July 30, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story


What’s in a Name? 

Reviving an institution, Richbrau Brewing Co. brings classic and creative beers to Shockoe Bottom.

click to enlarge Matthew Mullett, Brian McCauley and Hank Schmidt III recently opened Richbrau Brewing Co. with four flagship beers.

Scott Elmquist

Matthew Mullett, Brian McCauley and Hank Schmidt III recently opened Richbrau Brewing Co. with four flagship beers. 

Chocolate-chip cookie beer. Do I have your attention?

On tap at one of Richmond's newest breweries is the 13 O'Clock, a stout infused with Chips Ahoy cookies. The process involves a brewing device called a Randall, which sends draft beer through a chamber full of ingredients — in this case, cookies — to absorb the flavor. It smells like those cookie dough bite candies sold at movie theaters and tastes exactly how you want it to taste.

The novelty of the cookie brew has made it a popular choice since Richbrau Brewing Co.'s July 4 opening. What co-owner Matthew Mullett didn't anticipate was selling out of the first batch of the Edgar imperial stout, which serves as the base of the 13 O'Clock, in a matter of weeks.

"Stouts aren't just for winter anymore, that's one thing we've learned," he says, reflecting on lessons from the first month. He says it'll be back on tap soon.

The line around the block on opening day, a federal holiday that he thought would keep people from coming out, taught him and the team another valuable lesson.

"We have learned to what extent people are passionate about craft beer," he says.

Originally the name of a beer made by Home Brewing Co. from the 1930s through the 1960s, Richbrau later became the name of a brew pub in Shockoe Slip, which closed in 2010. Mullett, who spent the first phase of his beer career as a sales manager for MillerCoors, gained the rights to the Richbrau trademark in 2015. He partnered with brewer Brian McCauley and operations manager Hank Schmidt III to open the brewery, and Mullett says the name, with its roots in Richmond's brewing history, was what inspired him to join the craft beer movement.

"A big reason we're doing this is the name. I can honestly tell you, I would not have had the excitement level or the interest in just starting up a brewery. We did it because the stars aligned and we were able to use the name, and that made it worth it," he says. "We all love beer, we all love Richmond, and we want to be Richmond's beer."

Four flagship beers are currently available on tap and in tallboy cans: the aforementioned imperial stout; the Psychic Horse, an East Coast IPA with Citra hops; and two sour ales, including the 4th Street Horribles, featuring lemon and sweet tea, and the King of Strays, brewed with strawberries and guava. The Head Full of Ideas, another sour made with mango puree, is available on tap, along with the 13 O'Clock.

As for food, keep an eye out for flatbreads and oysters within the next four to six weeks.

In the meantime, munchies include small cans of Pringles and refrigerated fruit-and-cheese snack packs, and Mullett says Richbrau has also worked with local restaurant delivery service Chop Chop RVA, so you can order some grub and have it brought straight to the brewery.

The owners also plan to support Communities in Schools, a national organization that provides support services for at-risk students in public and charter schools.

"We want to be an ingrained member of this community," Mullett says. "The more success we have the more we're going to give back."

Richbrau Brewing Co.
5 S. 20th St.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays
3 - 10 p.m.
Fridays 2 p.m. - midnight
Saturdays noon - midnight
Sundays noon - 8 p.m.

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