Last week, Legend Brewing Company laid a new tile floor. That in itself wouldn't be a big deal, except that the new floor supports 11 new stainless-steel tanks the size of concrete mixers. And those tanks will hold beer, lots of it, when the business triples its bottled output in the next few months and gets the Legend label onto six-packs and into stores along the Eastern Seaboard. Style talked with Legend head brewer John Wampler and operations vice president Dave Gott about the expansion.
Style: You started pretty small 15 years ago.
Gott: We had this 15-seat pub down here when we first opened in 1993 and it was just to give people a place to taste the beer. And Richmonders stood outside 150 at a time in order to get in. Our beer went flying out the door, and I credit Richmonders — they have been behind us the whole way. We put the deck on in 1997, the pub opened in 1998. And we get everybody — all types, from lawyers to shift workers to families. When you make a product, your success is your customers.
You produce lagers and ales. Why so many types of beer in your repertoire?
Wampler: It's all in the taste buds of the drinker. Our brown ale is the most popular by quite a bit, but we make six year-round beers: the lager, brown, pale ale and golden IPA, porter and pilsner; and seasonal beers. … small-batch doppelbock, maibock, hefeweizen. We make a little something for anyone, from the thinner, easy-drinking beers to the high-alcohol beers to the hoppy ones.
What is it about Legend beer that allows you to invest in an expansion during these economic times?
Wampler: I've got people from out of state who say they've never had beer this fresh before. A lot of time the beer that goes to the distributor has been wrapped that same morning. We try not to sit on it very long.
Gott: Being a specialty industry, nothing comes cheap. We're making a big investment and the turnaround will help us increase our size, possibly building a whole new brewery in the area.
Which means you'll be hiring. What characteristics do you look for in an employee in this industry?
Wampler: People who are ready to work and ready to learn. And to run things, you need to be a person who never wants to — or is able to — relax. There's a lot of juggling going on over here. But we've got a good crew that's experienced, good folks who've worked here a long time.
Are your competitive with the other Richmond brewery, Richbrau?
Wampler: We have a great relationship with them, we've been known to borrow a bag of malt from them and to help each other out. They're doing the same thing we are, working to make a good product — they're just doing it on a smaller scale.
You've got 500 members in your mug club and a waiting list to get in. What about the regulars?
Gott: We've got one guy who's on his second mug, which says, “Hold my beer and watch while I do this.” I think that resulted in something going in a sling. S
Legend Brewing Company is a pub, restaurant and brewery with one of the city's best decks, live music twice a week, and lunch and dinner daily. Mug club meets Mondays, home brewers meet regularly, and free tours of the brewery are available Saturdays at 1 p.m. 321 W. Seventh St. 232-3446. www.legendbrewing.com.