State Grants Tourism Funds to York County’s Breweries

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Virginia Beer Co. opened at 401 Second St. on March 26, 2016. (Courtesy of Virginia Beer Company)
Virginia Beer Co. opened at 401 Second St. on March 26, 2016. (Courtesy of Virginia Beer Company)

The Virginia Tourism Corporation is supporting York County’s burgeoning brewery industry with grants that have helped two breweries in the build-out of their taprooms.

Brass Cannon Brewing and Virginia Beer Co. will receive more than $50,000 total from the state’s Virginia Tourism Growth Fund, which grants funds for development projects aimed at attracting tourists to the commonwealth.

Though the public announcement of the grant awards was made Thursday, both breweries found out they would be receiving the funds earlier this year and both said they were able to push forward with construction projects that would not have been possible without the promise of those funds.

Virginia Beer Co., which opened at the end of March, has been granted $43,000. The money will help pay for many of the improvements it made to turn a former auto body shop on Second Street into a brewery, taproom and beer garden.

“We’re thrilled to receive this matching grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation,” said Robby Willey, co-founder of Virginia Beer Company. “Part of our early success is due to the assistance we’ve received from York County and the [Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance], so we can’t thank the VTC, Del. Monty Mason, and the governor enough for also supporting our efforts to build a world class brewery and taproom here in Williamsburg.”

Before learning they had been awarded the grant, the Virginia Beer Co. had planned to open with a smaller staff that consisted of only part-time employees. Co-founders Willey and Chris Smith re-evaluated their staffing plan when they were notified of the grant, and projected they would be able to hire five full-time employees and six part-time.

They have already hired three full-time and four part-time positions.

Brass Cannon, which is currently in the process of relocating from Toano to Mooretown Road in York County, will receive $15,000 from the fund.

The money will be put toward enhancing the design plans for its taproom, which is still under construction, as Brass Cannon works to create a “rustic but modern – not old-timey” atmosphere for its customers, said Phil Norfolk, the brewery’s president.

The grant money helped pay for little touches throughout the space, he said, such as the copper-clad bar and the use of reclaimed wood.

In its former location, Brass Cannon had no full-time staff members beyond its management team. When the brewery reopens – currently projected for June – it will have two full-time employees on the payroll with plans to grow its workforce to at least five full-time employees over the next 18 months.

“We’re really excited. It’s definitely let us do a few things we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” Norfolk said. “We’re super excited about opening up and really thankful the state and York County helped out with that.”

York County is projecting Brass Cannon will contribute $10,000 to the tax base and the Virginia Beer Company will contribute more than $12,000 to the tax base in its first year, York County Economic Development Director Jim Noel said in the VTC’s news release on the grants.

“The addition of these two new popular destinations will sustain and grow our important tourism economic base,” Noel said.

State Grants Tourism Funds to York County’s Breweries