click to enlarge The gang at COTU wants to experiment with new varieties of beer at its new downtown Ashland taproom to open this fall.

Joshua Aaron Photography

The gang at COTU wants to experiment with new varieties of beer at its new downtown Ashland taproom to open this fall.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Center of the Universe Brewing Co. Plans a New Taproom

Small-batch, specialty beers will be its focus.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 8:00 AM

It’s been a year of expansion and Center of the Universe Brewing Co. in Ashland is the latest to announce bigger plans. The brewery quietly started work on a second production facility at 106 S. Railroad Ave., the former Chiffarobe Fine Antiques and Gifts, at the end of the summer.

Named Origin Beer Lab, it will be a place for COTU to experiment and produce smaller runs of new varieties, including sour beers. Earlier this year, COTU began an expansion of its main production line on Airpark Road to accommodate new distribution into Northern Virginia. The brewery added a rotary canning line — the first in Virginia, its new general manager Sarah Choi says, and remodeled its popular tasting room to ease crowding. In 2015, it added Norfolk and Virginia Beach to its territory.

You might recognize Choi’s name. She helped open and run Shoryuken Ramen with Will Richardson until its much lamented closure. She’ll oversee taproom operation, private events and marketing.

Origin Beer Lab’s 30-barrel monthly specialty runs will only be available at its 50-seat taproom — which will include outdoor seating — in Ashland’s historic downtown, although packaged beer will be available to-go.

“As an Ashland resident, I have been extremely impressed with the Main Street Association’s progress in revamping downtown,” said co-owner Chris Ray in a news release. “My goal is that the residents of Ashland take as much pride in Origin as I do in the town.”

And COTU is keeping it local: Ashland-based Chopper Dawson LLC will complete the construction this fall.

“[The Rays] hope to celebrate COTU’s fourth anniversary with its sister brand in November,” Choi says.

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