Consistency is Key: COTU’s Recipe for Success

By: George DeGarde
 

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Given the massive growth of the Virginia craft beer scene, breweries have been popping up nonstop. At the time of this writing, there are 32 breweries in Richmond and the surrounding area with more breweries slated to open. Each brewery does its own thing. There are no copycat breweries, and largely, all of the breweries are good at what they do! In a market like this one, you have to do something to stand out and to stick around. Your name has to mean something, and for Center of the Universe (COTU) that something is consistency. They want you to know that their beer will always taste the same, whether it is the beer from the brewery, or if you’re enjoying one at the Diamond, Mellow Mushroom, King’s Dominion, Busch Gardens, Lewis Ginter, Great Wolf Lodge or your friend’s backyard. Center of the Universe was one of the first few breweries to open before Virginia’s big brewery boom about 5 five years ago. During this time, they have been perfecting their brews, growing their distribution network and building connections in the community. After a large expansion last year, COTU has also been using their rotary canning line to make more shelf-stable beer so their fans can enjoy their core beers year round. This includes a new addition to their core line-up of beers, Chameleon IPA, which best described, is a “nimble IPA”.  The flavor profiles featured in the beer can easily be transformed along with the color of the chameleon on the can, hence the name. The can art is eye-catching, impressive and versatile. The thought of seeing a multitude of colors representing new seasonal flavors is an exciting prospect, especially considering the increasing popularity of IPA beers around the country. Not only has COTU been adding to their list of beers, now totaling around 50, they have also recently expanded and upgraded their space. They recently just finished a complete overhaul of their private event space and tasting room. Instead of the old empty warehouse, office spaces and drop ceiling, visitors to COTU will now find a new “50’s atomic age diner” inspired space! They’ve designed a tasting room adorned with images of the galaxy, big red booths and a copper topped bar, in an effort to stand out amongst distressed wood and metal motifs seen in so many other breweries. They have also improved upon their processes as a way to improve consistency with new a new packaging hall, canning line and a soon-to-be installed grain silo. 
 
  

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In the last year, over 4,000 barrels of beer have come out of the brewery and were distributed around Richmond and  to Virginia Beach, as well as out to Roanoke and the border of Washington D.C. There are also plans in the works to break into the Washington D.C. area for distribution within the next year or so, which can only mean great things for COTU. They are growing their brewing program as well with the addition of their sister brewery, Origin Beer Lab, which is only about five miles from COTU. Origin Beer Lab has a 3-barrel brewing system where they are able to test out ideas for the main brewery, as well as brew experimental beers for different accounts they work with. If they find something that works well, they are able to scale it up for the main brewery, including four different iterations of their upcoming Chameleon IPA.  At the time of writing, Origin Beer Lab boasted a Melon Lager, a kettle soured Belgian Dark Strong Ale, a Simcoe Mosaic IPA, an American Stout, and a Coffee Brown Ale. Not only does this represent a desire to expand and experiment, but it also signifies COTU’s dedication to excellence in their brews. Instead of brewing a huge batch of a beer in hopes that their customers will like it, they can make small batches, ensure it will be a good choice, and then successfully scale it up for mass production. 

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During my visit, I was lucky enough to witness the bottling of a fan-favorite, El Duderino, a White Russian milk stout. This seasonal delicacy is one of the beers that help people remember Center of the Universe amongst its many competitors. However, with all of the competition for people’s attention, COTU focuses on consistency in their core of beers. “How does a brewery in Hanover stay relevant in Richmond?” asks co-founder Chris Ray. “It’s because we’re the beer people can rely on if they’re going to go visit friends or family or go to a party. They can go pick up a six pack and know it’s going to be good.” This ideal is the focal point for everything that COTU does; they want their beer to taste great in all places! 
 
   

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COTU gives its fans the opportunity to join their Satellite Program, in which they can build up points for being consistent and faithful customers. Using those points, Satellite members get upgraded glasses, merchandise and eventually a chance to collaborate on a beer in the Origin Beer Lab, or bring back a small batch of a missed favorite. A great chance for you to join the Satellite Program, check out the upgrades or enjoy some of COTU’s consistently great beer is at their fifth anniversary celebration on November, the seventeenth.  It will be an event that you don’t want to miss. Expect to find favorite seasonals from every year they have been open, including Oaky Pokey, an Oak barrel aged version of Pocahoptas, The Richard, Black Dawn and an Orange Blossom Honey Ale, created in the Origin Beer Lab, just to name a few. Celebrating five years in any business is a feat to be recognized, even more so when you have 31 other competitors. As Chris Ray said, “Consistency is Key!” Whether you make your way out to Center of the Universe to see the new tasting room, or visit Origin Beer Lab to try something a little different, you can rest assured that whatever you drink will be out of this world!

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Spencer Devon - The Brew, The Proud

                 By: John Biscoe

Spencer Devon Brewing is not a normal local brewery and restaurant, nor is Shawn Phillips a normal brewery owner (if such a creature exists). The facility nestles among the historic features of Olde Towne Fredericksburg, VA, dubbed “America’s Most Historic City”, due to a rich tapestry of events and people in both Colonial times and the Civil War. George Washington’s sister, Betty, lived a few scant blocks from the doors of Spencer Devon, and as a boy, Washington himself dwelled just across the Rappahannock. Some of the fiercest fighting of the War Between the States also occurred in Fredericksburg. Today, Olde Towne Fredericksburg is a thriving mix of small business and history-based tourism. Eschewing the more industrial settings on the outskirts of the city, as favored by most of the local brewing community, Phillips opted to open Spencer Devon Brewing in prime downtown space. On April 1, 2015, Spencer Devon served their first guests.

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Shawn Phillips spent virtually all of his adult life (24 years) in the United States Marine Corps. Upon leaving, the obvious career change was to grow hair and a beard and open a brewery and restaurant. When Phillips was a child in North Carolina, his mother took him to their local farm markets. During his Marine Corps service, he continued the habit, seeking out markets where he was stationed, and seeking to “Immerse yourself in the community and make the community richer for your presence.” Spencer Devon follows the same model.  The brewery bears the name Phillips intended for a son he never had (he has daughters) and he talks about it with the pride of a father for his child.

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One of the Marines’ well-known slogans is “The Few, The Proud,” and pride is a constant theme at Spencer Devon as well, not in an overweening sense, but rather the pride of a commitment to a particular set of goals and bringing those goals to fruition. Shawn takes justifiable pride in the fact that his establishment makes award-winning beer. Spencer Devon’s Royston Rye IPA was recently chosen Grand Champion in the Strong Ale Category at the Winter United States Beer Tasting Championship. He takes justifiable pride in serving great food that is sensibly grown. When asked what means most to him about Spencer Devon, his responses involve the jobs that he is able to provide his employees, the relationships he has established with small local farms and the ability to contribute to the betterment of his community. He is proud of helping pork purveyor Schlund Family Farm get off the ground (Spencer Devon accounts for over half of their pork sales).  He is proud that his beef comes from Monrovia Farm, a Virginia Centennial Farm in Orange County.

Phillips is committed to “buying into the farmer’s dream” and to helping make that dream a reality. Spent grain from Spencer Devon’s brews feeds the hogs at Schlund Family Farm. Both the food and beer menus in the restaurant feature continuous nods to local sourcing, names and stories that are steeped in local history. Among the brews on the chalkboard outside the restaurant on the day of this interview is Cornatopia Cream Ale and Snead’s Squash Harvest Ale. Local farmer Emmett Snead provided the sweet corn to brew the Cornatopia with, and Virginia malt barley came from Tony Kvasnicka’s Longleaf Farm near Petersburg. The Squash Harvest Ale draws sweetness from Snead’s Georgia Candy Roaster heirloom squash. Ellerslie Farm in nearby King George County provides the hops for several of the beers.

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When referring to the inputs of his business, Phillips uses the term “cognitively raised” and avoids typical catchphrases such as “free range,” “organic” or “sustainable” as feel-good terms for an ill-informed population. The idea that people adopt these terms without truly understanding their meanings doesn’t work for him. His take on it all is much more experiential, referencing the first hand moments he has spent at the various farms and the relationships built with the farmers. He says, “Rationally, I should buy cheaper product but I’ll close the place down before I abandon my belief structure,” followed shortly by, “I am not in this to be a millionaire.” Shawn’s belief is simply that such food is “what I would prefer to eat, so I serve that to my guests.” In the course of our conversation, Phillips repeatedly refers to his clientele as his “guests.”  Not once did I hear the word “customer.” 

“Immersing yourself in the community” manifests itself in many ways. In July, Spencer Devon partnered with the Spotsy Disc Golf Club and 7 other local breweries for the inaugural FXBG Brewery Putt Through - a sort of pub crawl with Frisbees. Two local home-brewing clubs were involved in the creation of Spencer Devon’s Soleil Levant Witbeir. For Small Business Saturday following Thanksgiving, Spencer Devon offered discounted beer for guests bringing in a receipt from other local small shops. Phillips is genuinely committed to leaving Fredericksburg better than he found it.

Spencer Devon’s plans for 2018 include a New Year’s Eve Block Party and 8 separate festivals, including a St Patrick’s Day celebration,  a local Fall Hop Harvest Festival and what is now their annual “Beards and Brews” festival in November. Phillips also has plans for a combined Art Show and Beer Fest with local artists pairing with local breweries. Among upcoming beer offerings are a return of their award-winning Rocko’s Milk Stout (named for a departed dog) and the new Snowbird Wheat Wine featuring local ginger from Snowbird Farms. Also new on the agenda is a relationship with The Underground Kitchen from Richmond. They held their first “gastropub takeover” in November, with quarterly events, as well as an Underground Kitchen brew to come.

Head Brewer Jeff Hyatt and Executive Chef Brandon Bundy complete the Spencer Devon brain trust. They share Phillips’s commitment to bringing his vision to life on a day-to-day basis in Fredericksburg. In his words, “In starting Spencer Devon I wanted something I could be proud of, and the community can be proud of as well.” They are well on their way.  

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Visit spencerdevonbrewing.com to keep up with events and offerings. Visit Spencer Devon at 106 George St., Fredericksburg, VA.

 

Brew Coup! A collaboration brew event with area businesses and musicians.

By: Henry Jennings
 
The weather and beer were cool, but the music and food were hot, as Three Notch’d Brewery Collab House in Scott’s Addition  hosted a collaboration brew event with area businesses and musicians. They drew hundreds of supporters to benefit two local non-profits, Richmond Justice Initiative and Disability Law Center of Virginia. At Virginia Craft Brews, these are the community events that make our hearts full! We also love the chance to sample a new, small batch brew! 

Brickwall Jackson

Brickwall Jackson

dLCV Executive Director, Colleen Miller, said, “We are so grateful to community partners like Three Notch’d Brewery for helping us to protect the rights of people with disabilities throughout the state.  The need is so great, and we simply could not do this without good friends like this.
Synpase member Joel and Brickwall Jackson lead John

Synpase member Joel and Brickwall Jackson lead John

Steve Peterson & Associates, a Richmond based social media management and marketing firm, hatched the idea for Brew Coup!. The event was held on October 20, and was further supported by local businesses Synapse, Continental Divide, Three Notch’d Brewery and Richmond Americana rock band Brickwall Jackson.
 
We caught up with event organizer and promoter, Steve Peterson, during the event. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the turnout,” Peterson said as he looked out over the audience. “Our firm supports both RJI and dLCV’s missions. Being able to support them through a Synapse and Three Notch’d inspired “Hub Hopper” collaboration brew, while providing great music and food helps to fulfill our mission of giving back, while hosting a top-notch collaborative event. A $10 donation was suggested for attendees, plus a percentage of the proceeds from the beer and food sales went directly to both non-profits.

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The Disability Law Center of Virginia (dLCV), who helps clients with disability-related problems like abuse, neglect and discrimination, is the designated Protection and Advocacy organization of Virginia. Richmond Justice Initiative educates, equips and mobilizes communities with the tools needed to be a force in the global movement to end human trafficking.
 
Under the careful eye of Three Notch’d Brewery’s Brew Master Stefan McFayden, Synapse, RJI and dLCV participated in brewing the special “Hub Hopper” IPA. Hub Hopper does have a special meaning. In the world of Synapse, hubs are the non-profit centers where they hold networking meetings and hoppers are those Synapse business members who hop from hub to hub in order to network and help fulfill the mission of the non-profits.

 RJI Executive Director, Jessica Willis, said, “Richmond Justice Initiative is so thankful for Steve Peterson & Associates for conceiving and producing an event with community organizations such as Synapse, Three Notch’d Brewery, and other local groups to raise awareness and make a difference for non-profit organizations. We at RJI know that it takes all of us coming together to accomplish the mission of preventing and ultimately ending human trafficking. Only when we link arms together to make a lasting difference, can the world change for the better - one person at a time.” dLCV Executive Director, Colleen Miller, said, “We are so grateful to community partners like Three Notch’d Brewery for helping us to protect the rights of people with disabilities throughout the state.  The need is so great, and we simply could not do this without good friends like this.”

At the center of what makes events like this possible is Synapse, a galvanizing force in both the Richmond non-profit and business communities. The Synapse mission is to help businesses and non-profits in communities across the U.S. connect with one another to foster greater economic and community development. Their approach is to get the right people in the room to nurture more mutually beneficial business and non-profit relationships. Synapse co-founder, Keith Reynolds, said, “Synapse was created to encourage and inspire collaboration in our communities, so we were thrilled to partner with Steve Peterson and the Three Notch’d RVA Collab House to brew the Hub Hopper in support of two of our nonprofit partners. We love creating what we consider “win, win, win” scenarios, so we greatly appreciate local businesses that share a similar passion. Drink beer, support local businesses and raise funds and awareness for nonprofits. Connect, Collaborate and Contribute!

Synapse members - Chris,Jimmy,Lisa, & Matt

Synapse members - Chris,Jimmy,Lisa, & Matt


Because the Richmond non-profit community knows that a rising tide floats all boats, representatives from UNOS, Connor’s Heroes, Art 180 and Optimum Ed provided further support. The evening was truly a Brew Coup, a testament to the power of  businesses who care as much about giving back and positively impacting deserving non-profits as they do about expanding their businesses and turning a profit.

The Synpase brew was juicy!

The Synpase brew was juicy!


 
 
Learn more about the non-profits and sponsors of the event:
 
Steve Peterson & Associates:  www.petersonsocialmedia.com
 
Synapse:  www.synapsehubs.com
 
Three Notch’d Brewery Collab House:  www.threenotchdbrewing.com/rvacollabhouse
 
Continental Divide:  www.eatdivide.com
 
Disability Law Center of Virginia:  www.dlcv.org
 
Richmond Justice Initiative:  www.richmondjusticeinitiative.com
 
Brickwall Jackson:  www.brickwalljackson.com

The Belgian Behemoth:  Quadrupels

By: David Wren

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Have you ever had a juicy venison steak with a typical lager and thought to yourself, “There has to be a better beer to go with this”? What about a dessert of super-rich chocolate cake and wanted a beer to wash it down with rather than wine or liquor? Are you the type of person who walks into a room and immediately sizes up every guy there to find the biggest, baddest one to pick a fight with?
 
If any of these questions resonated with you, then look no further than the Belgian Strong Dark Ale (Quadrupel or Quad) style as your target tipple. The strongest of the Belgian ales and on the same level of vigor as the American Barleywine and Russian Imperial Stout, the Quad is a formidable opponent, indeed. Ranging between 8.0-11.0% ABV, the Quad packs the kind of body that would have the Commodores singing “Brick House.”  Similar to the other Belgian numeric styles (Singel, Dubbel, and Tripel), the Quad was brewed by and relied upon by Trappist monks for sustenance during periods of fasting. They packed enough grain and goodness into these beers that they could sustain themselves for long periods by solely drinking Quads. For the rest of us, the Belgian Quad serves as one of the unique beasts in the beer world. They range from dark brown to black, with a beautiful tan head in color, and from dry to sweet in finish. They tend to drop a malt-bomb on the unsuspecting first-timer, but soon after reveal a complexity in flavor impossible to accomplish in most other styles. Flavors of caramel, toast and brea,d mixed with dark fruits like raisins, plums, black cherries, figs or prunes abound. Layered on top of the malty and fruity base can be peppery or spicy phenols (yeast by-products), as well as whatever adjunct flavors the brewer experiments with. Hops are very subdued, so drinkers who don’t prefer excessive bitterness can easily enjoy this style. If you are looking for a unique experience in beer drinking, try one of the following Quads brewed right here in Virginia.
 
Quads to Try:
 
Lickinghole Creek’s Bachelor’s Delight
 
As formidable as the pirate ship for which it is named. Take a swig and you won’t care why the rum is all gone…
 
Garden Grove’s Death
 
A beer so monstrous you might wonder how they managed to keep it locked up in red wine barrels to age – a great companion to rich desserts.
 
Hardywood Park’s Bourbon Barrel Cru
 
Bourbon to beer is like bacon to food – it just makes everything better. It’s the perfect beer for a cold night and a bonfire.
 
 Legend’s Quad
 
An easy sipper that packs a punch - It is tough to beat a classic!
 
 
Beer and Food Pairing
 
One of the major considerations to take when pairing beer and food is the relative intensities of beers and foods. If serving a light vinaigrette salad, a ferociously intense Belgian Quad is a poor choice – the beer will drown the flavors of the salad completely. Beer “intensity” is a product of its roastiness, body, bitterness, strength, or other factors affecting flavor and weight –- trust your taste buds! Quads pair well with strongly flavored or gamey meat, like venison, wild boar, pheasant, or duck. They also pair well with rich and decadent desserts like chocolate truffles or cheesecake. 

O’Connor Brewing Co: It Takes a Community! 

By: Terri  L. Jones

photos courtesy of O'Connor Brewing Company

Penny and Kevin O'Connor

Penny and Kevin O'Connor

Before you get around to trying the beer (which is great, by the way), your first impression of O’Connor Brewing Co probably will be its mammoth size. At 35,000 square feet, the warehouse in the Park Place section of Norfolk, which has enjoyed previous lives as a food purveyor and a furniture warehouse, is much larger than your typical craft brewery. And within that cavernous building, you’ll find not only the beer-making magic, but also a variety of comfy and spacious enclaves—each with a slightly different vibe—where you can kick back with your buddies and enjoy a brew (or three).

A happening place

With this large physical footprint, it’s no wonder that O’Connor Brewing, owned by husband and wife team, Kevin and Penny O’Connor, has become a place where the local beer-loving community congregates. It’s not just a handful of friends coming together to share a few pints inside the cork-walled tasting room and beer hall, al fresco in the sun-canopied beer garden or on the old loading dock, it’s groups big and small, young and old, gathering for every reason you can imagine.
 
The evening before we talked, the brewery had provided the venue for a mental health forum and the day before that, a meeting of the American Cancer Society. A few hours after our interview, a group was gathering for a memorial celebration. The brewery has also been the backdrop for lots of celebrations—from birthdays to bachelor parties. Couples have even said their “I do’s” with the gleaming silver tanks bearing witness. “It feels like every night there’s something happening here,” admits Penny O’Connor, who is responsible for the brewery’s marketing and the overall look and feel of the place.
 
O’Connor also plays host to many public fundraisers throughout the year, the biggest of which is its Black Saturday event two days after Thanksgiving. This year, at the fifth annual event, you will find a huge crowd of adults and kids, alike, listening to music, playing lawn games, noshing at the food trucks, and raising money for the Millers Foundation, which supports local charities. The brewery uses this annual fundraiser also to re-release its IBRIK Turkish Coffee Imperial Stout, a spicy “winter warmer,” which has gained a large local following. 
 

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Gordon Bradley is a pleasure to talk to at the bar.

Gordon Bradley is a pleasure to talk to at the bar.


As part of Business Consortium for Arts Support, O’Connor is also the beer sponsor for Wells Theatre, and the company has donated money and space for a variety of other cultural ventures around town. “The arts are a huge part of what makes a community thrive and bright,” notes Kevin O’Connor, the co-owner responsible for production and sales.
 
“You give, and you’re going to get back,” added his wife, with obvious sincerity. “It just feels good to us. We love this industry and we love our community. We just try to do the right thing.”
 
A beer for every taste

Kevin and Penny believe that doing the right thing also means creating a lineup of beers that appeals to everyone. The brewery owners simply aren’t interested in being exclusionary with the brews they cook up. In fact, O’Connor has options like Green Can Golden Ale and R&R Lager that serve as the perfect “gateway” brews for uninitiated craft beer drinkers. 
 
The result: their brewery and beer garden are always full with people of all ages, from every lifestyle and with a wide variety of beer tastes. “I’m very proud that this has turned into a space where a very eclectic, diverse group of people can come and hang out,” notes Kevin.
 
The O’Connors ensure that this diverse group remains involved with their brews through their Think Tank Society. Not only do the almost 200 members have their beers served in a special, larger-than-pint-sized mug each time they come in, but the annual membership fee also gives members the opportunity to try O’Connor’s new beers before everyone else, not to mention a bunch of other perks.
 
According to Think Tank Society member, Carolyn Clark (she and her husband, Perry, have been regular O’Connor customers for years), “There are special concoctions for us to sample,” she explains. “While I still go back to my favorite (Green Can), I appreciate the complexities of the other varieties they offer.” 
 
Locally sourced ingredients

Being community-minded also extends to what goes into O’Connor’s brews. Typically the brewery’s beers have been “true to style,” but O’Connor is experimenting with a new test batch system—or smaller tanks with about 8 percent the capacity of the full-sized tanks—to create beers based on locally sourced ingredients. That includes everything from local fruits, vegetables and herbs to oysters. Yep, you read it right! O’Connor currently offers a beer called Bold Man Oyster Stout, which features subtly briny notes from those tasty bivalves from the Chesapeake Bay. (The beer’s name is a nod to the Jonathan Swift quote: “He was a bold man who first ate an oyster.”)
 
One of O’Connor’s beer tenders, Alex Cantwell, who is a horticulturist by day, has even spearheaded the development of the O’Connor Hop and Grain Garden at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. This garden uses the hops and grains grown here for a small, very special batch of “wet-hop” beer every year. 
 
A humble, yet mighty craft brewery

While the O’Connors and their team of 40 have grown the business to be the largest craft brewery in Norfolk and expanded distribution into the Outer Banks, Raleigh, Durham, Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington, D.C., the brewery had pretty meager beginnings when it opened in 2010. Back in those days, the couple had little more than a 5,000-square-foot space, a bunch of used equipment and a longtime passion for brewing beer. (Kevin’s first foray with brewing was on a hot plate in his college dorm room. (The school almost threw him out because of it!)
 
Because they’ve never forgotten where they came from, Penny and Kevin are still pretty humble about it all, hence their tagline: “A humble, yet mighty craft brewery.” In fact, the O’Connor team has always lent a hand to new brewery players in town, and in turn, their fellow brewers, who are more friends than they are competitors, return the kindness on a regular basis.

 Kevin admits, “Every day is a new day. There’s always something we have to overcome or challenge ourselves with.” 
 
Apparently, it takes not only a community to raise a brewery but also a brewery to raise a community!

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Pints, Peaks and Paddles: Waynesboro: The Hub of Outdoor Adventure and Craft Beer 

By: Nolan Shigley

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The Blue Ridge Mountains dominate the Waynesboro skyline as Shenandoah National Park and its southern district veer north while the Blue Ridge Parkway and its trail system travel southward. Both national parks provide an adventurous playground for nature lovers, while Waynesboro acts as the hub for outdoor adventure. Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, just west of Rockfish Gap, the mountain town that provides a place to rest for backcountry enthusiasts has now become an attraction for beer geeks as well. In the company of a 60-year old running partner, Bob Weaver, the rocky, rooty, rugged single-track of the Blue Ridge’s deep wilderness has become our trail-running home as pints of ale await us down in the valley.    
 
Our initial trip to the area was an easy jaunt up Bear Den and Calf Mountains in the southern tip of Shenandoah National Park, heading out from Jarman’s Gap. A warm June day found us running among wildflowers along the Appalachian Trail and over its more gentle peaks. An appropriate section to begin a season as the trail is less technical and the inclines are forgiving.  Views of a meadow full of buzzing pollinators, lush rolling mountains and a distant glimpse of Waynesboro down below greeted us at the end of each climb.  

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On a recent cool, densely foggy autumn day, we followed the fallen leaves that littered the Appalachian Trail from Rockfish Gap to Humpback Rocks. This particular stretch of AT is pretty popular with those who want a quick spot immediately off of I-64 and becomes increasingly busy once the trail reaches the Humpback Rocks area. Rain had brought swollen creeks and streams that spilled down the mountains and created slick rocks. Rustic ruins of homesteads and cemeteries provided ghostly scenes in the thick mist. Settler history is rich in this area, and there is evidence throughout the deep forests. The visitor center off  the Blue Ridge Parkway illustrates this further, with relocated 19th century cabins and farm structures. On a clear day, a demanding climb up to the rocks provides hikers and runners short of breath commanding views of the Shenandoah Valley, distant Alleghenies and nearby Three Ridges, along with countless other ancient mountains.    
 
Two other quick trips from Waynesboro include brilliantly scenic panoramas in the south district of Shenandoah. One of the countless superb circuit routes of Shenandoah, Riprap Hollow, includes plenty of the Appalachian Trail, which provides the spine for most circuits throughout the 100-mile long park. The challenging Riprap course leads to the deepest pool in the park, but even on a balmy day, the water can chill you to the bone. Like so many of the trails in the south district, epic views west of the Shenandoah Valley include our gathering place along the South River that quenches our thirst after tough days in the mountains. Turk Mountain is a short, but challenging climb up to a craggy spot that provides splendid vistas of the valley. A popular hike due its distance, Turk Mountain is the perfect add-on to a long day of trail running.  
 

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As our legs fatigue and we have our fill of Blue Ridge vistas, we yearn for glasses of freshly brewed craft ales. The newly opened Basic City and Seven Arrows breweries regularly douse the fire in our throat caused by climbing single-track for hours at a time. Basic City Beer Company was our first taste of Waynesboro as we showed up on a blazing summer day. The brewery commemorates the “lost town” of Basic City that was once thriving with industry, while sitting
at the crossroads of two major railroads. However, the city soon fell to the hardships of depression and that forced it to consolidate with Waynesboro. The edgy industrial structure of Basic City Beer Co. pays homage to this once thriving economic town with its many reclaimed materials, as it functions out of a former industrial complex.
 
On a typical humid Virginia June day, it was best to enjoy light ales and lagers in the comfort of the air-conditioned brewery. Thank you to those of the Industrial Revolution! The Waynesbeeroh lager is an appropriate choice to begin with, as it is light with hints of lemon for a refreshing quench. Basic City has an ample selection of hoppy, citrusy IPA as well that provides the perfect pint after a tough day in grueling temperatures. The Bask DIPA is described as a “tropical juiciness” due to its intense amount of mosaic, amarillo and citra hops. Highly drinkable and coming in at 7.6%, a couple of these and you might have the feeling you were at a much higher altitude than the surrounding Blue Ridge could provide.  
 
While Basic City recalls the historic industry that once thrived in Waynesboro, Seven Arrows celebrates the natural side of the region. The brewery’s name derives from a Native American prayer that pays respect to the earth’s creation. The artwork decorating the brewery also demonstrates the passion for wilderness and the region’s favorite natural features. Appropriately enough, the owners of the company are both ultra-runners as well, so Weaver and I felt completely in our comfort zone.  
 

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On a chilly November evening when the early sunset had arrived, we relished hearty rustic glasses of ale that remind us of autumn. The piney, spicy Eventide Red IPA has earthy flavors of fallen leaves. With a nice caramel malt profile, it is the perfect beer to replenish those spent calories. The malty Hermenator Dopplebock with flavors of dark fruit was another excellent choice for the cool temperatures, but our favorite may have been the Misty Trail Pale Ale. No other beer could have more appropriately summed up a day of trail running in the dense fog under peak foliage. The freshly wet hopped ale reminded us of the damp conditions outdoors with a golden color reminiscent of the American beech and hickory trees, and the cozy toasty notes like the cabin campfire we had come across shortly before.     
 
Whether you are trail running the countless miles of Blue Ridge wilderness, hiking across the country, skiing the slopes or paddling the South River, Waynesboro is divinely placed among the adventure. The town is a designated Appalachian Trail Community and easily accessible by any means of transportation. Thankfully, Waynesboro is now a place to fill a growler after sipping craft beer in historic surroundings as well.    

What's the most important ingredient? Water.

By: Tarun Sinha

Tarun Sinha

Tarun Sinha

“Drink beer and save lives. really.”, is the first poster I saw when I entered Lickinghole’s latest addition to its family.  The downtown location, neighboring the 17th street Farmers Market, is slated to open by the end of the year. And within its new walls are signs of its local and international water footprint efforts.  I was surprised to learn of Lickinghole Creek Brewery’s water initiatives, since I only knew that they brewed awesome beers and were located on a picturesque farm.  Little did I know that since its conception back in 2013, it has been on the forefront of water treatment and consciousness for farm breweries.

Back in 2013 I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of Lickinghole Creek Brewery.  The craft beer scene was on the verge of booming in Richmond, and this was my first trip to a farm brewery.  The brewery was situated on a hill surrounded by rolling fields, in a white building, reminiscent of a functioning barn. I distinctly remember the Short Pump Saison Farmhouse Ale; the initial sip was a little fruity followed by a peppery aftertaste; it was so crisp that it balanced out the hops perfectly.  I remember asking an employee what the most important ingredient to this beer was, and distinctly remember the answer, “water”.

courtesy of LCCB

courtesy of LCCB

Water consciousness has skyrocketed in the time I started exploring the world of beer, for the better. In the past 4 years, I’ve visited countless breweries across the country, from San Diego to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and even have brewed a few batched with friends.  What I learned is how critical water is for the flavor of the beer.  Before 2013, I didn’t wonder where breweries collected their water from, or what they did with the vast amounts of waste water that was produced after the brewing process. I had the pleasure of talking with Adam Stockton and Jimmy Walsh from Lickinghole Creek Brewery at their soon to be downtown location. LCCB has 2 well-sites on its property in order to use the freshest water possible for their delicious beers.  This water, residing in naturally occurring deep wells under their 290 acres of land, requires minimal treatments before it is used for brewing. In Virginia, LCCB was the first farm brewery to be this water conscious, by utilizing the water they had on their own property, as well as treating the waste water to be re-used on the farm.  With the brewery residing on a picturesque farm, the waste water is carefully treated in order to remove any remnants of yeast, hops and grains it may contain after the brewing process.  This filtered water is then used to water the hops, grains and various vegetables that are grown on the farm.  The filtered water that isn’t absorbed by the vegetation eventually trickles back down into the deep wells from which the water was initially pumped from.  This process leaves a minimal water footprint, since the water on the property is continuously recycled.  LCCB spearheaded this process shortly after 2013, and now has become one of the industry leads in water conscious practices, inside and outside of the country.

courtesy of LCCB

courtesy of LCCB

LCCB has been generous in giving back to community since Lisa Pumphrey co-founded the brewery in 2013.  The brewery has raised money for various communities and issues across Richmond, and are about to begin a new endeavor in Nine Mile, Jamaica.  You may have heard of this town since it was home to the legendary Bob Marley, but what you may not have known is its connection to Lisa and LCCB family.  To summarize this relationship, Lisa’s family business has been connected to the people near Nine Mile, dating back to the mid to early 20th century.  Her family has been involved in developing infrastructure, schools and hospitals in conjunction with the Marley family inside and outside of Nine Mile. What is still surprising is the lack of water resources outside of Kingston, Jamaica.  Nine Mile is home to a legend, but the community in this area is still lacking a safe and effective water treatment facility.  It currently consists of a monstrous cement funnel which collects rainwater into a reservoir, from which families must walk to and carry gallons of water by hand back home. Often it is the younger family members that are tasked with this daily trek.  Along with rainwater, contaminants such a debris, bacteria, animals and dirt are also collected by the funnel and permanently enter the water system in Nine Mile.  The cost of developing a water treatment facility is extremely high, however, LCCB is introducing their deep water well system to the Nine Mile community. LCCB is funding and constructing deep wells, like the wells located on its property in Goochland, near Nine Mile, providing families access to clean and filtered water.  Because of these wells, LCCB is also taking an initiative to teach the communities how to brew beer, with the end goal of creating a self-sustaining business in Nine Mile.

courtesy of LCCB

courtesy of LCCB

I am very excited to see the results of this project, and LCCB has many more projects in the pipeline involving Nine Mile and water conservation initiatives. Virginia Craft Brews Publication will certainly follow up on this endeavor.  In the meantime, I will support their efforts by being a loyal patron to LCCB, but more importantly, I will take more of an interest in water conservation and educating myself on its importance.  There are numerous ways to be involved in such projects, and I am glad I had the opportunity to learn more about them from Lickinghole Creek Brewery.

courtesy of LCCB

courtesy of LCCB

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