Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Castleburg Brewery Expanding in Space and Distribution

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2017 at 1:45 PM

Karl Homburg, owner and head brewer at Castleburg Brewery.
  • Karl Homburg, owner and head brewer at Castleburg Brewery.

As owner and head brewer of Castleburg Brewery, Karl Homburg has acted methodically and deliberately.

When the brewery and tasting room first opened in May 2016, Homburg still had a full-time job, he brewed on a 2½-barrel system and tasting room hours were limited to Friday through Sunday.

He quickly filled out his beer lineup to fill all 10 taps. He eventually made the brewery his full-time job and added Wednesdays and Thursdays to tasting room hours.

Castleburg’s latest news reflects its biggest step so far, though Homburg wasn’t quite as methodical and deliberate as he would’ve liked. Last summer, the suite next to the current space at 1626 Ownby Lane became available. Homburg had first right of refusal and knew that if he didn’t jump on the opportunity, the next tenant would be locked into a three-year lease — time during which Castleburg would not have the room to grow so easily.

After several months of seeking funding and negotiating with the landlord, Crenshaw-Singleton, the deal was sealed.

“It was something I had to take advantage of while I had the chance,” Homburg explained. “The landlord’s been great. He’s worked with me. … He’s doing most of the work [on the new space], too.”

Once walls come down between the two suites, the tasting room will swell from a little more than 50 seats to about 150. A small stage in the front corner of the new room will provide a platform for musicians and events. He’ll add some drink rails but mostly a mix of high-top and low-top tables, potentially even a community table, all made from reclaimed wood from Swingin Tree Farms, like the original tables.

In addition, he’ll add another 10 tap lines. Though there may be some duplicate lines for high-volume beers and a couple of Randall lines for infusions, Homburg hopes to offer nearly 20 distinct beers.

The production area will remain as is in the original space, adding only about a 20-foot-deep space in the rear of the new suite for storage.

In the spring, he’ll also modify the front patio to increase that seating capacity and fill out the video game room.

Though Homburg and his partner, Rhonda Groves, may not have written the expansion into the business plan quite so soon, the timing works out. “We get the music in here, we get the trivia in here … last Saturday we had comedy, it was standing room only. People had to go outside because there were too many people inside,” Homburg said. “That’s happening more and more. We’re getting to a point now where we really do need it.”

The expanded tasting room is projected to be completed early next year.

“I’m hoping for zero downtime,” Homburg says. “We’re going to get everything done over there first —- at least to a minimum point, the bar and taps we might not do right away.” When the only thing left is to take out the wall, that can theoretically be completed on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, before Wednesday open hours.

Other changes are afoot, too. A new machine should be available in mid-January allowing customers to take Castleburg brews to-go in the 16-ounce can format. A new, professionally produced website is in the works. Homburg is still brewing on the original 2½-barrel system and using four fermenters, so expanding the system is the next step, he said, especially adding a larger fermenter.

But most notably, Homburg says he is hoping to sign with a distributor in January. “That’s what will probably drive the need for more fermenters,” Homburg explained.

Stay tuned for that announcement.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Weekly Food Notes: Chez Foushee Sold, Inauguration Beer and More

Posted By on Tue, Dec 26, 2017 at 9:46 AM

Ralph Northam will be the first governor to have a custom made beer for his inauguration. InaugurAle, a Belgian-style blond ale, was a collaboration with Center of the Universe Brewing Co. It's worth noting that all the beer's ingredients were grown in Virginia.

Perennial ladies-who-lunch favorite Chez Foushee has been sold to local interior designer Whitney Cardozo, reports Richmond BizSense. No surprise, Cardozo intends to give the exterior and interior a facelift.

Casa del Barco opened its second location at Short Pump Town Center last week with dinner only, but lunch and brunch service kicks off New Year's Day. There's no view of the canal like the original, but it does boast an indoor-outdoor second floor bar with more than 200 tequilas and mezcals.

Add a weekly farm stand to the continuing evolution of Broad Street. The Depot Market combines Virginia Commonwealth University's Depot with the university's sustainability program for a weekly market featuring produce from Field of Dreams farm, a local cooperative. Get your veggies year-round on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Depot, 814 W. Broad St.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Virginia's Next Governor Shows His Support for Local Beer

COTU brews InaugurALE for Governor-elect Ralph Northam.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 1:00 AM

For Ralph Northam’s InaugurALE, COTU is creating a blonde ale with a grain bill and fruity yeast flavors reminiscent of a Belgian-style beer.
  • For Ralph Northam’s InaugurALE, COTU is creating a blonde ale with a grain bill and fruity yeast flavors reminiscent of a Belgian-style beer.

Although Gov. Terry McAuliffe was quick to quip about his Irish heritage as an excuse for his support of Virginia craft beer, he also recognized the industry’s ability to support the Commonwealth’s economy. If Virginia brewery supporters worry that a change in administration will dampen the support, Governor-elect Ralph Northam seems poised to alleviate any concerns. He has agreed to let Center of the Universe Brewing, Ashland, brew an all-Virginia ale in honor of his inauguration.

“It is small businesses like the Center of the Universe Brewing Company that exemplify our new Virginia economy—which is why I was so excited when they offered to brew InaugurALE for my upcoming inauguration,” said Governor-elect Ralph Northam in a press release announcing the beer.

Appropriately, InaugurALE beer is created with all Virginia-grown ingredients. The grain was grown in the Northern Neck and malted at Copper Fox Distillery’s malting house; the hops were grown at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; the yeast was harvested at Agriberry Farm and cultivated by Randolph-Macon College biology professor Dr. Grace Lim-Fong and her students; and the water, of course, comes straight from the source at Center of the Universe in Ashland.

For Northam’s InaugurALE, COTU is creating a blonde ale with a grain bill and fruity yeast flavors reminiscent of a Belgian-style beer, light in body and with a moderate ABV of 5 percent.

On brew day, Dec. 18, the governor-elect paid a visit to COTU to check on the beer’s production. While there, he met with COTU co-owners Chris Ray and Phil Ray and with Prof. Lim-Fong.

“We are thrilled and honored to create a beer for Governor-elect Northam’s inauguration,” said Chris Ray. “We hope to show the synergy between the Virginia craft beer manufacturers and our Virginia agricultural partners. We are excited to have an incoming governor who will continue to promote small business growth in our sector and beyond.” “Our inauguration will be a celebration of a unified and diverse Virginia that works together and lifts each other up, and we are fortunate enough to have great small businesses right here in the Commonwealth like the Center of the Universe Brewing Company that lead by example,” Northam added. “I hope Virginians are looking forward to sharing a 100 percent born-and-bred Virginia beer with one another as much as I am during the inaugural weekend."

InaugurALE will primarily be available throughout the inaugural weekend in Richmond, and will also be served in a limited quantity at COTU.

As if to assuage beer supporters who worry about losing a governor who has been so vocal in his support of the industry, Northam celebrated Virginia beer on Twitter. About the InaugurAle, @RalphNortham tweeted: “Can’t think of a better way to inaugurate the kegerator @TerryMcAuliffe’s generously leaving behind.”

Cheers to four more years of support for #VABeer!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jingling All the Way

Can't-miss beer events this month.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 12:13 PM

Dec. 17
The best months for oysters are those with R's in the name. So we've been told. Modern refrigeration has mitigated the pesky dangers of summer temperatures and shellfish, but, hey, who doesn't want an excuse to slurp bivalves and beer? Isley Brewing Co.'s Oyster Shellabration with Nomini Bay Oyster Ranch, from noon to 8 p.m., will offer them raw or broiled with secret sauce, cheese, bacon and peppers. And the brewery understands the pain of those who eschew the hard shell and will offer other choices, such as shrimp and chicken salad sliders. isleybrewingcompany.com.

Dec. 17
Do good and go shopping: Center of the Universe Brewing Co. is getting geared up for its Christmas Market on Dec. 17 from 1 to 6 p.m. Sip a little beer and peruse the wares of 13 artisan vendors while humming along to seasonal live music. Holiday beer will be on tap, with proceeds benefiting the nonprofit Girls for a Change. cotubrewing.com.

Dec. 31
Buskey Cider wants you to head over to Scott's Addition to watch the ball drop this year. At the cidery's 3-2-1 New Year's Party, you'll find countdown drink specials from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the big night. And tickets include a whole package: a commemorative Buskey Cider New Year's Eve 2018 glass, gluten-free food, a one-night-only cider release and prizes when the clock clicks into the new year. buskeycider.com.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Phantom of Hardywood

Richmond brewery goes to Broadway.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 6, 2017 at 9:30 AM

The latest collaboration beer from Hardywood Park Craft Brewery springs from a partnership with the Happy Hour Guys and Broadway’s "Phantom of the Opera." It's part of the Broadway Brews Project, which pairs a craft brewery with a Broadway show to create a themed beer, in support of a charity of the cast’s choosing.


Mark Aldrich and Jimmy Ludwig travel to bars and breweries and share their stories with viewers and their 13,000 Twitter followers and 4,000 Facebook followers at thehappyhourguys.com, on Vimeo and on YouTube.

They met as Broadway actors and together created the Happy Hour Guys. “The project came out of a love of historic bars and the pub culture,” says Aldrich. Knowing both theater and craft-brewing people, they noticed that the two have a lot in common: Both take risks to achieve their dreams, are passionate about their fields and go out of their way to support the community. Thus was born the Broadway Brews Project.

The Hardywood collaboration is the fourth in the series. Previous partnerships paired Gun Hill Brewing from New York with "Hamilton," Carton Brewing from New Jersey with "School of Rock," and Sixpoint Brewery from New York with "Waitress" and  have generated buzz in he Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, All About Beer, Playbill and other media.


Hardywood’s marketing manager, Matt Shofner, heard about the Broadway Brews Project and reached out to Aldrich and Ludwig.

“It was a bit of a change in direction. Originally, we were going to include only New York-area breweries,” Aldrich explains, pointing out that theater cast members have limited time off to participate in the brewing process. “Hardywood was so enthusiastic and generous with their time and creativity — and I’m from Northern Virginia and I knew the quality [of the beer] — so we decided to take the leap.”

“As it turns out, it’s a match made in heaven, in spite of the distance,” says Ludwig. “Many of the Hardywood folk are theater fans and theater-makers, as you have a thriving arts scene in Richmond.”

In late November, Shofner and Hardywood head brewer Brian Nelson went to New York to see the show and meet with the cast to decide on style, name, label art concepts and the benefitting charity. On Dec. 3, cast members Ali Ewoldt (Christine), Paul A. Schaefer (Phantom cover) and Rodney Ingram (Raoul) and the Happy Hour pair came to Richmond for brew day.

“Hardywood was incredibly generous with their time and resources and creativity,” Aldrich says. “We had a great day, got a tour of the facility and took a drive out to the new facility — which is breathtaking. It was all wrapped up with a great dinner put together by Graffiato’s. … We didn’t just make beer, we made a lot of friends.”


Hardywood brewer, Kevin Storm, has created a black lager inspired by the character of the Phantom.

“We want to brew something refreshing and accessible for the guests at the Majestic Theatre in New York that visually represents the dark and mysterious mood of the show,” says Shofner. “The deep, black color of the beer is a great contrast to the flavor profile, which is refreshing and bright with notes of stone fruit and toasted pecan, and very subtle chocolate undertones.”


After soliciting suggestions for beer names, the Guys, Phantom cast members and Hardywood narrowed the entries down to a list of finalists, including Lot 666, Pint of No Return, Drink of Me, Darkness Stirs, Wishing You Were Somehow Beer Again, Phantom’s Lair Lager and Chande-beer. The winner has been chosen, but it won't be announced until after necessary government approvals.


During this process, all upfront expenses have been shared between the teams. The brewery covers brewing costs and the Happy Hour Guys cover the production of the episodes.

After the beer is released, a percentage of the sales go to the charity of choice. “As long as the beer is brewed, the charity will see returns,” Ludwig says. “And with a show like "Phantom," which has already run for 30 years, they will likely continue to run a long, long time, and this can mean a great deal (both in dollars and in exposure) for them. The beer is a conversation starter, so the exposure for the charity becomes just as valuable as the money.”


“We are so excited to head back up to NYC in early 2018 to release the beer, celebrate everyone’s commitment to this one-of-a-kind opportunity and begin raising funds for a wonderful organization,” Shofner says.

It will be available in New York at select bars and restaurants in the Theater District and at the Majestic Theatre, as well as in Hardywood’s Richmond and Charlottesville tap rooms.

The project culminates in a three-episode video package: “Meet the Team” (cast and brewers meet); “Brew Day” (cast travels to brewery); and “Release Party.”

For updates on the beer name, release date and charity, follow @TheHappyHourGuys or @Hardywood on social media. The videos will be available on Vimeo  and YouTube.

The Happy Hour Guys anticipate two more partnerships, creating a literal six-pack of collaborative beers.

And Hardywood is planning another "Phantom" beer, this one to commemorate the show’s 30th anniversary. Shofner describes it as “a sparkling ale brewed with a champagne yeast and rose hips, inspired by the Phantom’s love interest, Christine Daae, and the famed chandelier that plays a key role in the show.”

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