Sunday, December 20, 2015

Coelacanth Brewing is Open for Business!

While visiting Norfolk earlier today, I grabbed a flight at the city's newest craft brewery, Coelacanth. Only open for about a week, I was happy to see the tasting room filled with patrons on a Sunday evening. Most customers were enjoying pints and flights, while watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail via a massive projector setup. The current four brew flight includes: Coelia Rosemary Lemon Wheat, CBGB English Best Bitter, Enefkay IPA, and my personal favorite Jazz Age Oatmeal Stout. Owners Kevin and Melissa Erskine were incredibly pleasant. I hope to make a proper trip soon to spend more time and learn about the operation.  

Got excited and started drinking before taking a picture...

Incase you were having trouble with pronunciation

Great Logo!

Tasting Room Artwork

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The (Almost) Polished Stone

A toast to the (almost) finished brewery

This past Friday I joined journalists, local and state dignitaries, and Stone Execs in a toast to the almost finished Stone Brewery Richmond. Since our last update, much has been accomplished at the 213,000 square foot facility: walls have gone up, roofs have been finished, and fermenters have been installed. As far as I could tell, the only thing that stands in the way of a finished product is some insulation and drywall in the office/tasting room areas. 

The future site of a Gargoyle window
The above image shows what will be the visitors entrance to the brewery, leading directly into the tasting room/gift shop. The grand doorway will be topped with a massive circular glass window, emblazoned with the famous gargoyle logo.  

The walk from parking to the new Visitor's Center
When Stone Brewing announced it's search for an East Coast location, there were 20 states and hundreds of sites competing. The decision to come to Richmond was announced in October of 2014, and the Governor stated in his remarks that there were 85 breweries in the Commonwealth; Friday, the Secretary of Agriculture updated that statement with the current tally, 135.
The $74,000,000 investment in the Richmond area will add just shy of 300 permanent jobs. The complex will include lots of beautiful green space, the massive brewery, a restaurant, tasting room, gift shop, and more. 

The first of three bridges connecting addition parking, Visitor's Center, and Restaurant
Governor McAuliffe seemed to enjoy his statistics of the Commonwealth's exploding Craft Beer industry. He stated that there are currently over 4,000 craft breweries in the United States, only 15 states have 100+ craft breweries (Virginia being one of those). The most impressive statistic was that at full capacity, Stone Brewing Richmond will DOUBLE Virginia's annual output of Craft Beer. 

Governor McAuliffe, Mayor Jones, and Greg Koch meet
All signs are still pointing to Stone being on track to start brewing shortly after the first of the year. Once at full speed, the bottling line will be able to output 60 bottles of beer every minute. There are currently four massive 1,000 barrel fermenters installed and plans call for another eight for initial brewing. What's most impressive is the final number. As you may remember from my previous article from Stone's Breakfast Pour event, we watched the concrete foundation being created to hold the massive tanks. Hourigan Construction has created concrete housings for a total of FORTY 1,000 barrel fermenters. The additional unused spaces are currently capped with concrete. One by one, as needed, more giant fermenters from Europe will be sailed up the James River and delivered to the docks, just across the street from Stone.
At the beginning of this week, Greg Koch, current CEO and Co-founder of Stone Brewing attended the first pouring of their beer to be brewed in Berlin, marking a major milestone in the American Craft Beer Industry: The first American company to brew in Europe. 
 Stone's Brewing complex is a marvel to behold and should be a source of pride for the region. At the end of the event, Greg Koch told us that he looks forward to opening day when the sign above the door will read:

Mayor Jones tours the facility, learning about the brewing process

Massive fermentation tanks, with additional space for expansion

Train passing over brewery grounds

Transportation for the Stone Crew's pub crawl

Monday, November 2, 2015

Fredericksburg Fall Brewfest

Once again we were able to make it to a Fredericksburg Brew Fest event, this time being their fall season beer festival.

The Event
The day started much the same VBB’s first visit did with our names not being on the list. Fortunately it was resolved quickly and we were in. We arrived hungry so we started the beer festival with lunch. There were a few yummy-smelling food vendors slinging standard festival fare (fries, cheese fries, loaded fries, hot dogs, and BBQ) but many did not take cards. An ATM was on site but we just decided to support the vendor who conducts business in the 21st century, Legends Grille. There was ample seating for eating and a band was playing live music that was actually quite enjoyable despite the speaker system being a bit too loud.

The event itself seemed well organized inside the gates with most of the beer and vendor tents running along one side of the field that made it difficult to miss something. The event also has ciders, wines, and cigars but beer was our focus. The lines were always short and quick, never longer than 10 deep. We were shocked that so many breweries were tapped early, including Ballast Point and Terrapin, though it might have been a stocking or equipment issue (and fortunately those were beers readily available in the Richmond market).

The only thing I found disappointing was that few of the tents had actual brewery reps or workers, most were staffed by volunteers who were all friendly and poured generously but were often unable to answer specific questions (including one who did not know where the beer they were pouring was located).

In the spring bathrooms seemed to be an issue but, as promised by event planners, this season there were plenty of bathrooms with short or no lines.

The Beer
So, I know you’re all wondering if we tried all the beer there, which our answer is a resounding “of course not!” Over 80 brews were sampled, including flagship beers and limited quantity VIP beers, and that’s a lot of beer. In the end we tried 21 beers, many of which were new to us.

Without a doubt the two biggest standouts to us were Legend’s Bleeding Nun Spiced Oatmeal Stout and Blue & Gray’s Raddler. Not surprising, these were two of the few breweries that either a) brewed a beer specifically for the event or b)had actual brewery staff work the tent.


Bleeding Nun is Legend Brewing’s newest addition to the Urban Legend Series brewed with habanero, super smooth with all the roasty-toasty goodness of a stout and a kick of nice (not mouth-watering) heat. Fortunately for everyone it IS being bottled and should be released soon. The Urban Legend Series also brought the Z Dam into distribution, one of my favorite beers I’ve tried this year. Keep it up Legend!

Raddler from Blue & Gray was the first beer we actually tried, brewed specifically for this event so future availability seems uncertain. It was wonderful, light wheaty body with plenty of citrus which was shocking as most of my favorite brews from Blue & Gray have been heavy stouts and porters. Radlers or raddlers need to be more prevalent, especially in the brunch scene as I think of these in the same realm as mimosas.

Two other standouts were both from a brewery we had not had before, Maltese Brewing Co. from Spotsylvania/Fredericksburg. One was their Pineapple IPA which was very tasty with great pineapple flavor, though one of us thought it could have been a bit more prominent. The other was their Vanilla Brown which, despite being sweeter than many beers, was very well rounded with the characteristic brown flavors you’d expect with non-fake-tasting vanilla.

Best Tap Handle
The winner of the day's un-official coolest tap handle award, judged solely by me, goes to: Adventure Brewing created by East Coast Taps. Just the rock climbing wall on its own makes for a great handle, but the addition of the little hanging climber is just awesome. If I saw this tap next to 50+ others, including the heavy hitters in craft beer, I'd totally choose this.  Luckily the beer flowing through the tap was great.

The event was very enjoyable, we were able to drink plenty of tasty beer without the long lines and smothering crowds that are synonymous with beer festivals. Oddly, we left feeling like there were some breweries who were advertised as going that we did not see there but that was not enough to negatively impact our experience. We stayed for a few hours and, with the festival still chugging along, we left happy.

Moving forward our only hopes are on the breweries’ parts - bring more exclusive beers, maybe one flagship and one seasonal/special, and staff the tents with knowledgeable brewery reps/staff. VBB looks forward to Fredericksburg Brewfest’s future festivals, hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

UCI Road World Championships Opening Ceremony

World championship cycling is in full swing in RVA! Friday night, James and I attended the Opening Ceremony of the UCI Road World Championships on Brown's Island. The event introduced the team representing the United States, included performances from the Richmond Symphony, and was emceed by NBC12's Andrew Freiden. 

I thought that with over 100 breweries in the Commonwealth to choose from, this event would be the perfect way to showcase the best craft brews Virginia has to offer......I thought wrong. We were incredibly disappointed to find that only the above four Budweiser owned beers were available for purchase. I understand that InBev may be a sponsor but it's still a hard pill (and beer) to swallow. I have learned my lesson to not buy drink tickets prior to looking at the selection (I've been spoiled). 

Overall, the weather was perfect, the people were kind, and the event was entertaining. I'm excited about the Commonwealth being in the spotlight and what great things could manifest from it.

 Here's to hoping the next big event has better beer!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ale for Arthritis

Drink craft beer in Norfolk for a good cause on Saturday, September 26th!

A social evening event benefiting Arthritis Foundation of Hampton Roads 

Saturday September 26th @ 7:00 pm   

Slover Library · 253 E. Plume Street · Norfolk, Virginia · 23510  

Beer · Wine · Edibles · Auction, and more! 

Sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation

The Arthritis Foundation is focused on finding a cure and championing the fight against arthritis with life-changing information, advocacy, science and community. We chart the course for the arthritis community, helping families develop personalized plans for saying Yes—day after day.   

Join us! Ale for Arthritis is the Arthritis Foundation’s premier social event. Spend your Saturday evening with us on September 26th at the Slover Library in beautiful downtown Norfolk. You’ll learn more about the Arthritis Foundation, enjoy local craft beer from Williamsburg Alewerks Brewing Company, live music, auction, and networking in a business casual setting.

For more information, tickets, sponsorship opportunities or to RSVP contact: Kim Hudson  757-675-6284 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

BrewBQ was HOT!!

We went to the BrewBQ at the 17th street farmers market in Richmond on Sunday and experienced the BBQ and beer the capital had to offer. Virginia was offering it's signature heat, but it was bearable with cold, delicious beer in hand. With a load of options for food and drink, we had to try a little bit of everything. Here are our favorites.

The Draft Doctors were around

The first beer sampled was the Cocoborealis by Chaos Mountain Brewing. Dubbed a triple chocolate stout, this brew has serious chocolate notes. There is a depth to the chocolate here that is easily appreciated due to its medium body. Coffee and malt round out this very good and drinkable stout. The main difference from other chocolate stouts is the body and sweetness not getting in the way of the main attraction: chocolate. It pours very dark and has a crisp bitter after taste.

Also, Chaos Mountain has some of the coolest labels we've seen. Wendy Hallock told me they added foil accents to some of the labels and I can only imagine how awesome that looks (particularly the chrome on the Mad Hopper label).

Although we've had it many times before, it was impossible to walk by Strangeways without grabbing a pint of Gwar Blood. The delicious Red Ale comes in at 5.5% ABV, and was a lifesaver in the heat. Gwar fan or not (who's not?), you are missing out if you don't give this a try. We also took the opportunity to talk to Lars! Never pass this up.

We saw Lars from Strangeways!

We were pleasantly surprised by the growing amount of merchandise featured at the brewers tents. Notable standouts include the new hat designs from Isley, Strangeways, and Triple Crossing.  Several brewers were also handing out free branded koozies (thanks Strangeways and Chaos Mountain!). Strangeways' koozie is made for a beer glass and is great for a long sipping beer that might get warm. We've used ours multiple times since. Grab one if you see it!

Lots of people!

So many people were at BrewBQ. The event gets larger every year and the vendors get more diverse every year. We were happy to share in the craft beer and BBQ in the state capital. The music, food, and especially the beer were good. The weather was clear and hot, and the people were happy and patient. Until next year!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

4th Annual Brew-BQ happening in RVA this weekend

The 4th annual Brew-BQ is happening at the 17th street farmer's market in RVA on Sunday 12pm - 5pm. The event is free to attend. Beer tasters are $2, and a full pour is $6.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch posted the local beer list here. For convenience, I'll list it as well:

Extra Billy's – Citra Ass down IPA
Triple Crossing - Falcon Smash
Strangeways – Albino Monkey and GWAR
Legend - Z Dam and Brown
Ardent - IPL and Saison
Isley – Bribe and Ruby Red
Lickinghole – Till Sunset and Magic Beaver
Hardywood – Pils and VA Blackberry
Midnight – VA Midway and Not My Job
COTU – Ray Rays and Chin Music
Old Bust Head – Graffiti House  and Gold Cup
Chaos Mountain – Coco and Agents of Chaos
Bold Rock – IPA
Rusty Beaver – Bucktooth
O’Connor – Green Can
Starr Hill – Soul Shine
Devils Backbone – Trail Angel

The bands performing are Dance Candy and Wylder. Just another heads up, Wylder is also playing a show at Triple Crossing the Saturday before for the Clever Girl IPA draft release!

There are about four thousand people on fb that have indicated they are going. This event could get very crowed so make sure you know where you're going to park.

Here's the parking map:

Check out the event fb page for the latest or if you have a question.

See you there!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pouring Stone

This past Saturday, the Virginia Beer Blog crew had the immense pleasure of joining press, construction partners, and local leaders for a private event appropriately titled "Stone Brewing Breakfast Pour".

Located in the recently erected skeleton that will become Stone Brewing Richmond, the event provided breakfast by  Alchemy Coffee, Slideways Mobile Bistro, and Boka Taco Truck, which was sponsored by Hourigan Construction. The highlight of our breakfast had to be the "Stone Concrete and Coffee Stout," brewed exclusively for the event. This 8% ABV marvel complimented the warm welcome and familial camaraderie of genuine craft beer enthusiasts.

We looked on as tons of concrete were poured into the molds that will support the 40 massive (an understatement) fermentation tanks that will make up Stone's new "Tank Farm." When completed, the Tank Farm will rise five stories into the air, encased in glass, a monument to craft beer for all to see. Representatives of Stone informed us that once at full capacity, the Richmond Brewery will outproduce the Escondido location with two and a half times the production! 

Looking out across the soon-to-be Tank Farm, it's easy to see why Stone Brewing picked this location out of so many. Centrally located between Downtown and Richmond International Airport, the brewery will be located along Richmond's new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) loop, "The Pulse".  We were told that access to public transportation was a high priority of Stone's, when considering locations. 

The Greater Fulton location is also of major historical significance; the site is located just yards away from the Eastern entrance to the famous Church Hill Tunnel and the ruins of the Fulton Gas Works (see above picture). Few know of the centuries old beer caverns that flank the new construction: The James River Steam Brewery Cellars, located beneath the Rocket's Landing neighborhood, and the Chimborazo Park Beer Vaults. I'm holding out hope that the inevitable jolt to the East End's economy will help bring these two locations a rebirth and long overdue care because who wouldn't want to have a drink in an underground cathedral dedicated to beer?

The economic impact to the Greater Fulton Community is another very exciting aspect of the development, the neighborhood was the victim of revitalization gone terribly wrong. In the early 1970's the Fulton Neighborhood was severely damaged by Hurricane Agnes and subsequent flooding. The remaining neighborhood was leveled in what was promised to be a massive rebuilding project, a project that never came to fruition. The area currently lacks a grocer, library, school, and post office and has only recently rebounded in housing.   

Half of the foundation of the Fermentation Tank Farm had already solidified, while the other half was poured as we looked on. The sheer scale of the project is beyond impressive. Thankfully, I didn't have to feel bad about having a beer and breakfast while watching the crew labor, as they eventually were able to partake in the festivities. 

The project is being financed by the City of Richmond, with Construction being handled by Hourigan Construction. Stone Brewing will pay the city back through a 25 year lease on the property with the option for the brewer to purchase the property at the end of said lease.  

Of course, the brewery gets the spotlight now, but it's important to remember that Stone comes with the whole package: Parks, trails, and Stone World Bistro and Gardens. The green space for this project will be more than welcomed to the neighborhood. Trails and gardens will connect the brewery to the restaurant about a block away. Stone World Bistro will be located in the most unique of buildings, the Intermediate Terminal Building. With East Main Street Running to the North of the building, the James River to the South, and Wharf Street currently running beneath, the property is unlike any other. Stone plans to have the massive (ugly) concrete pad and road beneath the structure replaced with sprawling green space and beer gardens. The possibilities of the space are truly exciting. I hope that, with this project, a long overdue cleaning of Gillie Creek (parallel to the property) will be included. 

Four Fifths of the VBB Crew.
Photo Cred: Jeff Kelley (
The prospect of new jobs (temporary and permanent) was a major factor for Richmond wanting this project, and I look forward to meeting the new staff as they arrive, but it's also important to remember those in the area who already worked for Stone and those who chose to make RVA their new home. I have had the pleasure of speaking with Stone's Regional Brewery Rep. for VA/DC/MD, Rich Taylor. He is local and serves as a great ambassador of the brand. I can only imagine that he is excited to have this project in his back yard. During the concrete pour and tour, we also had a chance to get to know Stone's Director of National Sales, Jason Armstrong. It was a true pleasure conversing with him and his wife. They came to the Richmond area this past Spring and are quickly becoming acquainted with the area.

As Stone's 20th Anniversary is coinciding with the opening of the Brewery in Richmond, we are all in for a good time. The inevitable 20th Anniversary Beer and (one can hope) a welcome to RVA special brew should be right around the corner.  On behalf of the Virginia Beer Blog Team, I want to thank Stone Brewing and Hourigan Construction for letting us be part of such an awesome moment in Fulton's History, Richmond's History, and Beer History in general. It was one hell of a way to start the weekend. 

What a view!

Looking North West to Church Hill

What will become executive offices and conference rooms. 

Looking East across the future Tank Farm

The raised area will eventually become the observation deck for those taking Brewery Tours

Myself and Jeff Kelley of Kelley Communications

Discussing how Stone will benefit the surrounding neighborhood. 

Some impressive stats

More than just concrete being poured here.

Stone's Concrete and Coffee Stout

Photo bomb by Jason Armstrong, Stone Brewing's Director of National Sales

The lucky few who stayed till the end and came with growlers got to bring some home

A toast to an exciting future!
Jessica, Ercell, Myself, and James.
Photo Cred: Jeff Kelley (