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 (http://www.kelleyus.com/)
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 (http://www.kelleyus.com/)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Follow Up Post- Interview with Kyle Kensrue of ABV!

I recently had the opportunity to interview Kyle Kensrue of the ABV Kickstarter from my previous piece. during my interview I found that Kyle has a deep passion for beer and a love for the industry and people involved. Through the show ABV he would be able to share the stories of these individuals. Read the full interview below! Also, don't forget to check out/ donate to the ABV Kickstarter! 

1. Do you brew?

I have tried to home brew. I wouldn't let anyone taste what I made but I learned a lot. But that's what I wanted to gain from it. I was studying for my Certified Cicerone exam and wanted to go through the process of brewing. I don't think I could ever be a full-time brewer. I enjoy developing a recipe and figuring out how to bring together certain flavors, and I've even brewed a collaboration beer with a local brewery called Transmitter, but I can't see myself brewing day in, day out as a full time job.

2. I know you state in the Kickstarter video that you got into beer through bartending and working in restaurants, but where did the passion for beer (motivation to become a Cicerone) come from?

I love the fact that brewing is the perfect combination of science and art. Alchemy. I got my start in craft beer working at a brewpub out in California. It was fascinating to see he brewers at work putting together a delicious beverage. Firestone Walker's DBA was the first "craft" beer I had. I couldn't get enough of it. And then when I moved to NY, I took it a step further and started reading about beer, trying as many different beers as I could and basically diving head first into it. The decision to become a Cicerone was pretty easy. I knew that it would lead to credibility in the field, especially with how competitive NY can be. I still want to continue in the program and become the first Master Cicerone in NYC.

3. What's your take on the current debate over bottle vs canned beer?I think both are necessary. I love what Oskar Blues did in bringing the can back. It's the perfect way to prevent a beer from being light-struck. And the ability to be able to take a can with you on the beach or camping is big improvement. They even invented the Crowler, which is a 32oz can version of a growler, blew me away. I went to Cigar City in Tampa during a bachelor party weekend and grabbed a crowler of Jai Alai IPA to take with me on the beach. I was in heaven.

4. When choosing a beer, what do you typically look for? (ABV, IBU, types of hops, etc...)

Is there a particular style of beer your tend to go for?  I’m a fan of just about every style of beer. For me there are a lot of factors in the decision of what to drink. Time of day. What I’m eating. Time of year. I do love IPA’s, Sours and barrel aged beers, but I don’t necessarily want them all the time. Sometimes I want a session beer to keep me going all night or sometime I want a big ABV to sip and relax. That being said, my all time favorite beer I’ve ever had was Double Barrell Hunahphu from Cigar City Brewing. That beer was amazing.

5. What is your go-to shower beer?

I’ve actually not consumed a beer in the shower since college, but my dessert-island beer would be Jai Alai IPA. And if it’s something to have before going out, then any good IPA or Saison is perfect.

6. If you could choose one beer to drink for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

See above. Jai Alai is one I could drink any day any time.

7. In the Kickstarter you mention distribution through PBS, Netflix, and other stations. How large of a viewing area are you hoping for- a local show dependent on the breweries you go to, or something national?

I, ultimately, see this as a national show. I believe in this show because I think the stories behind the breweries translate to more than just beer geeks. They’re human interest stories. It’s about overcoming odds. Art. Entrepreneurial spirit. Everybody loves a good story and these breweries have some good ones.

8. Besides New York, what states have you considered filming in? (Virginia has a great beer history as well as a quickly growing number of breweries at about 110 last I checked!)

I’m interested in going all over the country. San Fransisco and San Diego obviously drive a great California beer scene, but I also love what’s happening in the up and coming beer communities, like Virginia. Georgia, for example, has been repealing some of the old antiquated prohibition beer laws and has started to see some substantial growth. That’s something else that I’d like to cover. How government can help foster growth in the beer business which positively impacts the economy and the community.

9. How did you determine which breweries you wanted to interview in New York for your initial "teaser" and first five episodes?

I have some good connections in the NYC brewing scene and some with the breweries outside the city too, but I did a lot of research. There are some breweries that I’ve never heard of, but I thought have a good story. Something that I could dig into and discover.

10. What do you anticipate being the largest challenge in your endeavor?

The largest challenge will probably be the funding. I think that there’s an audience waiting for a show like this. There are some beer shows out there, but none doing the style that I want to do. And I think because I’m focusing on the stories, it can bring in a much wider audience than just the beer geeks. But if I can’t secure the funding, then the stories won’t be told.

11. What is your favorite thing about the craft beer industry or the beer industry as a whole?

I love the artistry to it. I love that these people who have started a brewery ventured out into a business without a guarantee of making it. It’s not a “safe” move. But they love it and persevere and make it happen for themselves. They overcome the obstacles and bring their version of art to the public.

12. Who would you say are some breweries to watch?

Other Half and Transmitter are my two favorite breweries in NYC right now. But Empire Brewing just broke ground on a new farmstead brewery up in the Syracuse area and I’m really excited to see what they’re able to do with that when it’s up and running. The NYC scene is still relatively new, so there are a lot of new breweries popping up all over the place.

13. Who are your current favorite breweries/ beers to drink currently?

I’m from Tampa, so Cigar City holds a special place with me. And Firestone Walker’s DBA was my first “craft” beer, so they’re up there too. I like discovering new breweries and always try to keep an eye out for who’s coming down the pipeline.

14. What do you think it will take for a brewery to have staying power in this increasingly competitive beer market?

I think it comes down to two factors. One, is a meticulous approach to quality. A lot of new brewers start out as home brewers and brewing on a commercial scale is much different. They have to be constantly analyzing and tasting and examining what their doing to make sure they put the best product possible out to the public. The second factor is creativity. Don’t brew an IPA because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. Brew what you like. Brew what’s fun. Forge your own path.

15. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

It’s a really exciting time in the beer world in America. It’s cool to see America now influencing the rest of the world in brewing. I’m excited to be in the middle of it and hopefully with the show, I can help usher great beer into more homes all across the country.