2016 State of the Keg: Growth Takes Hold 

click to enlarge Stone Brewing Co.’s Peter Wiens pours the first glass of Richmond-made and distributed beer at its roll-out celebration at the Southern Railway Taphouse.

Scott Elmquist

Stone Brewing Co.’s Peter Wiens pours the first glass of Richmond-made and distributed beer at its roll-out celebration at the Southern Railway Taphouse.

You thought this beer scene was at capacity? Pshaw. In the last year, Richmond has seen even more breweries break ground, old favorites grow up and out, and a big dog from the West Coast move into the backyard. Life’s pretty swell for a beer lover around these parts.

When the Stone Company Store opened in February, the excitement was palpable. But it was nothing compared with the giddiness that beer lovers felt tasting their first cold pint of Stone Brewing on a blistering day in July at Southern Railway Taphouse.

With those first kegs of the Richmond-brewed Stone rolling off the line, the company expects to produce 100,000 barrels in its first 12 months, including such favorites as Delicious IPA, Go To IPA, Ruination Double IPA 2.0 and Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Stone isn’t the only one firing up new tanks. The Veil made lines of beer campers a regular sight in Scott’s Addition. Buskey Cider knocked our socks off with a few interesting creations. Castleburg Brewery and Taproom cozied up to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery over on Ownby Lane. Steam Bell Beer Works made Midlothian a happier place. And Petersburg scored two new purveyors, Trapezium Brewing Co. and Ammo Brewing.

The newbies aren’t taking things slow. Ammo reports that it will expand its tasting room and offer outdoor seating in its gardens later this summer, where you can enjoy some fresh hop brews expected to hit taps in mid-August.

You can already find Trapezium brews in local bars and restaurants throughout Richmond and the Tri-Cities. In a few weeks, you’ll even be able to take home a six-pack.

Buskey is over the moon that business has been booming since opening in April. “Our tasting room has been so much more successful than we ever anticipated,” Will Correll says. “Richmonders seem to be falling in love with our style of cider.”

The cidery has added three huge tanks to more than double its capacity, and cider-maker Alec Steinmetz is playing around with his first batch made in one of Reservoir Distillery’s bourbon barrels from a few blocks away, as well as fermenting two single varietal batches.

Speaking of batches, the Veil is finally double-batching cans so folks can take more home.

“We’re able to can two to three times as much as we did when we first opened,” owner Dustin Durrance says, “and have plans for adding our own canning line in the coming months — which should give us even greater controls over that aspect of production.”

Full details are unavailable, but Durrance says the Veil is also organizing “a pretty amazing beer festival with some of our talented friends from around the country.” Expect a full-on Richmond beer-gasm when that gets announced.

Talking about the new kids is fun and all, but let’s hear it for Richmond’s beloved mainstays who announced mega-expansions, moves, a further reach and a touch-up or two.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery celebrates five insanely successful years Oct. 22. It announced both a three-barrel pilot operation in Charlottesville, opening this fall, and a destination brewery and taproom in Goochland County for fall 2017.

Blue Bee Cider announced the purchase of the city stables property on Summit Avenue and plans to fully relocate from Manchester this fall. It’s also expanded self-distribution into Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

The folks at Triple Crossing Brewing Co. hope to start making beer in their Hatcher Street digs before the end of the year. They say you can expect a 3,000-square-foot tasting room and outdoor patio at the new location when it’s finished. But never fear: Triple Crossing’s Foushee Street tasting room will stay open indefinitely.

Center of the Universe Brewing Co. completely remodeled 3,800 square feet of its taproom and added a snazzy special events room. It also gets cool-points for receiving Virginia’s first craft rotary canning line, making it the producer of the most shelf-stable and oxygen-free canned craft beer in the state.

Final Gravity celebrates its first birthday late this August and now brews all of its beer with Clarity Ferm, a gluten-reducing enzyme from White Labs that doesn’t alter flavor.

Everyone loves a brewery’s anniversary, because we win big. Ardent came through again with a killer block party to celebrate a second successful year. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery will release the Magnificent Pagan Beast, a bourbon-barrel-aged mega-ale with 17.5 percent alcohol and more than 110 international bitterness units to commemorate its third year. Two variants will be available.

Strangeways Brewing continues to keep it interesting with some of the best events in Richmond, beer or otherwise. In February, it was host to a Celebration of Women in Craft Beer, and its third anniversary celebration featured freaking birds of prey from Eagle Pines Falconry and Raptor Rescue. Monthly burlesque shows, benefits for furry creatures and adult coloring nights are the norm.

And we aren’t done just yet. Garden Grove Brewing Co. released its first bottled brew, Death, a 10 percent alcohol unfiltered Belgian-style ale made with Virginia-grown red wine grapes from the 2014 harvest and aged more than a year in red wine barrels. 

Midnight Brewery widened its reach with owner Trae Cairns reporting that you now can get their goods in Tidewater.

Isley Brewing Co.’s production is up 300 percent from last year and its first spring festival with Radio Rubber Room marked the busiest day in Isley history. It’s also ramped up to 12 taps in its tasting room.

Following a load of Virginia Craft Brewers Cup victories in 2015, the Answer’s Brandon Tolbert continues his quest for world beer domination by cranking out more fresh IPA goodness than we can keep up with — but that’s a problem we’re happy to have. 

Richmond has proven thus far that there’s room for everybody doing different, delicious things.

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