And, as this is a bona fide brewpub, not simply a brewery-tasting-room, there is a full menu of tasty food.

The new brewery Oozlefinch that will be opening next year in historic Fort Monroe, in Hampton, has hired Austin Shawinsky as Head Brewer. Austin had been brewing at St. George Brewing Company, also in Hampton.

Michael Claar has taken a new job as Operations Manager with Alewerks. Michael has been General Manager of the beer-savvy DoG Street Pub in Williamsburg since its inception, and will now use his skills and knowledge of the beer business to coordinate marketing, the taproom, distribution, and more for Alewerks. Or, maybe this is a secret strategy for Michael to get access to as much of Alewerks tasty special releases as possible, like the Bitter Valentine, the Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale, and the Marley’s Lament Christmas Ale.  Clever indeed, Mr. Claar, clever indeed!

Dan Yarnall, who made a strong contribution to our local beer scene, has returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh to work as a brewer and yeast wrangler at Church Brew Works. This brewpub, housed in a repurposed 112-year-old Catholic church, has been a Pittsburgh institution for 19 years, and was awarded Great American Beer Festival Large Brewpub of the Year in 2012. We wish there were more brewpubs in restored historic churches in Hampton Roads! Dan brewed at Reaver Beach (then called Beach Brewing Company), Back Bay Brewing Company, and Home Republic. He also did a stint as the Beverage Manager for Whole Foods in Virginia Beach, managing both the retail side of the house as well as their Porch Pub. Dan wrote about beer for this very magazine, so he is well known to VEER readers. We will miss Dan but are happy that his return to his Pittsburgh roots will allow him to be nearer to family.

Bold Mariner Brewing Company has its grand opening on Bowden’s Ferry Road in the Lambert’s Point section of Norfolk on November 14.  The newest brewery in the 757, they’ve already garnered acclaim for their Red Maiden ale, an award winner at the Tapped Gastropub’s recent “Battle of the Beers.” Firm believers in the adage “a rising tide lifts all boats”, Bold Mariner’s Michael Stacks collaborated with Virginia Beach’s Young Veterans Brewing Company to produce a toasted coconut stout, “Shellback.”  A shellback is a Navy person who has crossed the equator.  You don’t have to cross the equator to get a glass, you just need to cross town.

Back Bay Brewing Company plans to build a new production brewery on Loretta Lane in Virginia Beach. Their current facility is a small-batch brewery for seasonal and specialty beers, while their higher-volume beers have been brewed at St. George Brewing Company in Hampton, and previously at Weeping Radish in North Carolina.

Young Veterans Brewing Company’s Cadence Festival is November 21 at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach. They will feature their beer as well as that of other local breweries including Pleasure House, Big Ugly, Commonwealth, Wasserhund, and Bold Mariner. They also have a pale ale brewed in collaboration with musical headliner Manchester Orchestra. Tickets are $30, however there is a limited number of $25 tickets that may (or may not) be available by the time you read this column. For you high rollers, there are VIP tickets. Get your tickets now at https://soundrinkcom/#/tour/cadence-festival.

Rip Rap Brewing Company is under development in Norfolk’s Park Place, not far from O’Connor Brewing Company. Coast Guard officers who became avid homebrewers, ‘Liam Bell and Ben McElroy plan to brew small batches initially and will have a tasting room. They will make their brewing home at 116 E. 25th Street, between Granby and Monticello Avenue.  We will keep you posted as they get closer to opening.

Just a short walk from Rip Rap and O’Connor, yet another brewery is a possibility! The city of Norfolk is considering a proposal to renovate the historic Dagenhart Sprinker Building at 2211 Colonial Avenue in Park Place for the Makers Craft Brewery.  By this time next year it is possible that Norfolk will have four breweries within a five-minute walk of each other: O’Connor, Coelacanth, Rip Rap, and Makers. And with Smartmouth and Bold Mariner each a five-minute drive from this ‘brewery block’ Norfolk has the opportunity to become a serious beer destination.  Asheville, look out!

Want to know a big reason why Stone Brewing decided to move to Richmond, VA, instead of Norfolk, VA, or Columbus, OH?  How about a free brewery!  Richmond is building the brewery for them.  According to the Bloomberg News’ Brian Chappata, the Capitol of the Commonwealth is selling $23 million worth of bonds to build the facility that promises to employ 288 people, and will then lease it to Stone.  They ought to make a sweet stout at that brewery, because that’s a sweet deal.  And you thought major league sports teams were the only folks getting this sort of largesse? Well, beer is now in the big leagues!!!

Lots going on around town, and now you are in the know! And, all of these breweries love you, the savvy beer consumer, choosing locally made craft beer brewed by small businesses that are contributing not just to our local economy, but also to the culture and quality of life here in Hampton Roads.

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