Amber Ox Kitchen and Brewery is scheduled to open its doors on Prince George Street the first week of December.
And in a town that already has a handful of craft breweries, Amber Ox is vying to set itself apart not just as a brewpub, but as as Williamsburg’s newest hangout spot.
“We want to give off that refined, casual experience,” said co-owner Andrew Voss. “We want people to walk in and know that the Amber Ox is different. We exemplify the true craft brewpub experience.”
That “brewpub experience” is new to Williamsburg, according to Voss, who says the Amber Ox is the city’s first business to brew its own beer and prepare its own food.
(Other local breweries often offer food trucks on site, and some sell pre-packaged snacks).
Still, Voss is optimistic about what Amber Ox will bring to downtown.
“We do feel like it’s filling a void, for a few reasons,” Voss said. “There are very few brewpubs in the Hampton Roads, Southeast Virginia market… as for the Williamsburg market itself, we want to be that space you can come and hang out on a weekly basis and call your home. Our target market is the locals and the William & Mary students.”
Amber Ox will feature seasonally rotated, regionally sourced beer and food, and Voss said the interaction between the beer and food menus will be a large part of the brewpub’s appeal.
“Our menus are going to consistently talk, which means our food menu and our beer menu are going to rotate in evolution with each other, and they’ll take influence with each other as well,” Voss said.
For example, Amber Ox is finalizing a recipe for a pecan pie that will blend in the flavor of the brewery’s coffee porter, by making a syrup from the porter itself.
While the food menu will rotate seasonally, Voss and Head Chef Troy Buckley said it will feature progressive southern food; it will also have staples, such as a hamburger, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken marinated in a house brine.
Between 20 and 24 items will be on the food menu at any given time, and the price for any item won’t exceed $20.
“We definitely wanted that southern feel – approachable food that your mom might cook for you,” Buckley said. “We try to understate and overdeliver.”
Amber Ox’s culinary team has already won some accolades, including the People’s Choice and the Judge’s Choice Awards at the Jamestown Chowder Fest.
As for local craft beers on tap, Voss said he hopes to open with four to six Amber Ox brews, with more to come.
Those beers may include a light pilsner, a hazy New England-style IPA, a coffee porter, a house amber ale, and what’s being referred to as the “country breakfast” – a stout made with local hickory syrup and spices to evoke the taste of a country sausage.
While the beer menu will change throughout the year, Voss said he anticipates that certain styles of beer will remain available year-round. There will be different yeasts, malts, hops, and other ingredients from season to season.
Amber Ox will also offer a cocktail program and wine menu, featuring regionally made adult beverages, as well as beers produced from other local breweries.
For now, the construction and decorating of the Amber Ox are nearly complete. There are black walnut tables made from one North Carolina Walnut tree, urinals made from old kegs, and walls made from reused bricks that once supported a Virginia Lucky Strike Tobacco factory.
The brew team will be producing inventory needed for the December opening over the coming weeks, according to Voss, but he and Buckley believe the brewpub’s vision is already set.
“We’re just some chill guys that want to do some cool food and drink some craft beers and hang out with the community,” Buckley said.