On May 2, Mekong craft beer guru An Bui and Richmond Region Tourism gathered key players from the top five Richmond area breweries to serve beers and share stories over Vietnamese appetizers: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Center of the Universe Brewing, Extra Billy’s Smokehouse Brewery, Legend Brewery + Midnight Brewery.
We also received a primer on the history of Richmond brewing from historian Mike Gorman. Right after Richmond fell in the Civil War, people like Edward Euker and John Deuringer started opening breweries and biergartens, including D. G. Yuengling Jr., who launched James River Steam Brewery in Rocketts Landing. By 1886, Anheuser-Busch got in on the action. Pabst Brewing Company followed suit in 1898, and Joseph Schlitz arrived in 1906. Of course Prohibition put a MAJOR dent in Richmond brewing. We learned that Kreuger Brewing Co., based out of Newark, New Jersey, tested the very first beer cans in Richmond. 1969 marked another bust in the Richmond brewing industry. It wasn’t until 1994 and the rise of Legend Brewing Company that people found hope for Richmond-brewed beers again. Now, RVA has the five aforementioned breweries, and Gorman said the Richmond beer renaissance is just beginning, since 5-6 new breweries are scheduled to open in 2013.
Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh founded Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in 2011.
Hoplar Imperial IPA is part of Hardywood’s reserve series, brewed with Virginia Tulip Poplar wood to produce toasted vanilla notes. The series also crafts Gingerbread Stout with local ginger and honey, and Saison Rustica with local lemongrass, star anise and peppercorns.
Center of the Universe Brewing is a company from Phillip Ray and brother Chris, who pitched for the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants and even won a World Series ring in 2010. According to Phillip Ray, “When we opened last year, we wanted to emulate what we saw on the West Coast.”
Extra Billy’s Smokehouse Brewery has been open 12 miles south of Richmond since 2000. Brandon Tolbert is a longtime homebrewer and took over as brewmaster in February.
Legend Brewery is Richmond’s eldest statesman, dating to 1994. They brought a cask of Lost City saison, brewed with lemongrass and cucumber.
Midnight Brewery, from Trae Cairns, resides in Rockville, just west of Richmond.
Cairns named an English Southern Brown ale called Not My Job for a former co-worker, who repeated the statement. He called Not My Job a “working man’s beer,” which has toffee notes.
Richmond Brewery Tours parked a bus behind Mekong. The city finally has enough craft beer stops to justify a tour group.