Night Shift 

Midnight Brewing turned Trae Cairns’ passion into profit.

click to enlarge Midnight Brewery’s name came from owner Trae Cairns’ habit of brewing beer at home late at night.

Scott Elmquist

Midnight Brewery’s name came from owner Trae Cairns’ habit of brewing beer at home late at night.

The directions are easy. Get off Interstate 64 at Exit 173 — and if you can’t follow the conspicuous signs to Midnight, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about visiting a brewery.*

Located in eastern Goochland County near Rockville, Midnight Brewery is the brainchild of Trae Cairns. Like many of his counterparts at other craft breweries, Cairns began as a home brewer. When the smell made his wife kick him out of their kitchen, Cairns knew he had to find another way to continue with his passion. “At that point,” he says, “things got a lot bigger.”

He began the brewery in 2011, and officially launched in 2012, producing Midnight’s first batch, Banana Pancakes beer, a maple wheat beer brewed in collaboration with Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, which had opened the previous year.

Midnight originally made its beer in a small, 1.5-barrel system. “We could squeeze 1.5 barrels out of the system,” he says — “and when I say squeeze, I mean really squeeze if we watched the pours very carefully.” The business rapidly expanded and the system now in place eventually will allow the company to brew as much as 400 barrels monthly.

Two events contributed to Midnight’s growth. The first was the 2012 passage of statewide legislation that allows craft brewers to sell their products on premises, much the same way wineries do. The second was Becky Rudolf. She initially joined as a volunteer, having done the same at Fredericksburg’s Blue & Gray Brewing Co., where she shadowed head brewer David Achkio, now with Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery.

“I read everything I could get my hands on,” Rudolf says, but she says she needed to do it. “It’s all theory until you put it into practice.” Now she’s Midnight’s lead brewer.

Cairns came up with the company’s name when he was making beer at home. After work, he’d spend time in the evening with his wife and then end up doing most of his brewing afterward. “I was the midnight brewer,” he says.

Now up and running for a little more than three years, the brewery remains a family business with much of its tasting room staff working as volunteers. Originally, Midnight was open only periodically throughout the week. Cairns’ mother suggested opening on Wednesdays, and she volunteered to run the tasting room.

“What parent doesn’t want to see their child succeed?” Cairns says. “I guess they were afraid I’d move back in with them.”

Midnight Brewery
2410 Granite Ridge Road, Rockville
356-9379
midnight-brewery.com

*Here's a source for more detailed directions.

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