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With a ceremonial keg tapping Friday in lieu of a traditional ribbon-cutting, Virginia Beer Co. celebrated its upcoming opening.
A week ahead of its grand opening festivities, Virginia Beer Co. co-owners Robby Willey and Chris Smith, along with brewmaster Jonathan Newman, hosted local officials and members of the community to thank them for their support in the years since they decided to open a brewery in Williamsburg.
"It's very gratifying for us to look out into this crowd and see so many faces of people who have helped us get to this point," Smith said at the ceremony. "... I see our architects, contractors, designers, attorneys, insurance people, real estate agents, and we realize we wouldn't have been able to get to this point without you."
York County Board of Supervisors Chairman and Vice Chairwoman Jeff Wassmer and Sheila Noll, Supervisor Chad Green, and Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance President and CEO Karen Riordan were among those who attended the celebration at the auto body shop-turned-brewery at 401 Second St.
"It has been a labor of love for Chris and I, our families, Jonathan to work to get this building that was built in 1960 turned into the beautiful brewery you see before you," Willey said.
The brewery will open to the public Saturday, March 26 with a grand opening celebration, during which guests will have the opportunity to choose from its four year-round beers and a selection of its Workshop Series beers. Karnage Asada, a Norfolk-based food truck, will be on the premises for the grand opening.
When Virginia Beer Co. opens next weekend, it will officially become York County's second brewery. It joins AleWerks Brewing Co. in the county's brewery scene, which will soon include a third brewery when Brass Cannon Brewing completes its move from James City County.
The growing food, wine and beer industry in the area – Silver Hand Meadery opened in the City of Williamsburg earlier this year, Williamsburg Distillery opened in James City County last year, and microdistillery Copper Fox of Williamsburg eyes a spring opening – has not gone unnoticed by local officials who see the industry as a new way to draw tourists to the area.
To that end, the Alliance began promoting the local spirits scene to national publications last summer, which has resulted in some national coverage – the latest a Travel Therapy piece that aired in an episode of Rachael Ray.
The Alliance has been working with its advertising and public relations firms to create a Greater Williamsburg Tastings Trail for the area, which will also include the local wineries.
"It's the next natural thing for us," said Riordan, who added Williamsburg Winery is helping to spearhead that effort. "The idea is to unite them all, whether they're selling spirits or wine or beer and give our visitors, as well as our locals, another new experience. We know this is what's hot right now."
Riordan said she expects to both complete the map and begin marketing the trail within the next six months.
Virginia Beer Co. has been brewing 10 beers ahead of the grand opening, eight of which will be on tap:
- Saving Daylight (4.9% ABV):An American Wheat Ale brewed with orange and grapefruit peels. The hop back addition of whole-cone Centennial hops balances the citrus and provides a subtle, flavorful bitterness.
- Free Verse (6.8% ABV): A twist on the standard India Pale Ale, the juicy, tropical flavors of Azacca hops are paired with the spicy, piney Chinook variety to create a rounded bitterness.
- Wrenish Rye (6.0% ABV): This dry-hopped Amber Ale starts with traditional German rye malt and pairs Simcoe hops with the peachy notes of Jarrylo, combining the spiciness from the rye with a bold hop aroma.
- Elbow Patches (6.2% ABV): An Oatmeal Stout that uses flaked oats to create a smooth, velvety base to set the stage for pronounced aromas reminiscent of chocolate and coffee.
- Saison Tournante - Nelson (6.5% ABV): Part of Virginia Beer Co.'s rotating Saison series, featuring the Nelson Sauvin hop variety.
- Saison Tournante - Rye + Amarillo (6.7% ABV): Part of the rotating Saison series, pairing spicy rye with the citrusy Amarillo hop variety.
- Pecan Smoked Porter (5.5% ABV): A Porter featuring Corsair Pecan Smoked Malt provided by Corsair Distillery in Nashville, TN.
- Single Hop Sessions - Mosaic (5.4% ABV): Part of the rotating single hop session IPA series, featuring the citrusy & piney Mosaic hop variety.
- The Convert (6.6% ABV): An India Brown Ale that combines the smooth characteristics of a Brown Ale with three hop varieties for a complex finish to a subtle base.
- Deadbolt (9.2% ABV): The big brother to Free Verse, featuring a collection of six different hop varieties. One keg of Deadbolt will be tapped during the opening weekend's festivities.
After next weekend's celebration, Virginia Beer Company will begin its regular hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays; 3 to 9 p.m. Thursdays; noon to 9:30 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays. Though closed to the public Mondays and Tuesdays, private events may be hosted on those days.