From Richmond Times Dispatch: If there’s a line out the door at The Veil Brewing Co., snaking along the length of the building, it must be Tuesday. Tuesdays are canned new release days at The Veil on Roseneath Road in Scott’s Addition.
Owner Dave Michelow posts on social media over the weekend to create anticipation (between Facebook and Instagram, he estimates The Veil has 10,000 followers).
Tuesdays and “new releases” are just one element of the bustle that has come to characterize Scott’s Addition, which now boasts eight fermenters. There is a lot of history in the processes, recipes and even the buildings themselves.
Michael Isley’s family has been running a business, Winter Plumbing and Heating, for 101 years, that Isley says “installed the plumbing and heating in the vast majority of the buildings in Scott’s Addition.” Isley himself, as a high schooler, “crawled around the insides” of many of the Scott’s Addition buildings, including the new premises of Blue Bee Cider at 1320 Summit Ave., once the location of Richmond’s city stables. Isley Brewing Co. is at 1715 Summit Ave., and Isley says “we absolutely have records of the whole 1700 block. My grandfather’s company did all the plumbing and heating for the buildings that existed then in the 1920s.”
Reservoir Distillery’s building at 1800-A Summit Ave. housed the Schweppes/Canada Dry bottling plant, and had a 7-Up billboard on its roof, easily seen from the bleachers at Parker Field, home of minor-league baseball in Richmond from 1954 to 1984. (It was demolished and replaced by The Diamond in 1985.) The Veil’s premises were built in 1957 to house administrative offices of The Coca-Cola Co.; the bottling plant was across the street.
At Reservoir, bottling dozens of small bottles of its internationally acclaimed whiskey, and at The Veil, canning 600 cases of new releases on Tuesdays, the Scott’s Addition craft brewing scene is history repeating itself.
Despite that historic precedent, Scott’s Addition has only recently become a target for those seeking liquid refreshment. For Taylor Mock, 28, a real estate agent who heads there twice a week, “it’s absolutely a new destination. Before all these breweries, I was never there, to be honest with you.”
Abigail Wood, 26, a brokerage manager, also goes twice a week. “It’s definitely a new hot spot,” she says. “It’s so young right now. It’s constantly changing. It’s still in its infancy.”
Wood tends toward “fruity IPAs” and cider. “Buskey has hoppy ciders,” she says. “They’re playing with tradition, but they’re progressive, innovative. Blue Bee’s got some crazy stuff going on, too.”
Buskey Cider Co. founder and CEO Will Correll sees the cidery’s efforts as a blending of old and new. “Our theme all along has been respecting history and being progressive.” The name comes from a historic text Correll found, with Benjamin Franklin using the term “buskey” to describe a tavern. On the progressive side, Correll is especially proud of using nitrogen in Buskey’s carbonation process.
A few blocks over, Blue Bee Cider focuses on Colonial recipes — and ingredients. Brian Ahnmark, the first employee hired by owner and original cider maker Courtney Mailey, explains: “We take pride in working with heirloom apples, such as Hewe’s Crab, which was George Washington’s favorite apple. Courtney grafted those trees herself. To use the coveted Harrison apple thought to be extinct, Courtney grafted from a single tree, found in New Jersey.” (The tree was discovered in New Jersey in 1976, and Virginia orchardist Tom Burford was instrumental in identifying the apple as Harrison. Mailey did not discover the tree.)
Angie Leaf, 46, a digital resource manager and a craft brew hobbyist with her husband, heads to Scott’s Addition twice a month. “To see it explode in recent years has been inspiring,” Leaf says.
Leaf, who calls Ardent Craft Ales’ saisons “fantastic,” is taken with old beer recipes and mead, delighting in “finding things that are Old World style with a twist, using fruits and spices to appeal to a modern palate.”
Co-founder Tom Sullivan cites history’s major role in founding Ardent. “I was a history buff before I was a beer connoisseur. I took a trip to Monticello with my wife in 2006, and learned Jefferson may have had an on-site brewery. We were disappointed that I could not taste something from that period, and became interested in making that.”
A favorite venture was making a persimmon beer from a very old recipe. “We picked persimmons off trees all over Virginia. Going through the process, you got a real idea of Colonial life.” Ardent’s beer garden was a part of their original vision, tapping into the centuries old European tradition.
Mock singles out one libation among several favorites: “The cold-brewed coffee porter at Three Notch’d is phenomenal.”
George Kastendike, CEO of Three Notch’d Brewing Co., which took its name from a Colonial-era road near the brewery’s Charlottesville location, says, “History is a constant frame of mind for us. We have a beer named after Patrick Henry. We have a cream ale named after Henry ‘Box’ Brown, a man from Louisa who shipped himself in a box to escape slavery. We wanted to give his story a voice through brewing this beer.”
Equally committed to new creations, like the coffee porter, and product freshness, striving to offer the newest product on the shelf, Kastendike touts an example: “Biggie S’mores, a stout with chocolate and marshmallow, was released on Nov. 22 in Richmond at our RVA Collab House (2930 W. Broad St.), and you could literally drink a bottle that was bottled the day before. That’s rare.”
Michael Isley, founder of Isley Brewing Co., has another family connection related to his venture. “The Isley family were the largest moonshiners in Virginia until 1955,” he says. “I’m the first Isley to make legal alcohol!” Like the other craft brewers, Isley is focused on creating new tastes. “My brewer, Josh Stamps, has no rules; he can think outside the box. That’s how Choosy Mother came about.” Isley’s Choosy Mother is a peanut butter oatmeal porter, with hints of chocolate. Those scents greet visitors when they enter Isley. While Isley prefers The Griswald, a blonde stout, he admits that “the Choosy Mother pays the bills.”
Kelly Andrews, 34, a Richmond city firefighter, says Scott’s Addition “is now Richmond’s beer and craft alcohol gold mine.” Andrews is a big fan of mead, and not just for its taste. “I’m all for sustaining honey bees,” she says. “My favorite is the Passiflora, the passion fruit one. It has a really nice, light, fruity, floral flavor, almost like honeysuckle.”
On a crisp sunny November afternoon, Bill Cavender, “chief mead evangelist” of Black Heath Meadery on Altamont Avenue, sets aside a carefully measured pile of seasoning for his latest creation, an homage with 14 spices to an ancient Lithuanian recipe for krupnikas. Cavender says that mead predates man’s touch. Nature itself makes mead, he explains, with honey dripping into tree notches, becoming mixed with rainwater, then fermenting naturally. The first humans to discover it, he says, were hunters and gatherers. Read the rest of the story, here.