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/// SOUTHERN BREWING
 
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2008
 
Southern Brewing
What started as a downtown Charlottesville, Va., brewpub in 1999 and evolved into a Crozet, Va., microbrewery several years later has now taken the ultimate step. Winner of 11 GABF medals over the past eight years, Starr Hill Brewery has joined the big league. Its “products have been added to Anheuser-Busch’s select list of craft beers offered through its world-class distribution network,” as announced in an A-B press release. According to multiple sources, Starr Hill will concentrate on statewide distribution of its bottled and kegged product during 2008. Within three years, the Eastern Seaboard, sans Florida, is on tap with nationwide availability on a five- to 10-year timetable. Brewmaster Mark Thompson explained his ambitions to Charlottesville’s Daily Progress: “We want to be the next Sierra Nevada.”

Richbrau Brewing Company has been in operation since 1994. Beginning as an assistant in 2000, Mike Banks has been head brewer for the Richmond, Va., brewpub since April 2002. Working with an “upside-down” 14-barrel brewery spread over three floors, Banks keeps three year-round brews on tap and rotates 20 special and seasonal recipes on the other four handles. The historic Shockoe Slip facility is massive, featuring four bars (with 10 pool tables and a Friday/Saturday night dance club) and two restaurants. Along with growlers-to-go, Banks hand-bottles for on-premise sales. The three main Richbrau beers — Griffin Golden Ale, Old Nick Pale Ale and Big Nasty Porter — are also available in area stores and bars. For the cold months of 2008, look for the strong brown Winter Warmer, March Madness, kölsch-like Alley Oop, Alt and St. Patrick’s dry stout.

Now Smack is on his own — in a big, big way — with Blue Mountain Brewery & Hop Farm.

After graduating from the Siebel Institute, Taylor Smack remained in the Chicago area for a yearlong apprenticeship at Goose Island. He later worked as head brewer for two area brewpubs before heading home to Virginia for a six-year stay at Charlottesville brewpub South Street. Now Smack is on his own — in a big, big way. Blue Mountain Brewery & Hop Farm sits on four acres of prime property in the Blue Ridge Mountains, right in the middle of the state’s finest wine country.

Built from the ground up in Afton — “from hayfield to hops farm, restaurant and brewery” — the micro attracts wine tourists with its three hop fields (mostly Cascades) and “slightly bigger beers” made from deep well water. Full Nelson is a strong pale ale made with nothing but homegrown hops. Also available on draft and in bottles are Rockfish Wheat (a Bavarian-style kristal), Lights Out Holiday Ale (traditional old ale) and Blue Mountain Lager (continental style). Something he picked up from his time at Goose Island: Smack also offers Dark Hollow Artisanal Ale, which spends 100 days on wood, as a bottle-conditioned bourbon imperial stout. He and wife Mandi are expecting their first child this summer.

David Gonzalez returned to work full time in early December. The Rock Bottom brewmaster has fully recovered from hernia surgery and is as feisty as ever, introducing the seasonal Winter’s Nip Porter to his loyal Charlotte, N.C., patrons, followed quickly by Pedro’s Peppercorn Porter, the same brew infused with whole peppercorns in the cask, and then Vanilla Bean Porter. There may be a little of Gonzalez’s 8.5% abv Weizenbock still on tap, but you’d better hurry. While out on medical leave, he penned an article, “Brew U,” for Outlaw Biker, a “raunchy biker mag.”

Wilmington, N.C., has a new contract brewery. Founded by homebrewer John Olson in late 2007, Wolf Beer Company already has several outlets in the Raleigh area. He describes White Wolf, the company’s first product, as a “golden ale, rich with light to medium body and sweet character.” Olson already has plans for Lock Timberwolf, a nut brown ale, to be brewed by Paul Philippon and staff at The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in rural Farmville, N.C.

Andrew Cubbin is celebrating the grand reopening of his Appalachian Craft Brewery. After rushing to have beer available for September’s Brewgrass Festival in Asheville, N.C., the one-man operation “pushed things back” and has only recently settled into business mode. Though acquiring hops has been problematic, the Fletcher, N.C., micro is presently distributing kegs of Copperhead Amber and Black Bear Stout in three western North Carolina markets. Working with a six-barrel brewhouse, Appalachian Craft Brewery’s goal is growth.

Mississippi’s first and only microbrewery has entered the mechanically challenging world of bottling. Although bottling is typically a brewer’s biggest headache, Lazy Magnolia Brewing seems to have had few problems in processing its first bottling of award-winning Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale. Owner/brewster Leslie Henderson said the company’s next bottled beer will be chosen by its fans via Web site feedback. Founded in Kiln, Miss., in 2004 by native Mississippians Mark and Leslie Henderson, Lazy Magnolia has expanded distribution beyond the state line into Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Striving to reach its goal of becoming “the great Southern brewery,” Lazy Magnolia will expand its reach into several new markets in 2008.

Orlando Brewing released its seasonal Winter Fest Doppelbock just in time for Christmas and the company’s annual New Year’s Eve bash. Coincidently, Brewmaster Ed Canty commissioned his new 25-barrel brewhouse. The release of the strong (15–20% abv) Anisocria, available on draft at the brewery pub in eight-ounce cordial glasses and in a limited bottled edition, punctuated the micro’s holiday season.

Brews in Brief

• Winston-Salem, N.C.’s Foothills Brewing introduced a new English-style robust People’s Porter. • Boscos President Jerry Feinstone was honored by the Tennessee Restaurant Association as the 2007 Restaurateur of the Year. • Financially challenged Avado Brands sold 83 of its Don Pablo’s Mexican restaurants and Hops Grillhouse & Brewery restaurants. Several other Hops facilities were sold separately from this deal. • Just before Thanksgiving, French Broad Brewing of Asheville released its first bottles ever. According to Head Brewer Drew Barton, Wee Heavy-est is a “kicked-up Belgian version of the popular Wee Heavy-er.” • Abita Brewing of Covington, La., is expanding, with new offices and warehouse space as well as additional brewing capacity. New tanks should be installed by spring, bringing the 22-year-old micro’s capacity to 170,000 barrels. The nation’s 32nd-largest brewery, Abita sold in excess of 62,000 barrels in 2007. • South Carolina has a new distributor specializing in craft beers. Jeff LeVine founded Carolina Craft Distributing with quality in mind. Working with a climate-controlled warehouse and refrigerated trucks, the company prides itself on in-store promotions. According to LeVine, Carolina Craft Distributing is “the first true micro-beer distributor in the state of South Carolina.” • According to the Fayetteville, N.C., Observer, eight-year-old Huske Hardware closed suddenly “amid legal issues surrounding its owners.” • After only a brief run, Georgia’s Old Savannah Brewing also closed unexpectedly.

Starr Hill Brewery (micro)
5391 Three Notched Rd.
Crozet, VA 22932
434-823-5671

Richbrau Brewing Co.
1214 E Cary St.
Richmond, VA 23219
804-644-3018

Blue Mountain Brewery & Hop Farm
9519 Critzers Shop Rd.
Afton, VA 22920
540-456-8020

Rock Bottom
401 N. Tryon St., #100
Charlotte, NC 28202
704-334-2739

Appalachian Craft Brewery (micro)
34-C Redmond Dr.
Fletcher, NC 28732
828-684-1235

Lazy Magnolia Brewing (micro)
7030 Roscoe Turner Rd.
Kiln, MS 39556
228-467-2727

Orlando Brewing (micro with pub)
1301 Atlanta Ave.
Orlando, FL 32806
407-872-1117

 

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