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.


The Virginia Beer Co. Heeds the Call of the Commonwealth

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Virginia Beer Co.Williamsburg’s historic college, William & Mary, introduced Robby Willey and Chris Smith. They became fast friends, their bond cemented in part by a shared appreciation for craft beer. Their craft explorations began at Green Leafe Café in Williamsburg and continued post-graduation, as together they visited breweries throughout the U.S. Their connection would eventually lead to the birth of The Virginia Beer Co.

If you’re familiar with stories behind brewery start-ups, this chapter sounds familiar: Despite solid degrees and successful careers, they both found work interesting but missing the spark that could sustain them long term, a spark that brewery ownership could provide.

The tale becomes more intriguing for Virginians when Willey and Smith reveal that each had moved away from the commonwealth after graduation and were considering other East Coast locations for their new venture – clearly, they didn’t begin their planning with the brewery name, The Virginia Beer Co.

However, the home of their alma mater beckoned. Virginia had recently passed SB604, allowing breweries to sell beer on site; Williamsburg promised market potential; and for the two friends, the town also had their personal backstory.

In spring 2012, they decided on Williamsburg. “We love this town and decided to come back,” says Smith. “This is a community we’d like to be a part of and help any way we can.”

For more, read the Virginia Craft Beer magazine article online.


Turning wine into whisky in McLaren Vale

Where in the World - International

The McLaren Vale Distillery, Australia (The Lead South Australia)Access to high quality barley and barrels and a variable yet temperate climate have distillers confident South Australia can emerge as a top-shelf whisky region.

A $2.5 million distillery in the McLaren Vale wine region – best known for its bold shiraz – will begin operating this month with the aim of releasing its first single malt in about two years.

The McLaren Vale Distillery Founder and General Manager John Rochfort has moved back to South Australia after several years honing his craft in Tasmania, one of the premier whisky producing regions in the southern hemisphere.

His last role was as CEO at Lark Distillery – the gold medal winner for Best World Whisky at the International Whisky Competition in Chicago in 2014.

The McLaren Vale region, about 40km south of Adelaide, is home to the original Hardys winery, which has grown into a major international wine brand.

Rochfort said access to high quality local barrels was one of the reasons McLaren Vale was chosen as the site for the distillery.

“We’ve selected some incredible South Australian barrels with amazing history like a 90-year-old muscat cask that continually held muscat for the entire period of time – it was the same block of muscat every single season – and we’ve got our hands on some incredible port barrels as well,” he said.

“A lot of the vineyards are coming forward with their best, award-winning barrels saying ‘we’d love you to have them, please in four or five years when it’s ready can you spare us a bottle’.”

In recent years India and Taiwan have emerged as leading warm climate whisky producers while the southern Australian island of Tasmania has long been known as a hot spot for high quality single malts.

McLaren Vale is about 10km from the coast and is warmer than Tasmania but cooler than Bangalore and Taiwan.

Its Mediterranean climate has average maximum temperatures between 14C and 28C and average minimums between 7C and 16C (that’s 57 and 82, 45 and 61 to those of us more familiar with Fahrenheit).

McLaren Vale, Australia (The Lead South Australia)Rochfort said the distillery’s location in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges overlooking the vale was an “amazing climate” for maturing whisky.

“We get these really crisp, cool nights and then South Australian summer days and then in the afternoon around three or four o’clock we get these really nice cool breezes that bring it right back down so for maturing barrels and really getting the most out of the wood it’s an amazing location,” he said.

A malting plant will be built on site to allow barley from specific districts to be malted individually to make true single batch whiskies.

“What we’ve been able to do is work with farmers in four specific regions of South Australia – they each have their own climate that produce a different character to the grain.

“So by doing that small batch malting, every single barrel we put out will have its own provenance from the grain.”

Rochfort will work alongside his brothers Nicholas and Lachlan and father Christopher at the distillery.

McLaren Vale Distillery founder John Rochfort, third from left, with his team (The Lead South Australia)They plan to mature most of the whisky in 100 and 200-litre barrels, but will initially use some 50-litre barrels to kickstart the operation.

“Obviously with the wood to spirit ratios they will mature much faster so I would expect that in two years, two and a half years there to be a first release,” he said.

“We would like to think it would be a good rich, oily whisky, that’s got a lovely oily mouth feel and is rich with a really good palate feel, that’s the goal.

“Bill Lark in Tasmania really taught me everything I know and I spent a lot of years tasting and assessing Lark whiskies before we made them available for release and everything that we did in Tasmania we’re recreating here with the benefit of a much better ability to select barrels.

“We’ve already been approached by a couple of different countries putting their hands up for our first thousand bottles, which we haven’t even put down yet -demand is incredible at the moment.”

Output at the distillery, which has been helped by a $500,000 South Australian Government Regional Development Fund grant, is limited because it can only process 100 tonnes of barley a year.

“So we’re looking at around 20,000 litres in our first year growing to a maximum of 50,000 litres by year five,” Rochfort said.

The range of whiskies will start with the McLaren Vale single malt at $120-$150 through to the Bloodstone Collection featuring the “Best of the best” barrels from South Australia, ranging in price from $500- $1000.

“These are barrels that have previously won amazing awards – it could be a 1967 Grange Hermitage barrel – so when we get hold of these barrels we want their complete history from everything that ever went into that barrel, the dates of the fill, it must have only ever had the same grape variety from the same block in that barrel or we won’t accept it as a Bloodstone barrel,” Rochfort said.

“The grain must be specially grown on farms, it must maintain its provenance.

“When we bottle them, an original bottle of the muscat, or sherry or port or bourbon or whatever was in that barrel before we took use of it will be part of that box set when the whisky is matured. You’ll also be able to have a little bottle of the Mount Lofty spring water that we use, a little sample of the grain that we use for that particular bottling and some shavings of the actual wood from the barrel as well as the bottle of single malt.”

Rochfort said he was working with separate groups in three other South Australian wine regions – Barossa Valley, Limestone Coast and Clare Valley – who wanted to start their own whisky distilleries.

“We would really like to see the single malts representing the regions of South Australia because each region has its own special wines and grain growing abilities and to be able to produce a single malt which is truly made up of that region’s input is the goal,” he said.

About 45km south of McLaren Vale at the mouth of Australia’s biggest river, The Murray, Gareth Andrews has been running the Steam Exchange Brewery in Goolwa for a decade, where he now also distils whisky. He hopes to launch his first single malt towards the end of the year.

The G R Andrews & Sons Fleurieu Distillery is producing spirit for three established Australian whisky makers – including two in Tasmania – to help provide cash flow while its whisky matures. 

Andrews said South Australian distillers were beginning see the opportunities created by a global whisky boom.

“Globally, the whole whisky boom is on and people are looking for quality over quantity and they are starting to realize that good quality single malt whiskies can be made in other places than Scotland,” Andrews said.

“We’ve got the barley, we’ve got the climate, so everything’s good.”

Adelaide-based Southern Coast Distillers began selling its South Australian whisky in 2011. Jim Murray described one of its single malts in the 2012 edition of The Whisky Bible as "one of the most astonishing whiskies it has been my honour to taste".


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