February/March 2003
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Southern Brewing

by Bobby Bush

     A new microbrewery has opened in Virginia. John Bryce, who worked short-term as a volunteer for Mobjack Bay and Main Street in Richmond, is the owner/brewer of Blacksburg Brewing Company. A native of Richmond, a Virginia Tech alum and an avid homebrewer, Bryce brewed his first seven-barrel batch on October 10, 2002. The micro will self-distribute -- sort of. To comply with state ownership laws, longtime friend Chris Bernhardt incorporated a distribution company to deliver kegged Blacksburg beers -- Hokey Pokey Lager, Dragon's Tooth IPA, Hooptie Ride Red Rider Ale and two others -- to bars and restaurants in Blacksburg, Christiansburg and eventually Roanoke.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]What goes around comes around. The three-times-failed brewpub in downtown Knoxville, Tenn., is alive again. The site previously known as Smoky Mountain, Great Southern and City Brew has been closed since July 2001. Now under new ownership, Downtown Grill & Brewery opened in mid-December with seasoned brewer Al Krusen at the helm. Krusen, a founder of the defunct New Knoxville Brewing, keeps eight English ales and European lagers on tap.
Owner/brewer Scott Pyatt has a spin-off. His Glen Alpine, N.C., micro, Catawba Valley Brewing Company, is brewing flavored fermented beverages under the name of King Beverage. We're not talking alco-pop spiked lemonade here. King beers are made with natural flavorings, eschewing the medicinal flavors of extracts. Test-marketing for Pyatt's first new beer, King Coconut Ale, has indicated extremely positive results. Made with toasted coconut that's added post-fermentation, the base beer is similar in style to brown ale. Catawba Valley and King Beverage beers can be found in western North Carolina, Knoxville and the Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C., areas.
Carolina Beer is also out with a new beer. Available in bottles for the first time this year, Cottonwood seasonals Pumpkin Ale and Frostbite experienced remarkable sales growth. Demand greatly exceeded supply. Though numbers aren't in for the December-released Frostbite, Pumpkin's volume spurted 3000 percent over last year's keg-only edition. President John Stritch challenged Head Brewer Don Richardson and new brewer Walter Trifari to reach into the magic Cottonwood kettle once again. With 25 pounds of pure Belgian cocoa in the mix, a new as-yet-unnamed beer was born. Trifari told local media that he hoped the new beer would "smell like a batch of Toll House cookies."
Also in Carolina Beer news is a new light beer. Carolina Lighthouse, scheduled to appear this spring, contains only 70 calories and two grams of carbs. The company produced just shy of 10,000 barrels in 2002, partly aided by the contract brewing of RTD (ready-to-drink) malternatives. President Stritch also contributes the strong year to the company's expanded laboratory facility and three new quality-control technicians.
The Shipyard Ale Society is a virtual club whose "dues are to spread the word about better beer." Headed by Ron Raike, brewer for now-homeless Shipyard/Orlando, special Shipyard tastings and parties are regularly held at a number of beer-friendly bars in the sprawling Orlando area. While Raike searches for a new home for his brewery, which once resided in Orlando Airport Terminal A, he's promoting Massachusetts-based Shipyard Beers. Distributed in Florida by Unique Beers, Export Ale and three seasonals -- Longfellow Winter Ale, Prelude Holiday Ale and Winter Ale -- are also available in bottled gift packs. See www.uniquebeers.com for more info.
The first American branch of the Munich Hofbrauhaus is under construction in Newport, KY. Or is it? Plans to renovate a vacant building across the street from the popular Newport on the Levee entertainment complex are dependent upon emergency state legislation. Under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, State Senate President Pro Tem Dick Roeding's act would give the Hofbrauhaus a 25 percent sales tax refund for 10 years. According to The Kentucky Post, the owners are counting on the rebate as part of their financial plan for the new brewpub.
"If we don't get the tax break," said developer Nick Ellison, "we'll have to find new financing and figure out some other way to make it work." The planned 14,000-square-foot Newport Hofbrauhaus, a $7 million project, will seat 370 people indoors with room for another 330 in the outdoor beer garden. An undisclosed German brewmaster will man the brewhouse. The brewpub/beer hall venture was originally destined for Cincinnati, but a failed riverfront development plan encouraged the move to Newport. City officials are optimistic about the tax break.
In his first professional brewing job, Eric Larsen has taken on head brewer responsibility at Kelly's Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery in Key West. Previously a one-barrel homebrewer, Larsen said working on the 6.5-barrel brewhouse is easy. He gets plenty of advice from vacationing brewers, most notably from Jaime Jurado, director of brewing operations for Gambrinus, the Texas-based importer of Corona Extra that also owns Spoetzl (Shiner Bock), BridgePort (Portland, Ore.) and Pete's brewing companies.
Mike Duffy has left Jack of the Wood/Green Man Brewing in Asheville, N.C., for a brewing position down the street at over-producing and ready-to-grow micro Highland Brewing. Duffy's replacement has not yet been announced.
Santa Rosa Brewpub in Pensacola, Fla., has ceased brewing. Joining previously closed Hops in Alpharetta, Ga., and Lafayette, La., Hops in Chattanooga, Tenn., was shuttered in November.
And on a sad note, we mark the passing of R. J. Rockers. The five-year-old Spartanburg, S.C., brewpub closed down in grand style on Thanksgiving eve. Packed to the gills and filling growlers as fast as four bartenders could work, brewer/owner Mark Johnsen bid his loyal patrons adieu with a final night of live trivia. With family and friends in attendance, it was a bittersweet evening of fond remembrances and memorable beers. Johnsen plans to reopen R. J. Rockers as a microbrewery in the near future.

Blacksburg Brewing (micro)
492 Kiwanis Lane
Christiansburg, VA 24073
540-382-3212
www.blacksburgbrewing.com

Downtown Grill & Brewery
424 S. Gay St.
Knoxville, TN 37902
865-523-0750

Carolina Beer
110 Barley Park Lane
Mooresville, NC 28115
704-799-2337
www.carolinablonde.com

Kelly's Caribbean Bar, Grill & Brewery
301 Whitehead St.
Key West, FL 33040
www.kellyskeywest.com

"Beer is a pleasure that should not be abused," muses beer writer Bobby Bush, who calls Hickory, N.C., home. The longtime beer enthusiast won Wynkoop's Beer Drinker of the Year contest in 1998. Send inquiries to bobbywbush@charter.net.

Copyright 2003, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!

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