Words & Photo by Diane Catanzaro and Chris Jones
When you think of a “bold mariner”, who comes to mind? Christopher Columbus, who boldly sailed west to (a) find a quicker route to the east, or (b) stop off in the New World and bring some germs to the locals? Ichiro Suzuki, who boldly played baseball in relative obscurity for the Seattle Mariners from 2001-2012? Or maybe Michael Stacks, who is boldly bringing beer to Norfolk’s western frontier?
If you’re a local beer enthusiast, it should be Mr. Stacks who pops into the forefront of your consciousness. We visited Bold Mariner recently to check on the progress of a man who is turning his beer fantasy into his beer factory, and things appear to be making headway. When we first visited with Michael, he had a dream, a business plan, a leased warehouse, and a blank palette to create the first brewery in Lambert’s Point. Now, that brewery, located at 2409 Bowdens Ferry Road, is about to launch.
The brewing equipment is in place, the various parts are interconnected, and you can visualize beer being made here in the very near future. The tasting areas are taking shape, featuring both indoor and outdoor seating and sipping areas. Inside, there’s a very attractive bar accentuated with wood
recycled from trees that were uprooted during previous storms at Norfolk’s Botanical Gardens, with hand-made tables where you can park your glass while enjoying an ale. Outside, more tables, and a relaxing green space to ponder life’s pleasures over a pint. The coolest thing about the brewery’s design is that the stainless steel vessels that make up the heart of the brewery are visible from both the indoor and outdoor seating areas, ensuring your perpetual awareness that whatever you’re drinking was created about 50 feet from where you’re sitting. That seals the deal, doesn’t it? Sometime after the first of October, the aimed for set sail date, that beer in your hand may have a east-coast-ish hop bite to it, because it came from the east coast of the Elizabeth River.
In a recent issue of Veer, you read about the bottleBOX, a bottle shop and growler filling destination in Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood. Comfortably ensconced between 20th and 21st Streets, (325B W. 21st St., Norfolk, VA 23517; phone 757.918.9932), they have a righteous selection of bottled and draft beers that have your names on them. So what’s new regarding said beer destination? Well, if you have supper (Or is it dinner? What’s the diff?) at Supper, a southern-ish bistro located about ten yards away, and you amble into the bottleBOX with your Supper receipt, you’ll get a discount on your bottleBOX purchase. Now that’s a sweet deal. OK, not as sweet as southern sweet iced tea, but sweet nonetheless. So, sup at Supper, and afterwards, buy your beverages at the bottleBOX. And don’t pass up a 32 ounce can of draft beer, a “crowler.” A quart can, the one can to have when you’re only having one … at home, and when you’re not driving anywhere afterwards.
What’s one of the most important things you can have at a new brewery to fit in with the neighborhood, make your civic league happy, and be accepted into your city’s business community? Well, if you’re Commonwealth Brewing, located in the former fire-and-rescue station on Pleasure House Road in Chic’s Beach, it might be a “three-foot row of planters” or “several amenities to accommodate multiple modes of transportation.” We Googled the brewery the other day and discovered the November 12, 2014 request for a conditional use permit by Jeremy Biggie to open the Commonwealth Brewing Company, and it’s an interesting read. Details on the brewery are therein, along with details about landscaping, parking spaces, “minimizing impervious cover,” shrubs, trees, and improving line-of-sight around the property. You
may want to be a brewer, but you’ll have to be a landscaper first. Commonwealth has been firing up the kettles and opened for business on September 5, ready to rescue you from boring mass-produced lagers! In fact, Biggie plans to focus on sour beers and has a sizeable room for barrel-aging.
Pucker Up for Sours at The Birch
Some additional exciting news on the beer front is that the Birch is holding their 4th Annual 43 Hours of Sour from September 15-19. If you are new to the pleasures of pucker power, this week-long tap takeover of sour beers will blow your mind. If you are already a fan of the sour beers, you’ll be in heaven. Sour beers can range from light (like the Berliner Weisse and Gose) to fruity, to dark and stoutly. Tired of hops bombs? Bothered by bitter? Here are the beers of your dreams. Or, perhaps, your Blueberry Nightmare (an actual sour beer!) AND (as if this wasn’t enough tangy intrigue to get you salivating), on September 19 the Birch will be one of only 56 bars in the world chosen to participate in a one-day worldwide celebration known as Zwanze Day. Zwanze Day 2015 heralds the release of a special beer by Brasserie Cantillon, one of the last and unarguably the most traditional of the gueuze breweries in the Brussels area. This year’s release, in tribute to Belgium’s surrealist art movement, will be a surreal stout, impregnated through spontaneous fermentation and aged for 28 months in casks that held lambic beer, Cote du Rhone wine, or cognac. The Birch will expand their outdoor seating to accommodate the Cantillon fans who will be descending upon Chelsea (formerly known as ‘the industrial section of West Ghent”) to taste this surreal special stout.