By: Steve Cook
Finding a great beer in Richmond is an easy thing to do. There are plenty of grocery stores, neighborhood markets and other places that cater to Richmonders’ love for craft beers. Despite the abundance of retailers, there is something unique about Bottleworks, a family-run bottle shop, located in the Stony Point Shopping Center at Huguenot and Stony Point Roads in Richmond’s Bon Air neighborhood.
First, the selection alone puts Bottleworks heads and shoulders above the pack. You will discover more than 700 beers, along with about 350 wines and an ample selection of ciders. It’s not the amazing selection that makes Bottleworks truly unique. It’s the passion demonstrated by the store’s owners, Geoff Hunt and Barbara White. The two share a passion for good craft beers. “I think our passion is the basis for [opening] the store,” Barbara says.
Geoff agrees, adding that their love for craft beers influences the selection of beers offered. “We do a lot of buying from the heart,” he says. Their mutual love for IPAs shows. While you are going to find plenty of IPAs, do not get the impression that that is all you will find. The store is brimming with a wide variety of local and Virginia beers, plus craft beers from across the nation, as well as a wide selection of beers from around the world.
“Geoff and I have similar tastes,” Barbara says. “We stock beer that we like, but we also try to appeal to the whole customer base.” Responding to customers’ tastes involves understanding ongoing changes in tastes. As we approach autumn, you will find plenty of seasonal favorites, including an excellent selection of good local and German Oktoberfest beers. The passion that Geoff and Barbara share for craft beers is particularly strong when it comes to local beers and those who create them. When asked how Richmond (and Virginia) brewers stack up in comparison with other brewers, Barbara unhesitatingly replies, “I think better than most places in the country.” Geoff agrees. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. They are tops.” Both have similar opinions as to why local beer makers are “tops.” Geoff explains, “They are good, creative brewers.” Barbara elaborates, “Richmond brewers are not afraid to try new things. They listen to people and they are willing to go outside the box, more so than the big, big breweries. The brewers around Virginia are always looking to step up their game.”
Geoff and Barbara do not just buy from the heart. They sell from the heart, too. Their customers are very important to them. “Most of our customers know what they want when they come in,” Geoff says, “but they are willing to try something new.” For the occasional customer who doesn’t know what he or she likes, Geoff and Barbara, perhaps drawing from their previous careers in education, try to discern the individual’s tastes and make recommendations to match those tastes. Speaking of the folks from throughout Central Virginia who shop there regularly, Barbara says, “We have great customers. They are so supportive. A lot of them have become friends rather than customers. It’s such a great group to work with.”
So, what makes Bottleworks so special? Indeed, the selection of beers (and wines) offered is vast. In addition, there are sixteen constantly rotating growler lines. Their weekly beer and wine tastings (Fridays from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) is fun. It is not primarily about the product. It is the people and their passion. “If you don’t enjoy what you do, you’re not going to do it well,” Barbara says. Conversely, Geoff and Barbara are doing lots of things really well. She sums it up: “It’s a dream job.”