The Fresh Face of Richmond Craft Ales
Do you remember when beer was the drink most closely associated with rowdy college kids, pot-bellied sports fans and bearded bikers? The suds were all variations on canned themes of pale yellow and even paler yellow.
Not too many years ago Corona Extra and Guinness were the exotics of your market’s alcohol section, and ale? Ale was some mysterious bottled concoction only the Brits understood.
Of course, there have always been hop-heads and beer enthusiasts lurking under the mainstream American pale ale radar—people who understood the joy in the balance and complexity of a well crafted ale, but for the most part, society ignored them and continued chugging pop-top after pop-top of industrial American swill.
Then, something changed.
Boomer home-brewers started to grow up, and with age (and strong beer) came business models, micro-breweries and a budding national fascination with craft ales. That national fascination has become, in the past few years, a full blown obsession and Richmond (always a little slow on the uptake), has finally begun its full embrace.
Though Richmond has not been a total stranger to craft-breweries, the so-called “legacy breweries” like Legend and the now defunct Richbrau and Main Street Brewery are seen more as pioneers from another time. The new face of beer in Richmond is young, energetic, innovative and on a mission to change how locals view their beer culture.
Richmond’s new craft beer movement is beginning with Hardywood Park Craft Ales (@hardywood on Twitter), which showcased its two inaugural ales Monday night for a small crowd of restaurant industry types, beer nuts and press. The young entrepreneurs who built Hardywood poured tastings of their signature Hardywood Singel and seasonal Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin for guests in their lovely tasting room then offered tours of their state of the art brewery in the adjacent warehouse.
Hardywood Park Craft Ales is the brainchild of friends Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh who conceived of the idea on the Hardywood Park farm in Australia where McKay was studying abroad. The simple, honest farmhouse ales brewed by the Australian host family inspired the young men to immerse themselves in every aspect of the craft ale industry over the course of ten years—an education that has obviously paid off in the glass and in their beautiful brewery.
With the help of brewer Brian Nelson, the small Hardywood team is committed to a “streamlined portfolio” with its foundation being their signature Hardywood Singel; a Belgian Abby style ale that boasts a crisp, tropical fruit and floral palate, and a pleasant yeast presence that lends well to food pairings just as well as any crisp dry wine.
Hardywood is committed to sourcing ingredients locally as often as possible—this is especially true in their seasonal Hardywood Farmhouse Pumpkin which is brewed with pumpkins provided by Farm to Family (@farm2family) and spices purchased at Penzy’s Spices in Carytown. The Hardywood Pumpkin is a dry, spicy saison style ale that avoids the often pie-like characteristics of many pumpkin ales and also lends itself to food pairings or cool autumn evenings on the patio.
It’s clear from the excitement of the people in attendance that Hardywood Park Craft Ales is doing something right. They have positioned themselves at the forefront of a new beer movement in our humble city; still, McKay and Murtaugh are quick to pay homage to their predecessors like Legend and new breweries to come like Ardent Craft Ales which is still in development stages.
Slated to begin appearing in restaurants and retail establisments in mid-October, look for Hardywood Park Craft Ales on tap at your favorite Richmond restaurants and on retail shelves in 22oz bottles. Hardywood ales will also be available at the brewery in growlers during brewery tour hours.
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