Where: Cider-maker at Buskey Cider
Other career: Formerly brewed beer in Milwaukee for Water Street Brewery.
Cider is still a pretty unknown product in the United States and that can prove challenging. The cider industry has many similarities to the craft brewing industry of the ’90s. I’m making a career out of something I am inspired by and passionate about and I enjoy the originality that comes with being a part of a startup company. It’s also very gratifying to share the fruits of my labor with Richmond.
Where: Courthouse Creek Cider
Other careers: Eric, still a lawyer, also operated a private chef business, cooking for boutique wineries on California’s central coast. Lisa, a teacher, still offering private tutoring and consulting.
Eric: When we say we produce heartfully crafted Virginia cider, we truly mean it. Our kids work in the orchard with us. We’re hands on with everything. To be able to sit on the porch, look at our orchard, which we planted ourselves, and sip a cider that we hand-crafted is a deeply meaningful experience. It’s tangible, heartfelt and very real.
Lisa: The hardest thing for us is managing the orchard and cider-making while we both maintain our day jobs. In essence, we’re running four businesses — raising four kids, growing fruit, making cider and working our day jobs. Actually, it’s five, the fifth being the marketing and sale of our cider.
Where: Castleburg Brewery
Other career: Also employed in the information technology field.
My girlfriend bought me a home-brewer kit in 2010 and it was all downhill from there. The hardest part of owning a brewery is running a business while continuing to work a full-time job because the amount of paperwork I’m required to keep up with is way more than I expected when I started. I think Richmond will be able to support another six to 12 breweries. The breweries that exist will have to set themselves apart by either specializing and/or with quality.
Where: Stone Brewing Co.
Other career: Formerly Kirin brew master, quality manager at Anheuser-Busch Los Angeles, family brewery owner.
I was struggling with what I wanted to do [at University of California-Davis]. I did some science, I did some engineering studies, I did design studies as well. My cousin worked at Mad River Brewing and got me turned on to craft beer — so I started home brewing. I realized I was enjoying that more than what I was studying in school, so I changed my major to fermentation studies. [Much later], Stone asked me if I wanted to work on the Richmond project and I said, “Of course.” It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Where: Trapezium Brewing Co.
Other career: Worked in a print shop.
What led me to beer as a career? A lethal combination of hard work, dedication, a supportive wife and the desire to not to pay for beer. The hardest part of the beer business, besides Germany and early ’90s hip-hop, is trying to find more hours in the day. Every day there’s cleaning, brewing, kegging, bottling, distribution, spreadsheets, meetings and events. Before you know it, the day has come and gone. When you love what you do every day, nothing is hard. The hard part is figuring out when the day is done.
Where: Steam Bell Beer Works
Other career: Formerly in the mining industry, part-time assistant brewer at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
Hardywood has served as an inspiration for Steam Bell in many ways. It was Eric [McKay] and Patrick [Murtaugh] who first supported what came to be known as Senate Bill 604 that really lit the fires under craft beer in Virginia. Every Virginia brewery has a great debt of gratitude to Eric and Patrick. Everyone — owners, brewers, sales people, distributors, retailers — are all incredibly awesome people. Throughout the startup phase, I hit countless roadblocks and every time, someone with a competing company pointed me in the right direction.
CORRECTION: This article originally misspelled Karl Homburg's last name. It has been corrected.