Celebrating Ireland in Virginia

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

St-Paddys-Mug, Starr HillAmerican beer drinkers can thank the Irish for some of our tippling traditions, including an appreciation for dry stouts, Irish red ales, hard cider and a proper party on St. Patrick’s Day. Though we as Americans are a few years ahead in the craft beer movement, we can still learn from our cousins across the pond.

Charlottesville’s Starr Hill Brewery agrees, collaborating with O’Hara Brewery/Carlow Brewing not just once, but twice. In 2015, Starr Hill brewer Robbie O’Cain visited O’Hara brewmaster Conor Donoghue at this independent, family-owned brewery in Ireland, creating Foreign Affair Session. 

“We went for a red IPA, the idea being to combine an Irish malt red ale style with American hops,” explained O’Cain.

The American-influenced ale was a hit in Ireland.

“The scene in Ireland is very similar to the craft beer scene in Virginia,” Donoghue told me, “except maybe three or four years ago. [About] two percent of the entire market share is craft beer, which is actually a lot of growth over the last few years… It’s a young, really exciting time.”

The two-percent share compares to an 11 percent share that craft beer claims of the total U.S. beer market.

This February, Donoghue traveled to Starr Hill, brewing a classic dry Irish export stout, similar to O’Hara’s Leann Folláin Extra Irish Stout. The high-gravity beer uses crystal and chocolate malts, oats and East Kent Goldings hops. The oats give the stout a full, creamy mouthfeel to complement the dark chocolate notes while the British hops lend a European touch. 

Named Blackthorn, the stout celebrates the changing of seasons, as blooming blackthorns mark the beginning of Irish spring.

Since founder Mark Thompson retired in 2015, Starr Hill has rebranded the business, promoted O’Cain to brewmaster, modified the beer lineup (including 10 new releases this year) and announced a second location in Norfolk.

When I visited O’Cain and Donoghue after the February brew day, O’Cain showed me the brewery’s new centrifuge, like a proud papa posting baby pics on Facebook. He raved not just about the equipment’s ability to remove solids from the beer without removing flavors but also on the system’s efficiency – extracting more flavor more quickly with less wastewater provides a benefit for the brewery’s bottom line and for environmental health.

The Blackthorn release will coincide with Starr Hill’s St. Paddy’s Day celebration, March 19. Sadly, Starr Hill will also hold an Irish wake that day as they retire their classic Dark Starr dry Irish stout.

I asked Donoghue if the Americans have inflated St. Patrick’s Day beyond Irish traditions, but he assured me that the holiday is indeed a big deal in his homeland. March 17 in Ireland sees parades and festivals, feasting to celebrate a one-day break from Lenten abstinence and a day off work – plus deeper meanings, too.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2016, Richmonders can celebrate at one of several festivals and enjoy beers that pay tribute to the Emerald Isle’s styles.

Read more...


RVA Beer Events Feb. 27 +

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Richmond-Area Beer Events, February 27 +

ardent_beer_dinner_settingFeb. 27

Street Cred 2.0 Draft and Limited Bottle Release. Triple Crossing Brewing, 113 S. Foushee St., Richmond. (804) 308-0475. The return of the double IPA collaboration with The Answer Brewpub. Noon. www.triplecrossingbeer.com.

The Pursuit of Hoppyness Day: Wampus Cat Triple IPA Bottle Release with Bonus Beers. Strangeways Brewing. 2277A Dabney Rd., Richmond, (804) 303-4336. Releasing the 10.1% ABV, 90 IBU beer named for the wampus cat, a half-woman, half-mountain lion from Cherokee legends. Plus other highly hopped beers. Noon. www.strangewaysbrewing.com.

Feb. 28

2nd Annual Sideshow Expo: Local Art and Edibles Market. Strangeways Brewing. 2277A Dabney Rd., Richmond, (804) 303-4336. A showcase of artists and vendors sampling and selling their wares, with beer-related books and groups, including Lee Graves’ “Richmond Beer,” River City Beer Betties and Fans of Virginia Craft Breweries. Noon-4 p.m. www.strangewaysbrewing.com.

March 2

Opening of Stone Company Store - Richmond. Stone Brewing Co. - Richmond, 4401 Williamsburg Ave., Richmond. The Stone tasting and retail room opens to the public officially for the first time. 4-9 p.m. www.richmond.stonebrewing.com or Facebook at Stone Company Store Opening.

March 5

Triple Crossing Brewcraft Deadline. Triple Crossing Brewing, 113 S. Foushee St., Richmond. (804) 308-0475. Home brewers, submit 1 beer per person, 3 bottles for judging and tasting; no barrel-aged or brewed with Brett or lacto. The first place winner will brew their winning recipe at the brewery, to be served in the tasting room. www.triplecrossingbeer.com. 

Great Scotch Bourbon Barrel Release Party. Center of the Universe Brewing, 11293 Air Park Rd., Ashland, (804) 368-0299. This malt-forward brew enjoys a “wee heavier” alcohol content than the average ale, aged in bourbon barrels to impart the aromas and flavors of vanilla and bourbon, with a smoky, roasted character and a touch of sweetness. 1 p.m. www.cotubrewing.com.

Despot Day 2016. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, 4100 Knolls Point Rd., Goochland. Advance tickets for guaranteed bottles of Enlightened Despot bourbon barrel Russian imperial stout and variants are sold out, but no ticket is necessary to attend Despot Day or to purchase draft beers, including the Despot, specialty pin infusions and guest taps. Noon – 9 p.m. www.lickingholecreek.com.

March 11

Heavy Seas 20 Beers for 20 Years. The Answer Brewpub, 6008 W. Broad St., Richmond. (804) 282-1248. Celebrate Baltimore’s Heavy Seas’ 20th anniversary. Besides 20 Heavy Seas beers – including vintage beers and seldom-seen favorites – the evening features owner and founder Hugh Sisson, brewmaster Chris Leonard, head brewer Chris Schultz and other pirate-loving persons. 4-10 p.m. www.theanswerbrewpub.com.

March 11-13

First Anniversary Party. Black Heath Meadery. 1313 Altamont Ave., Richmond. (703) 582-0856. Richmond’s only meadery celebrates one year and 14 meads. Six barrel-aged meads released throughout the weekend (available by the glass only). Pours and flights available. Friday, 3-8 p.m.; Saturday, noon-7 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. www.blackheathmeadery.com.

March 12

Shamrock the Bottom. 7 Hills Brewing, 115 S. 15th St., Richmond. (804) 716-8307. Food and drink specials, including the Irish-inspired 42nd Street dry stout. DJ and dancing after 9 p.m. 11 a.m. till March 13, 1 a.m. www.7hillsbrewingco.com

Sugar Shack Samoa Porter Beer Release. Strangeways Brewing, 2277A Dabney Rd., Richmond, (804) 303-4336. This collaborative beer celebrates the values of the two businesses’ founders, both focused on unique local ventures fueled by quality and passion. The 7% ABV, 16-IBU beer hits the palate with flavors of caramel, toasted coconut and dark chocolate. Available in bottles and on draft. 750ml bottles & on draft. 11 a.m. www.strangewaysbrewing.com.

St. Patrick’s Day Party to Benefit St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Center of the Universe Brewing, 11293 Air Park Rd., Ashland, (804) 368-0299. Live music, food trucks and beer, including two limited-release, one-off Irish red ales. As a benefit to conquer childhood cancer, the event also includes a silent auction and raffles throughout the day. 1 p.m. www.cotubrewing.com.

BrewCraft 2016 Results Announcement. Triple Crossing Brewing, 113 S. Foushee St., Richmond. (804) 308-0475. Home brew competition results announced, prizes conferred and judging sheets given to competitors. 1 p.m. www.triplecrossingbeer.com.

Brewer and Artist Series Release: Spirit Braid. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, 2408 Ownby Ln., Richmond. (804) 420-2420. Celebrating the creativity of brewers and artists, this installment in the series highlights brewer Nick Walthall and artist Sara Gossett. The 5.2% ABV Spirit Braid beer is an unfiltered, bottle-conditioned, dry, effervescent Saison brewed with organic raw wheat with added Seville and Cara Cara oranges, fermented with brewers yeast and Brettanomyces claussenii. Artist Sara Gossett works primarily with watercolor, using vintage style and design. Spirit Braid is available on draft, bottles and four-packs. Live music begins at 5 p.m. 2-9 p.m. www.hardywood.com.

March 13

Shamrock Run RVA 2016. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, 2408 Ownby Ln., Richmond. (804) 420-2420. A new annual St. Patrick’s Day family tradition, including a 5k run and Lucky Leprechaun Kids’ Race. Packet pick-up begins at 9:30 a.m., kids’ race at 11:15, 5k at 11:30 and more. Food trucks, St. Patty's Day surprises and activities for the kids and adults, including a runner's costume contest. www.shamrockrunrva.com.

March 18-20

Ales Through the Ages. Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, 326 W. Francis St. and other Williamsburg locations. Symposium on beer and its colorful story, Beer experts from across the U.S., the Netherlands and Ireland will speak on such subjects as the beginning of beer in the ancient world, home brewing, the history of beer and brewing beer for today’s market. Speakers include Randy Mosher, Stan Hieronymus, beer scientist Karen Fortmann of White Labs and Mitch Steele. Ticket includes all programs, beer tasting, opening reception and a beer pairing with food. Single-day and event guest tickets are also available. $325. 800-603-0948 or www.history.org/conted.

March 19

St. Paddy’s Day. Starr Hill Brewery, 5391 Three Notched Rd., Crozet. Featuring classic Irish fare by local chefs using locally sourced pork products, live music and contests. Starr Hill will also hold an Irish wake for the classic Dark Starr, their dry Irish stout. www.starrhill.com.

Harrison Release. Blue Bee Cider, 212 W. 6th St., Richmond. (804) 231-0280. Get a taste of culinary history with this small-batch cider of 100% Harrison cider apples. Harrison was the leading cider apple in the Mid Atlantic and eastern U.S. in the early 1800s and 1900s. Rediscovered in 1976, the apple offers full-bodied complexity with notes of allspice, golden raisins and orange zest. Food and music. www.bluebeecider.com.

Dead Rock Double IPA. 7 Hills Brewing, 115 S. 15th St., Richmond. (804) 716-8307. The brewpub releases this big, hoppy and bitter DIPA. Music throughout the afternoon and evening. 11 a.m.-midnight. www.7hillsbrewingco.com.

This Ain’t Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Oatmeal Porter. Isley Brewing, 1715 Summit Ave., Richmond. (804) 716-2132. Aging Isley’s dark-roasted oatmeal porter with its notes of coffee and chocolate in bourbon barrels from Reservoir Distillery creates a Richmond-centric beer. Noon-10 p.m. www.isleybrewingcompany.com.

March 20

Spring into Local Beer with Isley Brewing Company. Capital Ale House Midlothian, 13831 Village Place Dr., Midlothian. (804) 897-5815. Five Isley brews on tap plus three Isley-designed burgers to pair with the beers, such as the Picnic Burger with cheddar, peanut butter, jelly, and bacon paired with Isley’s PB&J (Choosy Mother mixed with Blueberry Plain Jane). 1-4 p.m. www.capitalalehouse.com.

March 26

The Capital Ale House Virginia Beer and Bluegrass Mini Festival. Capital Ale House Downtown, Music Hall, 623 E. Main St., Richmond. (804) 780-2537. Presenting bands and breweries from the three regions Capital Ale calls home – Harrisonburg, Fredericksburg and Richmond – with folk, Americana, and bluegrass music, Virginia beers and Capital Ale House cuisine. 2 p.m. www.capitalalehouse.com.



What to Expect of Stone Brewing in Richmond

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Stone_Brewing_RichmondThe opening of a new brewery is typically shrouded in mystery, with little known about the beer or the people behind it. But when California-based Stone Brewing opens their East Coast production facility in Richmond’s Fulton neighborhood, they bring with them a 20-year reputation and months of participation in the Richmond community. 

Nicole Mandala, brewing supervisor at Stone in Richmond, was one of eight female presenters at A Celebration of Women in Craft Beer at Strangeways Brewing on February 14. “We feel really lucky at Stone to be amongst such an awesome group of local breweries,” said Mandala. “The absolute best thing about working in the beer industry – other than the beer, of course – is the people… We just can’t wait to start brewing and to share our space with all of you.”

Stone’s history confirms that attitude. To get their beers to market in the early days of craft brewing, Stone started their own distributing company. In The Craft of Stone Brewing Co., co-founder Greg Koch wrote, “You certainly wouldn’t see a Toyota dealership sprinkled with Volkswagens and Chevys. But I figure all us ‘little guys’ are in the craft beer business together, and I feel that creates a unique sense of community – maybe even a touch of responsibility.”

More recently, Koch said in the San Diego Tribune regarding craft brewery sales to big beer, “We like to win, however, we don’t knock down the other guy to do it. As we strive for our personal best, we feel morally obligated to be true to the craft beer ethos of camaraderie and standards we’ve set up for ourselves during the past 20 years.”

Fearful I was seeing this popular brewery through rose-colored, PR-tinted glasses, I reached out to local breweries for input. “(Stone has) been great about outreach with the local brewing community,” said Eric McKay, co-founder of Richmond’s Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. “They have joined Richmond Breweries United and the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, visited a number of local breweries and demonstrated the spirit of collaboration.” 

Speaking of collaborations: “We have been amazed by the Richmond breweries and would love to brew with them!” said Peter Wiens, director of Stone’s East Coast brewing operations. 

In addition, Wiens said, Stone Richmond will share resources with local brewers, assisting with raw materials and quality assurance. “If there is a QA procedure that we run that they don’t have access to, we will run it for them.”

The brewery has reached out to the greater community as well, raising over $8,000 for local organizations.

“We have also established a neighborhood Advisory Council that meets monthly to discuss how we can collaborate to bring needed improvements and resources to the Greater Fulton neighborhood,” said Juliellen Sarver, community relations manager.

Of course, this is all behind the scenes. Also of interest are Stone’s beers and Richmond tasting room.

Stone_at_nightOn March 2, part one of the Stone project will go live: Stone Company Store – Richmond, a tasting room with adjacent beer garden and retail space for Stone merchandise. The store staged a soft opening February 19-21. The opening was initially intended for family and friends but, after word leaked out, Stone welcomed the general public with open arms.

The space will serve California-brewed Stone beers initially, including tastings, glasses, growlers and packaged beer. All beers come with Stone’s reputation for quality – hoppy and big. Service will begin with core beers (one gluten reduced and one sessionable), Mutt Brown, Arrogant Bastard Bourbon Barrel, 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, Ruination 2.0 DIPA and many more. 

The Stone Richmond brewing team expects to begin brewing on their 250-bbl system by late April or early May, releasing their first brew in June or July. Spring will bring a grand opening celebration, with full brewing and tours anticipated by the end of July. The 600,000-barrel annual brewing capacity will top that of the West Coast facility in Escondido, California. 

The Stone Company Store is located at 4300 Williamsburg Ave. Regular hours of the store will be Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, an expansive restaurant, is expected to open at the Intermediate Terminal building in 2018.

Stone Brewing, welcome to Richmond. As Hardywood’s McKay said, “We’re looking forward to their opening and believe they’ll help build momentum behind Virginia becoming the craft beer mecca of the east.”

But one word of caution. On April 1, don’t believe anything they tell you!


RVA Beer Events

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

RVA Beer events, Feb. 11-25


Feb. 11-14

One-Year Anniversary Weekend. Garden Grove Brewing, 3445 W. Cary St., Richmond. 804-918-6158. Live music, a Belgian-style tap takeover of Garden Grove beers. Surprises and door prizes throughout the weekend, including complimentary chocolates for the first 100 customers on Sunday. Feb. 11, 4 p.m. – Feb. 14, 10 p.m., during regular business hours. http://www.gardengrovebrewing.com.

Feb. 12-14

Chocolates by Kelly Valentine’s Day Pairing. Triple Crossing Brewing, 113 S. Foushee St., Richmond. 804-308-0475. The Valentine’s Day themed chocolate and beer pairing includes a flight of four five-ounce pours paired with a four-pack of specially chosen chocolates. Feb. 12, 4 p.m. – Feb. 14, 8 p.m. $15. http://www.triplecrossingbeer.com.

2nd Annual Pucker Up Weekend. Station 2, 2016 E. Main St., Richmond. 804-249-4702. Highlighting sour, tart and wild beers on tap, from local breweries and beyond. Feb. 12, 5 p.m. – Feb. 14, 11 p.m. http://www.station2richmond.com.

Feb. 12

Drunken Uncle Exclusive Bottle Release. Ellwood Thompson’s, 4 N. Thompson St., Richmond. 804-359-7525. Isley Brewing’s first bottles, released exclusively at Ellwood Thompson, of Drunken Uncle hard root beer. Purchase at least 2 bottles to receive a free Isley logo bottle bag. 4-6 p.m. http://ellwoodthompsons.com.

Feb. 13

Java the Hutt Imperial Stout Collab with LIFT Release. Isley Brewing, 1715 Summit Ave., Richmond. 804-716-2132. Brown sugar is used to boost ABV and add complexity, with roasted barley and dark chocolate malts for color, roastiness and dark chocolate notes, plus spices. Uses organic, sustainable Nicaraguan coffee from Richmond’s Lift. Noon-10 p.m. http://www.isleybrewingcompany.com.

Desserts and Rosés. Blue Bee Cider, 212 W. 6th St., Richmond. 804-231-0280. Pick up a special flight of two rosé ciders, two brandy-fortified dessert ciders and sweets from Gearharts Fine Chocolates. $15. Noon-7 p.m. http://www.bluebeecider.com.

Barrel-Aged Honey Ginger Day. Ardent Craft Ales, 3200 W. Leigh St., Richmond. 804-359-1605. Release of the barrel-aged version of the Ardent fan favorite. Noon. http://ardentcraftales.com.

Liberty or Death Porter Bottle Release. Triple Crossing Brewing, 113 S. Foushee St., Richmond. 804-308-0475. This English-style robust porter pays homage to St. John’s Church on Richmond’s Church Hill and patriot Patrick Henry’s fiery speech. Mild bitterness comes from Super Galena hops with an aroma dominated by roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Noon-10 p.m. http://www.triplecrossingbeer.com.

Rum Barrel Chocolate Obsession & Rum Barrel Coffee Obsession Release. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, 4100 Knolls Point Rd., Goochland. Brewery-only releases of two 13.5% ABV imperial chocolate stouts, both with South American grown cocoa nibs and aged in Nicaraguan rum barrels for more than three months. Noon-7 p.m. http://www.lickingholecreek.com.

Anti-Valentine’s Day. Center of the Universe Brewing, 11293 Air Park Rd., Ashland, 804-368-0299. No crazy red hearts, flowers or candies with creepy messages, but plenty of beer, live music, tacos and like-minded people wanting to avoid Cupid’s arrows. Tapping a new beers throughout the day. 1 p.m. http://www.cotubrewing.com.

Feb. 14

A Celebration of Women in Craft Beer. Strangeways Brewing. 2277A Dabney Rd., Richmond, 804-303-4336. Education and celebration of what women have done for the beer industry, with fun, speakers and beer. 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. http://strangewaysbrewing.com.

Hardywood Beer Dinner. Brew American Gastropub Bellgrade, 11400 W. Huguenot Rd., Midlothian. 804-454-0605. Four-course beer dinner with seven Hardywood beers, including Give Bock, Pineapple Great Return IPA and a dessert flight of GBS, Bourbon GBS, Christmas Morning and Kentucky Christmas Morning. 6 p.m. $65 (includes tax and gratuity). http://www.brewgastropub.com.

Feb. 18

The Great Guinness Toast. Locations TBA. Travel the pubs of Richmond with Guinness representatives. Also known as St. Practice Day, this annual event of Guinness drinkers across the country marks the one-month-to-go countdown to St. Patrick’s Day. 5-10 p.m. Facebook – The Great Guinness Toast.

Feb. 19

Burger Blast at the Virginia Wine Expo. Greater Richmond Convention Center, 403 N. 3rd St., Richmond. Artisan burgers, Virginia wines, Virginia craft beers. $65 early admission (begins at 5 p.m.) or $50 general admission. 6-9:30 p.m. http://www.virginiawineexpo.com.

Feb. 20

Nectar and Knife DIPA Release. Triple Crossing Brewing, 113 S. Foushee St., Richmond. 804-308-0475. This dry, hop-forward double IPA was brewed with Mosaic, Citra and Amarillo hops and triple dry hopped with over 18 pounds of hops per barrel. Bottle and draft. Noon. http://www.triplecrossingbeer.com.


Redneck Wedding Release. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, 4100 Knolls Point Rd., Goochland. A Belgian-style quad with the house Belgian yeast strain and Belgian candi syrup, aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels for three months. Food trucks, music, plus a 1 p.m. pin of coconut Redneck Wedding. Bottles and draft. Noon-7 p.m. http://www.lickingholecreek.com.

Feb. 20-21

Smoked! Dominion Art Center, 600 E. Grace St., Richmond, on Feb. 20, 6-9:30. Smoked foods, wine, whiskeys and select Virginia craft beers and cider. $75. Or focus on Virginia and Italian wines at the Walk-Around Grand Tastings, Greater Richmond Convention Center, 403 N. 3rd St., Richmond. On Feb. 20, noon-6 p.m. and Feb. 21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $60 VIP early admission (begins Saturday at 11 a.m.) or $45 general admission. http://www.virginiawineexpo.com.

Feb 24

Cuvée Van De Keizer Day. Commercial Taphouse & Grill, 111 N. Robinson St., Richmond. 804-359-6544. Variations of renowned beers from Het Anker Belgian brewery on tap, with Gouden Carolus Classic, Easter, Ambrio and Cuvée Van de Keizer. 5 p.m. http://www.commercialtaphouse.com.

Feb. 25

Bell’s Winter Beer Dinner. Patrick Henry Pub & Grille, 2300 E. Broad St., Richmond. 804-644-4242. Five duck courses, from appetizer to dessert, paired with five beers from Bells Brewery. 7 p.m. $55. http://www.thephpub.com.

Feb. 26

New Belgium Citradelic Launch Party. Buffalo Wild Wings at Westchester Commons, 15700 WC Main St., Midlothian. 804-594-6853. Celebrate the addition of the New Belgium Citradelic Tangerine IPA to the tap lineup. Giveaways. 5-8 p.m. http://www.bwws.net.

March 5

Triple Crossing Brewcraft. Triple Crossing Brewing, 113 S. Foushee St., Richmond. 804-308-0475. Begin brewing for the second annual homebrew competition. Deadline for entries is March 5. Rules: 1 beer per person, 3 bottles provided for judging and tasting; no barrel-aged beers or brewed with Brett or lacto. The first place winner will brew their winning recipe with Jeremy, served in the tasting room. Additional prizes for second and third place. http://www.triplecrossingbeer.com.



Beer Cocktails Make a Spirited Combination

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Who says you have to choose? A beer cocktail combines the essences of both namesakes. Just as American craft beer has creatively improved upon basic beer styles, spirits can complement ale and lagers.

The idea of combining ale and liquor isn’t new, including references to absinthe-and-ale purl in Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” and the gin-and-ale Dog’s Nose in Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers.”

Contemporary beer cocktails include the dramatics of the Irish Car Bomb (a shot of Irish whiskey and Irish cream dropped into a pint of Irish stout) and the simplicity of a boilermaker shot and a beer, but trending craft cocktails have raised the drink to a new level.

Read more in the Richmond Times-Dispatch First Drafts.

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