Strange things are going on over at Buskey Cider. You might find a few unexpected ingredients in its latest releases.
“We’re doing some different stuff,” founder Will Correll says. “Collaborations are interesting — they’re tons of fun and we’ve got a lot of friends in different industries.”
Cider exists at the nexus between beer and wine. Like wine, it’s fermented from fruit juice, but it finishes with carbonation that’s more reminiscent of beer. Cider’s flavor profile is a flexible one — it can go from dry to sweet. And because it isn’t as assertive as say, a big bold cabernet sauvignon or chocolaty porter, it can lend itself to experimentation.
It helps the process to have different perspectives from other industries. Buskey co-founder Matthew Meyer, who’s the head winemaker at Williamsburg Winery, brings an important layer of expertise to cider-making. Alex Steinmetz, an experienced brew master, offers a different viewpoint.
“Most cideries act like a brewery or act like a winery,” Correll says. “We don’t see cider as either.”
Buskey is about to start fermenting in wine barrels, he says. So far, in collaboration with Reservoir Distillery a few blocks away in Scott’s Addition, the cidery has only finished and aged cider in bourbon barrels. Right now, there’s a heavier, darker Trappist-style cider that’s barrel-aging. The team is ready to try something a little different.
Earlier in the year, Buskey and Confluence Coffee joined to produce Nitro Coffee Cider. It was a natural collaboration — Buskey already was serving nitrogen-infused cider at its tasting room, and Confluence uses the technology to produce its creamy cold-brew coffee. The result? A tangy drink with the deeper, savory flavors of coffee — and a little jolt of caffeine to go along with the alcohol.
Some of the more exotic ciders have been single batches made with a method more commonly used in breweries. A device filled with fruit or herbs called a Randall is hooked up between the tap line and the tap itself. The cider then flows through the flavoring ingredients, infusing it right before it hits the glass. The result has been unusual concoctions such as jalapeño-lime or mango-mint. Plus, the flavoring ingredients never touch the keg’s tap line, so an entirely different recipe can be whipped up and served from the rest of the keg, if that’s what the folks at Buskey feel like doing that day.
For the holidays, Correll says, the cidery is releasing a cranberry-basil variety. “The idea for putting seasoning in came last Christmas before we were open,” he says. “My sister asked me if I’d make a cider to match the turkey — she asked for rosemary-thyme cider. It turned out great.”
Some of Buskey’s most popular innovations have been hopped ciders. Given the scarcity and price of hops, it’s expensive to produce, Correll says, but Citra-hopped cider has been a big hit. Steinmetz also is experimenting with Cascade hops in a spontaneously fermented cider — a method similar to the one used to make sour beers.
By mid-January, Buskey should have its cider in cans and on store shelves — small local spots at first and larger stores in the spring. At the taproom, the experimentation will continue.
“We can come up with an idea and have that product done and selling in a couple of weeks,” Correll says.
Winter seasonals offer beer-lovers an adjunct to hibernation. Cravings shift to richer, deeper beers, to strong ales suitable for sipping such as imperial stouts, flavored porters, barley wines and bocks, some barrel-aged and others with tastes of the holiday. The Richmond area’s newest breweries have your winter cravings covered.
10.3 percent alcohol
Ammo Brewing, Petersburg
The smooth, rich, creamy malt notes of this imperial chocolate stout can make you feel as if you’re floating gracefully across the stage like the Nutcracker prince, while the daring, dark, smoky flavor conjures visions of the Mouse King. Because Ammo doesn’t yet distribute, you’ll need to visit its Old Town Petersburg taproom for the full experience.
Dark Ages Imperial Maple Brown
8.7 percent alcohol
Castleburg Brewery & Taproom, Richmond
A hint of roast from brown malts, the sweet, earthy tasty of Vermont maple syrup and a hint of cinnamon — this rich, imperial ale is reminiscent of wandering through a quiet forest on an early winter afternoon. Castleburg has taken the recipe from its award-winning Bishop’s Brown Ale and added malt and seasonal flavorings. The brewery isn’t distributing yet, so you’ll need to enjoy Dark Ages in the tasting room or at home by the fireplace with a growler by your side.
Coffee Milk Stout
5 percent alcohol
Stone Brewing Co., Richmond
Making this seasonal release even more special, the coffee that tantalizes your tongue as you sip this smooth milk stout comes from local coffee company Lamplighter Roasting Co. The touch of bitterness from the coffee — apparent but not overwhelming — and the creamy sweetness of the milk sugars make bittersweet a pleasure. Big in taste, deceptively low in alcohol.
Lucky 45 Graham Cracker Porter
6.8 percent alcohol
Trapezium Brewing Co., Petersburg
Richer than the average porter, Trapezium’s dark seasonal beer leaves the taste of honey grahams on the back of the palate, like a chocolate-covered cookie. Pair it with a brick-oven pizza from the Trapezium kitchen or look for it at other Petersburg restaurants for a trip beyond the familiar.
8 percent alcohol
Kindred Spirit Brewing, Goochland
Inspired by the crotchety German Christmas folklore figure — see YouTube for Dwight’s memorable portrayal in “The Office” — Kindred Spirit’s wheat bock offers a full-bodied mouth feel with spicy, clovelike notes and a rich, satisfying malty finish. Per German guidelines, this amber beer is made with 50 percent wheat and with ale yeast.
The Dawson Sweet Potato Ale
6.5 percent alcohol
Steam Bell Beer Works, Chesterfield
The ubiquitous sweet potato casserole isn’t always a welcome guest at family holidays. Such is the tale behind the Dawson, named for founder Brad Cooper’s grandmother, who tried in vain to appeal to her grandchildren with a variety of holiday dishes with the bright orange root vegetable as star. Finally, Cooper says, he found a worthy sweet potato recipe — in a beer. Brewed with an amber ale base, it presents a caramel nose and finish, with a touch of earthiness from sweet potatoes, squash, sorghum syrup and toasted pumpkin seeds — yet without the spices that can sometimes overpower seasonal gourd-based beers.
Thursday, Dec. 8
Christmas caroling has fallen by the wayside, but if you’re in the mood to belt out a few bars of “Joy to the World” or softly sing “Away in the Manger” — with feeling — while raising a glass with a few friends and friends-to-be, Center of the Universe Brewing Co. can make that happen. You don’t need talent, but you do need enthusiasm for a Beer and Hymns Christmas taking place on Thursday, Dec. 8, from 6-8:30 p.m. cotubrewing.com.
Friday, Dec. 9
It was Dec. 5, 1933, and Congress, after 13 long years, finally ended Prohibition. If you think that’s a date worth remembering, you’re not alone. Blue Bee Cider wants to celebrate with you at its new digs in Scott’s Addition. It has asked James River Cellars Winery, Isley Brewing Co. and Black Heath Meadery to join them, and you can enjoy the local libations with a few hors d’oeuvres while you tap your toe to live music. And for those who really want to drill down on the Prohibition-ending 21st Amendment, the Virginia Historical Society will be there at 7 p.m. to provide all the details. The celebration takes place on Friday, Dec. 9, and will last from 6-9 p.m. bluebeecider.com.
Saturday, Dec. 10
If you love beer, you probably have someone else in your life who’s pretty fond of it, too. Sure, you can wrap up just about anything and palm it off as a holiday gift, but if someone is expecting a little something from you this year, you can head over to Ardent Craft Ales on Saturday, Dec. 10, between 1-6 p.m. for its annual Beer Craft Market. You can pick up artisan-made openers, fancy growlers, glasses and beer-centric art. Added bonus: Ardent will release a limited run of Imperial Milk Stout, too. ardentcraftales.com.
Saturday, Dec. 17
Richmond chefs and bakers are firing up their ovens — or at least, thinking about it. On Saturday, Dec. 17, from noon-4 p.m., the Answer Brewpub will throw a party for Terrapin Beer Co.’s Wake ‘n’ Bake-Off. Brew Gastropub, the Camel, Goodrich Gourmet Catering Co., Idle Hands Bread Co., Sergio’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant, Tricycle Gardens and Uptown Market & Deli will whip up special dishes that include a not-so-secret ingredient, Terrapin beer. You can expect live music and an auction that includes a corn hole set, backpacks and gifts, with 10 percent of the proceeds to benefit the Richmond SPCA. theanswerbrewpub.com.
Monday, Dec. 19
Garden Grove Brewing Co’s ongoing Taproom Dinner Series will host Dutch and Co.’s Caleb Shriver and Phillip Perrow and their new American cuisine for a five-course dinner paired with the brewery’s beer at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19. Tickets are $38 plus tax and tip. Reservations are required. gardengrovebrewing.com.
Nothing pairs better with warmer temperatures and longer days than a cold beer. The River City is busting at the seams with suds and there are plenty of thirsty folks to consume all of the offerings. With the shelves and taps filling up with a load of crisp seasonal ales and hop bombs, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. We’re here to help. Whether you’re a fan of an easy drinker down by the river or seeking out the next hoppy assault on your palate, Virginia breweries new and old are serving up something sure to please and occasionally surprise.
The Hook by Starr Hill Brewery
Grapefruit session IPA
For a session beer, there’s a lot going on with the Hook. Deep gold and tasty, this American IPA balances a fresh bouquet of Apollo, Citra and Mosaic hops with the bite of grapefruit, courtesy of real zest added to the brew. The up-front tanginess mellows out as this medium-bodied brew swirls on the palate and finishes semi-dry and surprisingly earthy. It has nice lacing in a glass, but doesn’t suffer if consumed straight from the bottle down by the water. As it’s aptly named, you’ll be back for more than one of these.
Crucial Taunt by the Veil
8 percent alcohol
Holy dankity deliciousness! Since its opening, this beer has been adored by those who stand in lines wrapped around the Scott’s Addition brewery to get their hands on it. The cans sell out as soon as they’re available, and this Northeastern-style concoction has already been called “liquid perfection” by some fans. So what’s the deal? It’s a double-IPA-lovers’ dream that pours hazy gold with a creamy head and delivers a citrus smack followed by a piney punch with unparalleled freshness. Seriously, it’s like eating a salad. For all of its hop forwardness, it’s easy on the palate with medium body and carbonation. The Veil gets major bonus points for the “Wayne’s World” reference. Party on, y’all.
Little Flowers by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
5.4 percent alcohol
Some of the best things are the simple ones done just right. It’s fitting that Hardywood’s latest release in the Brewer and Artist series pairs Justin Anderson’s bottle-conditioned saison with the label work of Lakeside Tattoo’s traditional design master, Rempe. Both are unfussy and straightforward in their craft. Anderson’s creation pours straw gold with a beautiful pillowy head. It’s crisp and semi-dry with a lean mouth feel, making it ideal for the dog days of summer porch sitting. Spicy and earthy tones are prominent, though the discerning drinker likely will detect a smidge of tartness characteristic of this style. The finish is pure, soft maltiness and absolutely delightful.
Black Knight IPA by Castleburg Brewery and Taproom
6.7 percent alcohol
Cascadian dark ale
New kid on the local block Castleburg is coming out of the gate strong with this flagship beer. Some call it Cascadian dark ale, others call it black IPA, but everyone likely will agree that it’s distinctive and a welcome sight this time of year, when light-bodied and über-hoppy dominates. A Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook hops combo yields an organic and piney profile with floral notes. There’s a hint of citrus, but the take-away here is the earthy goodness that pours opaque and lands silky on the palate. According to owner and brewer Karl Homburg, the combination of dark malts from England and Germany give this beer its dark roasted chocolate and coffee notes that balance it all out.
Center of the Universe is ready to fill your dad up with beer and barbecue on Father’s Day, and you can impress him with your thoughtfulness by grabbing him the Ultimate Dad Ticket for the second annual Dad’s Day Pig Out. It includes a limited edition Universe’s Greatest Dad mug, which can be filled with a free beer, plus a plate of food from Firehouse Bar-B-Que — whole pigs will be roasting on-site Sunday, June 19, from noon-6 p.m. $20. Center of the Universe Brewing Co. 11293 Air Park Road, Ashland. Call 368-0299 or visit cotubrewing.com.
If your father would rather have a taste of the sea, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery is holding its annual Father’s Day Keg ’n’ Oyster Fest with raw and fried oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Co. and a specially brewed Hardywood Oyster Stout on Sunday, June 19, from noon to 6. Proceeds will benefit oyster replenishment and the James River Association. Free. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, 2408 Ownby Lane. Call 420-2420 or visit hardywood.com.
The best way to try four-time James Beard Award nominee Dale Reitzer’s food is when he goes off menu to create a five-course pairing. The Acacia Mid-Town chef will match food with Garden Grove Brewing Co.’s best in its Carytown taproom on Monday, June 20, from 7-10 p.m. Reservations are required. $38, plus tax and tip. Garden Grove Brewing Co. 3445 W. Cary St. Call 918-6158 or visit gardengrovebrewing.com.
The Savory Grain and Isley Brewing Co. will join for their Southern Seafood Boil on Sunday, June 26, from 7-9 p.m. You’ll find two community tables — one in the tasting room and the other outside, “piled high with crawfish that will be purchased fresh June 26, shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn,” event coordinator Jaymie Mitchell says. $35. Isley Brewing Co., 1715 Summit Ave. Visit isleybrewingcompany.com or thesavorygrain.com.
The Capital Ale House National Beer Expo comes along only once a year, so mark your calendars. It all starts with the Craft Brewers’ Locavore Dinner at Quirk Hotel’s Maple & Pine on Wednesday, July 13, at 6 p.m. There will be brewery parties the next night, and on Friday, July 15, you can head down to the Greater Richmond Convention Center to visit Style Weekly’s Taco Throwdown at 6 p.m. On Saturday, July 16, you can sip your way through the big convention hall at the Grand Tasting. And new this year, the Farm Country Feast on Saturday night will feature Southern, soul and Cajun food. $45-$85. Greater Richmond Convention Center, 403 N. Third St. Call 349-6909 or visit nationalbeerexpo.com.
Let’s face it. We’ve all had it with the cold, icy roads and being trapped indoors. But we’re seeing the tide turn at local breweries with stout-heavy lineups giving way to lighter, fresher offerings. Some big beers are still around, but they’re infused with things that make us think of tropical places and fresh beginnings. Style sought out a few must-drinks to get you warm-bellied and out of a winter funk.
WRIR XI by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, 5.3 percent alcohol
As unique as the community radio station it celebrates, WRIR XI is a Belgian-style pale ale that boasts malty overtones and a lighter finish, courtesy of some Azacca dry hops. Citrus and pine are the prominent aromas that’ll crank your senses to 11. One of Hardywood’s self-proclaimed Experimental Beer series, this one is available on draft at the brewery or in bomber bottles to go. Perfect for late nights around the turntable discussing the Faith and Void split release.
Canal Street Coffee Stout by 7 Hills Brewing Co., 6.7 percent alcohol
Wake up and smell your beer. This coffee-forward creation packs a mean punch of local beans. Fifteen pounds of gloriously roasted arabica goodness (two-thirds Blanchard’s Blend and a third Honduran beans to be exact) give this beer a toasty, roasty caramel flavor. Its medium body and creamy mouth feel make it an easy drinker, but beware … it’ll sneak up on you. The brewery reports that it’ll be cranking out at least one new beer a month, so keep an eye on these newbies.
African Head Charge by Final Gravity Brewing Co., 12 percent alcohol
Named after the psych-dub band, it’s no surprise that this complex beer is mind-altering. First, there’s the prominent toasted coconut aroma up front that lets drinkers know they’re getting into something real good. Seriously, it’s kind of like walking into a bakery. Then there’s the first sip that introduces an onslaught of flavors including dark chocolate and fresh-out-of-the oven coconut pie. With its velvety mouth feel, this is an imperial stout that can only be described as decadent and damn near perfect. Brewer Tony Ammendolia is some kind of otherworldly beer wizard.
Earl Grey Brown Ale by Ardent Craft Ales, 5.5 percent alcohol
Leave it to Ardent to come up with a brew unlike any you’ve tried in recent years. A collaboration with Champion Brewery and Potter’s Cider, this northern English brown ale is a light-bodied, caramel-colored concoction that nicely balances toasty malts with subtle fruit notes. At times, a nutty aroma can be detected. As its name suggests, there’s also a bold, earthy tea flavor that makes this one a standout. Good manners and small teacups not required.
Havoc Gold IPA by Strangeways Brewing, 6.5 percent alcohol
Holy hops up in your face. Brewer Mike Hiller nails a perfect IPA with a Mandarina Bavaria, Amarillo, Sorachi Ace juggernaut. It’s so fresh, it’s like eating a salad, folks. Part of the Legalize It series, you’ll be feeling mighty fine after a glass or two. While reportedly the brew was inspired by the all-out death and destruction kind of havoc and not the beloved Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, there’s no denying this would go well with dunks and March Madness.
American IPA (Batch No. 3) by Garden Grove Brewing, 6.5 percent alcohol
A surprisingly chill IPA is sure to delight folks who don’t favor palate wreckers. The British malts give this beer a toasty backbone, verging on biscuity in the best of ways, while El Dorado hops contribute Juicy Fruit aromas. Hints of pineapple and apricot emerge if you swirl it around in your mouth before savoring the semidry finish. For a real treat, enjoy this while checking out the brewery’s open bluegrass jam on Tuesday nights.
Richmond is a canned beer kind of town.
For proof, look no further than Outside Magazine’s designation of the city as best river town in America. As any outdoor enthusiast — kayaker, fisherman, boater, cyclist or hiker — knows, bottled beer is ill-suited to life on or along the river and trail.
In recent years, canned beer has surged in popularity. It’s cheaper to produce, and because cans weigh less, the brewery’s carbon footprint is smaller during shipping. Light is the enemy of the organic compounds in beer, so beer in an opaque container tastes better longer.
But for a startup brewery, adding a canning line is expensive. Initial entry can cost a brewery $250,000 or more before the first cans are filled. Enter Old Dominion Mobile Canning.
With mobile canning, there’s no capital outlay for equipment, no dedicated floor space, no operational training, no maintenance and no large truckloads of cans.
Old Dominion rolls up and hooks directly to the finishing tanks where beer is fed into its canning line. Cans are then loaded into the machinery, sanitized, purged with carbon dioxide, filled, seamed, rinsed and packaged, at a rate of 30 to 40 per minute.
“We’re usually on site anywhere from six to 12 hours,” owner Mike Horn says. “We can process up to eight barrels of craft beer per hour under the right conditions.”
Old Dominion can accommodate small production volumes, too, offering nonpackaging and hand-packaging breweries access to a broader market and increased revenue. The breweries design the art for printed, shrink-sleeved or self-adhesive cans, depending on their preference and budget.
The company, begun in April 2013, has already filled more than 5 million cans for clients in Virginia and North Carolina, including Devils Backbone Brewing Co., Flying Mouse Brewery, Brothers Craft Brewing, Seven Arrows Brewing Co., Wild Wolf Brewing Co., Blue Mountain Brewery, Three Notch’d Brewing Co., Champion Brewing Co., Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery and, yes, even Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
Square footage was a limiting factor for Hardywood in its current facility. But Old Dominion enabled the brewery to send canned beer out into the market without having to dedicate space to its own canning line.
“Their equipment comes in and out of our brew house like a really awesome phantom that leaves pallets of freshly canned beer in its trail,” says Hardywood’s marketing manager, Matt Shofner.
Although some beer snobs still look down their noses at cans, Horn is quick to challenge them with a host of rebuttals. For one, aluminum cans are better for the environment than glass bottles because they’re made out of more than 90 percent recycled content.
A water-based polymer seals the can and ensures no contact between beer and aluminum, preventing any metallic contamination. And a can is impenetrable to light and oxygen, preserving quality.
And back to that river lifestyle — cans are extremely portable, making them perfect for outdoor activities, especially in places where glass bottles are forbidden such as swimming pools and outdoor events.
“Consumers like the functionality and convenience of canned beer, so we see our canned products getting great placements in grocery stores and outdoor venues,” Shofner says. “Our fans are big on travel and outdoor activities, and they like being able to take our beer with them wherever they go.”
Two varieties of Hardywood beer even benefit the great outdoors: The Great Return is brewed in support of the James River Association, while Capital Trail Pale Ale supports the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation.
Perhaps just as significant given Richmond’s notoriously muggy summers, cans cool down faster than any other beverage container, resulting in better taste.
Just ask Horn, who says: “Think of a can as a minikeg for your craft beer.”
Virginia is quickly becoming known for its craft beer industry, and now researchers want the state’s farmers to have the monopoly on beer’s key flavoring ingredient.
Researchers at Virginia Tech, Virginia State University and North Carolina State University want to teach farmers in the southern Atlantic region how to ensure that hop plants thrive in its hot and humid climate.
Virginia researchers are also on the hunt for hops that haven’t been sown in Virginia soil, which would allow farmers to offer new, untried flavors to brewers.
VSU is leading the push for Central Virginia, with guidance from the North Carolina hops research program, established in 2010. There’s plenty of demand for Virginia hops, says Laban Rutto, an agricultural research professor at Virginia State.
“As you know, there are a lot of people who want to eat local,” he says. “They want to be able to trace the journey of food from the farm to the plate, or in this case, from the farm to the glass.”
Since 2014, Rutto has experimented with many hop varieties. For now, he aims to try his luck with 26 types, but the poles in his 1.2-acre hop yard are bare for the winter. When the weather gets warmer, he hopes to find a variety that thrives, which will first be nurtured in the university’s greenhouses.
Rutto has hit more than a few snags. So far, some hop varieties have succumbed to mold or didn’t successfully mature in the ground. But as a scientist, he’s learned from trial and error and says that vigilant weather monitoring and irrigation are key.
In fact, there is a particular hop that’s been successful in the state, but it’s saturated the market. Cascade, a fairly bitter hop, can grow well in humid conditions. Rutto says that the bitterest hops — those high in acids — mostly survive in the south Atlantic. For reference, think of the pine taste of an India pale ale.
Rutto and other researchers are looking for hops that have more essential oils than acids, which lend a smoother flavor. It’s the taste that can be found in lighter lagers, but it comes from hops that are less resilient in Virginia’s climate.
He’s betting on the Southern Brewer variety, which grows in South Africa, as the next big thing for Virginia growers. Once he grows a thriving crop, a sample will be sent to Virginia Tech labs to be tested for moisture levels, acidity and essential oil profiles. Tech researchers are doing their own growing, but because of the university’s location, Rutto says, they’re likely to come up with a variety that would do better in a more mountainous, dry region.
Post-lab comes the most telling part of the testing phase. Rutto will send a sample of the winning variety to a local brewer to see what flavor it lends to a trial batch of beer.
Michael Grant, co-owner of Garden Grove Brewery in Carytown, says that he’s willing to take part in the test brew. The former agricultural researcher at Virginia State was one of the first to grow organic wine grapes in Virginia.
Grant says that the market is ripe for something new that’s individual to Virginia.
“Crops taste unique depending on where they are grown in the world. … Dr. Rutto has the chance to grow some hops that no one has had before that taste wonderful,” Grant says. “He might just come up with something amazing.”
1. Cider Conversations
Blue Bee Cider plays host to Coffee with Strangers RVA’s Kelli Lemon and historian Emmanuel Dabney on a panel moderated by Liquor Lady’s Melissa Davis. In conjunction with Black History Month, the discussion will center on Richmond, the history of its alcohol industry and the role of black people in it. Three cider tastings will be paired with small bites. $8. Blue Bee Cider, 212 W. Sixth St. Call 231-0280 or visit bluebeecider.com.
2. The Second Annual Sideshow Expo: Local Art & Edibles Market
Strangeways Brewing will play host to a panoply of artists, artisans and food vendors, including Daddy G’s Rockin’ Salsa, Birdie’s Pimento Cheese and Texas Beach Bloody Mary Mix on Sunday, Feb. 28, from noon-4 p.m. Lee Graves, author of “Richmond Beer: a History of Brewing in the River City,” will be on hand signing books. Strangeways Brewing, 2277 Dabney Road. Call 303-4336 or visit strangewaysbrewing.com.
3. Second Annual RVA BrewCraft
Triple Crossing Brewing’s RVA BrewCraft was such a success last year, it’s bringing it back again for 2016. Drop off your best home-brew — only one entry per person — by 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, for a chance to work with head brewer and co-owner Jeremy Wirtes, and serve your beer in the brewery’s tasting room. Winners will be announced Saturday, March 12. Triple Crossing Brewing, 113 S. Foushee St. Call 308-0475 or visit triplecrossingbeer.com.
4. Shamrock Run RVA
Get out your green sneakers for Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s 5-kilometer Shamrock Run RVA on Sunday, March 13, at 11:30 a.m. The Lucky Leprechaun Kid’s Race, with a $10 registration fee, will start at 11:15 a.m. and live music begins at noon from the Tan and Sober Gentlemen, the Atkinsons and Miss Tess & the Talkbacks. The sedentary can have a bite at one of the many food trucks, and everyone should stick around to see who wins the runners’ costume contest. $25 registration fee. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, 2408 Ownby Lane. Call 420-2420 or visit shamrockrunrva.com.
5. Isley Brewing Tap Tasting
On March 20, from 1-4 p.m., you can join Isley Brewing Co. at Capital Ale House Midlothian to give five of its latest brews a try, along with burger specials. Those include a smoked Gouda and pork belly burger with blueberry chipotle barbecue paired with Tall, Dark & Hopsome Double Black IPA and a chili and habanero-rubbed burger with smoked ham, bacon, Gouda, cheddar, spinach and lemon-cayenne mayonnaise paired with Root of All Evil Ginger Golden Ale. Capital Ale House, 13831 Village Place Drive. Call Isley at 716-2132 or visit isleybrewingcompany.com.
Richmond beer lovers may have heard of them, but few locals know about the now-abandoned beer caves at Rocketts Landing. And if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may miss them entirely.
They look like so many other architectural ruins scattered about a city with a long history. But the arching entrances are some of the few signposts that remain of Richmond’s pre-Prohibition brewing industry.
The caves, blocked by chain-link fencing, officially are listed at 4920 Old Main St. and overlook the boat slip at Rocketts Landing. They were originally part of the James River Steam Brewery, built in 1868 by D.G. Yuengling Jr., son of the founder of D.G. Yuengling and Son -- a brewery still very much in business in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Richmond’s 19th-century brewery operated under steam power -- hence, its name.
The building was a towering 80 feet high and the caves constructed underneath were able to hold 6,000 barrels, according to Lee Graves in “Richmond Beer: a History of Brewing in the River City.” The tunnels were used for both fermentation and storage -- placement near the banks of the river was intentional to allow for easy transport to the railroad or water.
“Unfortunately, events did not favor long-term success,” Graves writes. Competition increased as refrigeration became more widespread. And the financial crisis of 1873 knocked the beer business back even more, leaving James River Steam Brewery as the only company producing beer in the area. Yuengling hung on until 1879 when he shut down.
“I went to Richmond, Virginia, and put $500,000 in a brewery, and came back without a dollar,” Graves quotes him as saying to a New York journalist.
Richmond Cedar Works took over the building and used the caves for storage. That structure succumbed to fire in 1891, but the sturdy stone cellars survived.
As the Richmond brewery scene heated up, there was talk of redeveloping the site as a new brewery, but nothing came of the deal.
The caves have become something of a tourist spot, although there hasn’t been much to see other than high walls and standing water. Just beyond the largest archway, about 10-15 feet of the roof near the entranceway has collapsed, stopping at a large, continuous root that connects four trees. The root appears to have insinuated itself within the structure and perhaps caused it to weaken.
On a sunny day, light streams through the cave in and you can get a sense of the how much the cellars once held. It’s still only a partial view -- three additional vaulted tunnels with storage bays branch deep into a hill.
The caves were placed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places in 2013. “As a property that has remained vacant since 1891, having only been used for storage after the brewery’s closing,” the application says, “the cellars remain largely untouched and stand as a unique remnant of mid-19th-century brewing methods near Richmond’s edge on the bank of the James River.”