Beer is big, especially when it's small, and Richmond's embrace of local craft brewery Hardywood Park is astonishing in scale for a one-year-old business.
Founders Patrick Murtaugh and Eric McKay have doubled their production goals, are expanding again, and earned a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup. Their Singel has become a favorite on taps across the city. And their Gingerbread Stout received a coveted 100 rating from Beer Advocate magazine.
Things even got political this year. Murtaugh and McKay successfully pushed for a bill at the Virginia General Assembly that allowed on-premise beer-tasting at breweries. And their influence is felt at local farms, from which they use ingredients highlighted in their brews. They also started a popular food truck court, beer dinners with local chefs, and received a level of community interaction that borders on fanatic.
"People want to be involved in what they're purchasing," Murtaugh says, "and we have a dialogue through social media that's extremely important." The business works with local farmers to increase hop-growing, and gave out 1,200 hop rhizomes last spring to encourage people to experiment with the crop. This year they made 40 barrels of RVA IPA with locally grown hops, and expect that number to grow as enthusiasts taste the results.
Murtaugh and McKay started as beer sales reps in New York City, helping bars and stores build their craft beer lists. "Stylistic diversity was overlooked in the industry," McKay says, "so we've designed a portfolio of beer that complements what other breweries are doing," here and elsewhere. "One of the biggest draws for us, coming to Richmond, was this sense that the food-eating and drinking community was supportive without snobbery. Our focus is local and we are elated that we're starting to become a piece of the cultural fabric here and in Virginia."