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Every beer has a story to tell, and Adroit Theory Brewing Company are the storytellers. Based in Purcellville, Va., the brewery has been leading the growing brewing and distilling community in the Commonwealth for the past two years. Through their spirit of innovation and collaboration, many have sworn themselves as followers and enemies — never in between. With an extensive lineup of beers and other collaborative projects in the works, this small brewery is quickly growing out of the darkness.

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We all have a story tell, and the stories we all need to hear are those whose lives are cut short. According to an article by Military Times, in 2014, nearly 302,000 troops have deployed around the world, and the continuing conflicts in the Middle East, as well as other parts of the world, have taken the lives of more than 80,000 U.S. soldiers. To help the families tell the stories of these men and women who lost their lives serving our country, Honor Brewing Company and Honor Winery set to the task of providing an avenue to celebrate their lives over a round of craft beer and wine.

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In the surfing world, a “rhino chaser” is someone who sets out to find the biggest and best waves possible. For Matt Hagerman and Favio Garcia, their “rhino” was the perfect beer. Veterans of the brewery business, they set out on a nationwide journey to immerse themselves in the rich traditions and even richer flavors of American craft brewing. That adventure culminated in the 2011 launch of Lost Rhino Brewing Company in Ashburn, Va., and they’ve been riding a mammoth wave of success ever since.

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old busthead



Nestled in the “middle of nowhere,” Old Busthead Brewing Company is just a short drive down a few back roads from the growing city of Gainesville, Va. Julie Broaddus and her husband Ike had a dream of settling down some roots in Warrenton, Va., to open a brewery where Ike’s band could play and leave their instruments set up. Together, their passion for making great beer and great music lead to the founding of their brewery, and naturally, the music followed.

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Nestled in the heart of Richmond, Va.’s historic Old Manchester District, Blue Bee Cider has been hard at work bringing their unique, artisanal craft ciders to the people of Richmond and the surrounding areas. Since founding their headquarters at 212 West 6th Street, they have consistently been raising the bar in cider production and innovative recipes, working on experimental projects with other Virginia breweries and distilleries in the creation of their products. Using the highest quality products and apples not typically found or consumed by the average grocery store shopper, they have developed an exceptional line of ciders in both premium and super premium standards. In addition to releasing these unmatched products, they are also regular supporters of the local music scene and have bands perform the release parties of their latest ciders. We had the opportunity to talk to Brian Ahnmark, Blue Bee’s “cider evangelist,” about their collaborations with local Virginian businesses and the identity they have formed.

Being one of Virginia’s only urban cideries, how did you go about choosing your location?

First and foremost, our owner and cider maker Courtney Mailey was, essentially, the impetus for everything. She was seeking out sites. I think a big part of her background was her apprenticeship with Albemarle Cider Works, which outside of Charlottesville  in the Blue Ridge Mountains area. Typically, you are going to see a cidery in apple country near orchards, which makes sense, but I think what was a big part of Courtney’s concept was locating ourselves near people and near a fan base. Her parents have lived in the Richmond area for many years, and Richmond is a tremendous community when it comes to supporting local craft beverages. We really have a booming craft beverage industry now, particularly with the breweries. So it definitely gave us a feeling of hometown advantage where having Richmond on the label has definitely been a critical part of our early success.
blue bee 2In terms of where we are, we are in the Old Manchester District of Richmond. So it’s right on the fall line kind of overlooking downtown. Our building, specifically, is called the Aragon Coffee Building. It was established in the early 1900s. Manchester was an old manufacturing district, and the buildings down in our area are beautiful, old brick. There’s a really rich history down here. Richmond has a history of being one of the early pioneers of electric streetcars, and a lot of the old railway lines are literally out in our parking lot. There is a really cool aura of history down here in Manchester, plus that beautiful view of downtown. When Courtney started looking at spots, Manchester was not in the best shape as a neighborhood as it has been in the past, but it is definitely changing a lot. Our next door neighbor is Legend Brewing Company, and they are the oldest microbrewery in Virginia. They have really been anchoring this neighborhood for a long time, but we have an amazing assortment of neighbors. … Belle Isle Moonshine Distillery just started distilling, I believe, January of this year [2015], maybe four blocks away. I think Courtney saw the potential for the Manchester area to rebound and become that bustling manufacturing district that it once was.

What is the significance of the Blue Bee in your name and logo?

The blue orchard bee is our namesake and, I like to say, our partner in crime. It’s a native pollinator; it’s not a honey bee. What it does, particularly in the Blue Ridge Mountain area, is it comes out in the early spring, and it pollinates apple blossoms. So the blue orchard bee, also known as the blue mason bee, is a kind of iridescent blue. It’s dark colored, and it looks about the size of a honey bee. But from my understanding, it’s a solitary bee. It’s nonaggressive. It doesn’t report back to a queen; it just comes out and pollinates apple blossoms. I think it was a pretty easy pick as a partner in crime, as I said, to be part of our logo and our identity as well.

What is it about your ciders that make them “premium” and “super premium” compared to other cider brands?

The big thing about craft and artisanal ciders is the fact that water is not involved in our process. Our spot down here in Manchester is our retail space, our tasting room, our production facility, our warehouse; it’s our everything. In the fall, we press apples, and we take that raw juice and ferment it. We’re not using concentrate or anything like that, but we are fermenting the raw juice all the way to dry. So you’re gonna end up with a cider that has an ABV in the neighborhood of 8 to 9 percent. That’s pretty typical. It seems to stun some folks, but we are definitely blessed here in Virginia. Southern apples have a lot of sugar, and if you have a nice, long fermentation — and for us that can mean one to two months depending on the apple — it’s not atypical to get an ABV up there in that neighborhood.

But we’re not pressing Granny Smith or Golden Delicious. We are pressing kind of oddball Virginia heirloom apples. Some of the key apples for us are the Albemarle Pippen, the Winesap, and the Hewes Crab, and York and Stamen, and even some more rare apples than that. The concept is these are not necessarily the best of eating apples; they are going to be pretty tart. But the magic comes when you press those apples and ferment that juice. Since these are not commercial-scale apples that you would typically see in a grocery store, they are also hard to come by, and they are also kind of pricey. We spend a lot of money on apples, and then we create some very unique blends from these different apples. So the cider is pretty dissimilar to the sweeter ciders, cider beers, or “session ciders” you might see in a six-pack at the grocery store, not that there are anything wrong with those products. They are just completely different from what we are doing. We are more on the off-dry to dry side.

From our standard semi-sparking ciders, we go all the way up to 18 percent ABV with our blue bee 6
Harvest Ration.
That’s our dessert cider. That’s actually a collaboration with Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in Purcellville, Va. where they take our first batch of cider each year, and they distill it for us into custom apple brandy. Ultimately, we age that brandy for eight months in oak barrels, and then we blend it with our cider. It’s a 12-month recipe. Part of what makes the product unique and special is the sheer amount of time. We are looking at a range of anywhere from five to 12 months to create a batch of our cider. For something like Harvest Ration, it also involves a distillery and a premium brandy and cider as well to create something spectacular.

One of the most interesting things about your cider is how often you experiment with different ingredients and work with local businesses, in addition to Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, as well as Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. Can you tell us about these projects you are working on?

We’re in a unique spot. I am happy to acknowledge we are kind of an odd middle child between beer and wine, even in terms of ABV and flavor, and I think we are very fortunate in that most people have had craft beers; most people have had wines; but most people have not had artisanal craft ciders before. So we have the opportunity to hopefully pleasantly surprise people and potentially even blow their minds, and one of the things we are really proud of here is that all of us really enjoy wine and beers as well. As you are probably aware, a lot of people think of cider as a girl’s drink. We hear that a lot (laughs). Sometimes people come through and say, “I’m not a cider guy. I don’t really want to try it.” A big part of our mindset is that you don’t need to be a “beer guy,” or a “wine girl,” or a “wine guy,” or a “beer girl.” You can be an all of the above guy or girl; I know I certainly am. I started with craft beer, and I love it to death. I worked with a brewery in  the past. I moved onto wine, and now I’ve found  a completely different thing to enjoy.

As I mentioned, Richmond has a really great, booming craft beer community, and even though we don’t fit into the winery or brewery mold, we are kind of a little bit of both. As a result, we’ve been able to make some great friends. We are quite close with the folks at James River Cellars. They feature our  ciders in a lot of their events. They actually just had us at their Valentine’s [Day] event. But as far as the breweries, that’s the kind of stuff I like to do on my days off. It all happened very organically where we made a lot of friends, and we are always inviting our brewery folks to come by the cidery and to help us press.

blue bee 1In a couple of these situations, it led to collaborations. Isley Brewing Company did the Apple Brown Betty, which was a spiced winter warmer brown ale that actually featured juice that they helped press. Hardywood is going to do a sour, I believe, which is the same kind of general concept. Nick from Hardywood helped us press juice, and he is working on that project to come out later in the spring. Catoctin Creek — we can’t say enough about them — really took a chance on us when we had no product and no reputation. That was when Courtney was just getting the business of the ground, and they were willing to help out with the brandy. It’s actually hard to believe. When they create the brandy, the keep half for themselves, and then we get half. Our recipe is 12 months, and their recipe is in the neighborhood of two to three years. So we are currently working on the third varietal of Harvest Ration, but they have yet to put out the first version of theirs. … I believe it’s coming out this year, which I am thrilled about. We are going to be first in line, but it’s so rewarding and exciting to see these friendships blossom into a working relationship too where we actually have products that we can share and enjoy.

How often does Blue Bee Cider have local bands or solo musicians come perform at the tasting room?

When we do live music stuff, it’s usually for release parties. Any time we release a cider, we try to have an event with some live music. We had a Valentine’s Day event with live music.

Who are some of the bands that have played there?

Some of the bands include CLAY SPOKES, THE GREEN BOYS, and FLIGHT OF SALT. I’m also in a band so I absolutely live music, and we absolutely love having live music down here at the cidery as well.

Do you feel like the integration of live music at your events has helped to build your brand?

Absolutely, without a doubt. There is a certain party-like atmosphere when you have a little bit of music, even if it’s just background. As a longtime musician myself, it pains me to think of music as being in the background. It’s an important part of my life, and I think it is an important part of entertainment and giving people an experience that is memorable. The first real release party we had, we had a group come in that we sort of members of THE BEER TECHS, who have played numerous shows around town at Hardywood and such. … They did a one-off show as THE CIDER SIPPERS, and I love the spirit of a band saying, “We are going to adopt an identity specifically for this show.” During that show, they were calling out requests and playing music for the joy of playing music. It’s great to see these bands bring followers. We always make sure that the band members get to enjoy some cider as well so they get to have some fun and enjoy the product. There’s a whole bunch of people we have met through the bands, and we have actually seen band members come back. … It’s definitely a big part of where we see our future.

blue bee 5When we started, to be honest, whenever we released a cider, we had a panic moment where we were like, “Do we have enough bottles? Do we have labels? Great, this cider comes out tomorrow.” There wasn’t a whole lot of planning involved, but last February is when we really started  to get our stuff together and organize events where we had food trucks come out, where we had music come out, and it’s amazing what a difference it makes to create an atmosphere that is a little more party-like. So far, we tend to stick to folk rock, mountain music, the occasional electric rock band. I enjoy that for sure. But we definitely love to kick things up a notch.

We would love to do more themed events with music, and I have been talking about it forever of doing Vinyl Fridays where we spin some vinyl in here and have listening parties as a way of getting to enjoy music at work. I can build little perks in for the customers where music is always a part of the experience. I think that would be meaningful.

What is your next event which will feature live local music?

The next event is going to be on March 14. March 14 is going to be the official release date for Smokey Winesap; we nicknamed it Smokestack. It is literally a cider made of smoked Winesap apples. … It almost has the aroma of scotch. It’s very smoky in the aroma and in that first sip, but it kind of dissipates away and  the apple really takes over. That’s gonna be noon to 7 p.m., and the band we are having is DIGGITY BALL, which is a side project of one of THE GREEN BOYS. They are a Richmond-based band. It’s gonna be largely instrumental with mandolin, fiddle, stand-up bass, etc. They will be playing 3-6 p.m., I would say, in the heart of the afternoon.

For more updates on Blue Bee Cider, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.




Nestled in the heart of the capital of Virginia resides Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, which is authentically Richmond to its core while upholding Virginia brewing heritage, the integrity of their products, and the inspired creation of their innovative products, which are uniquely Virginian from the ingredients they use to the barrels they are aged in. In addition to their extensive beer portfolio, which includes the infamous Hardywood Gingerbread Stout, as well as the Hardywood Singel, they are one of the best venues for local music in the state, hosting shows in their tasting room during regular business hours, as well as during ticketed after-hour events. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kerry Anderson, Hardywood’s hospitality manager, to discuss the ethics of the brewery and their commitment to providing a family-friendly community, the uniquely Richmond brewing elements they utilize, and the selection process for choosing potential music brand ambassadors to play each show.

When I first came to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in December 2014, one of the things that stuck with me the most was the presence of family, which you don’t see too often in other drinking establishments, and I read on your website that the name Hardywood Park comes from a sheep station outside of Bathurst, New South Wales where co-founders Eric McKay and Patrick Murlaugh first discovered hand crafted beer in fall 2001 with David Crawford’s family. How important is maintaining a positive, family atmosphere to the brewery?

I think it’s extremely important to Eric and Pat. A good deal of the people that work here do have young kids, and I think it’s important to the craft beer industry for there to be a healthy, positive image around drinking and more about beer appreciation to  portray that in a positive light in front of youths, as opposed to the sometimes negative connotation that drinking or overindulgence gets. It’s awesome to have the families here and create that positive impression of what this culture should be about.

And since we’re not open very late, [except] for very unique events, like a ticketed metal show or something like that would we be open ’til midnight or past midnight. But because we close at 9 [p.m.], I think it makes it a lot easier for people  with young families who maybe don’t go out to shows anymore to be able to come participate because it’s early. … I love when the youth are exposed to really great music. A lot of the bands that play here would  normally be playing in venues late at night when it’s 18 or 21+ shows.

Can you please explain how “integrity,” “heritage,” and “inspired creation” are fundamental to the mission of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery?

We have a good number of beers that are outside of the traditional beer styles, whether that’s because of adding a unique ingredient, like in our Reserve Series beers. They all feature a local ingredient. So that means that we add locally grown blackberries to witbier.  Definitely upholding the craft and the quality level is of utmost importance. So we will never grow to a scale where that is going to be compromised, while we continue to grow.

We actually have represented through a number of different beers since focusing on heritage in Virginia. The first canned beer was produced in Richmond, Va., and it was Krueger Cream Ale. So for our first canned beer, we did a cream ale in honor of that, and there is a long brewing tradition in Richmond. It’s definitely in it’s revival now. It was kind of at a very quiet point for a few decades.

We are [also] very involved in philanthropy, and a number of the beers we produce on a regular basis, some portion of the proceeds go to different organizations. One that I think is outstanding is the James River Association, and we do the Great Return West Coast IPA in honor of their mission to bring up the sturgeon population again. So I think that having that connection with the community on a rich level where some of the proceeds go back into the community, I think that is represented in the mission statement.

According to your website, McKay is credited with the creation of and the BeerCloud mobile app. What are some ways that the Hardywood staff are continuing that spirit of innovation?

I think our beer portfolio is innovative, and it’s great that our brewers have pockets of room to experiment on their own projects instead of always just having the same cycle of seasonal beers that come out every year. We have so many experimental batches that come out throughout the year that maybe don’t see past brewery by a few counts in town. The brewer is currently doing an experiment collaboration with Blue Bee Cider, where he got fresh pressed apple juice and combined it with wort, and it’s barrel aging right now. So that’s kind of an experimental thing. It’s ready when it’s ready. I think that there is some great example where there is some risk involved. We haven’t tried it before. Also, it is in chardonnay barrels, which is another level, and the chardonnay barrels are from Virginia, which is sort of, in a way, bringing in another company.

I think that spirit of collaboration is very important across the board in every department. What I seek to do with the opportunities to have in the tasting room to create it as a community center is to integrate as many organizations and types of music, [as well as] a variety of events that are very specific to Richmond to make Hardywood a place that, at some day of the year, is a place for everyone. It might not be for everyone on the same day, but everyone has a point of entry that they can relate to. That I hope also introduces them to craft beer when maybe they thought it wasn’t for them.


What are some of the Virginian, and specifically Richmond, influences that go into the creation of your products?

I think that the most glaring one in the integration of those local ingredients. In our Reserve Series, we use locally grown pumpkins in our Farmhouse Pumpkin Ale. In the Gingerbread Stout, which you probably heard of more recently, the ginger is locally grown. The honey is sourced locally, all essentially within the Richmond region too, not just specific to Virginia. The people that produce this stuff we see on a regular basis, which is great that we have had this ongoing relationship face-to-face. It feels like family really with some of these small businesses that help provide the foundation for the immensely popular beer. … It feels like a microcosm of the strongest and most creative points here in Richmond.

Another element that I love about your brewery is the commitment to supporting local musicians with several shows of all genres, from folk and indie to metal and punk, at the brewery itself. How important is supporting the local arts and music community to your brewery?

It’s crucial to making things successful and involving as many people, like I touched on. I feel like we have a wonderful relationship with all these musicians that have been here, and they love playing here  for some of the reasons that we talked about earlier. Their folks can come, and families and children, and their friends with families and children who wouldn’t go to their shows, and I think because of the variety of music. When we started doing some hip hop crossover shows, that [brought] a totally different crowd out, and people who I don’t see here any other day. So maybe it is their first time having experience with these beers. I hope we are supporting further networking by using music as the primary vehicle to get people in here, although there’s lots of other ways we do it.

How do you select the bands or artists to perform at each show?

I’ve lived in Richmond for 10 years so I have been witness to a wonderful creative community in that time, and it has been exciting to be able to showcase these people who have been working so hard to promote themselves all this time. I think we are at a “golden era” in Richmond where there’s so much music, as well as other art culture that has been organically growing, and it’s ready now for attention on a much bigger level.

As far as my goal for the company and the bands that play for our public events, I have to think about selecting somebody that can handle playing for a room full of people where only half of them are paying attention. There’s a lot of people in the room that didn’t come for the band and didn’t know to expect it, but I think the bands love that because they get exposure. … So in order to withstand that conflict of not having full attention, you have to be engaging and be lighthearted. … It does have to feel like a party. That being said, there are so many great musicians who don’t necessarily fit that mold, and so I’m excited now that with the addition of this building and starting to do some more ticketed shows outside of our normal public hours there are becoming opportunities to represent those other genres and types of musicians.


How does the selection process for bands work?

I go out and see a lot of music, so I know that when I see someone perform if it will be an awesome fit. Unfortunately, I don’t take risks very often with people who contact me out of the blue because it is so much about representing our brand. In a way , I like tried and true, and I like to continue to work with the performers I know to be very reliable and be able to provide that positive light for our guests. They are still playing on a level of brand ambassador role. I have a pretty developed professional relationship with a lot of musicians here in order to have that trust for them to represent us. It’s very much a curated situation looking into the Richmond community to see what’s going to work really well here.

hardywood_iron reaganWhat is the next event your brewery is holding that you are most looking forward to?

We’re hosting PIG DESTROYER and IRON REAGEN on April 17, and that’s pretty exciting for a lot of people, myself included. That’s gonna be a ticketed show, and the tickets are on sale now.

Are you a big metal fan?

I like a lot of music. I like loud music for sure. When I go out to see shows, I want to be overtaken by it. So I like really forward, rapturous live music when I go out to see shows. Obviously, metal is not going to work for a public tasting room event at 5 o’clock in the afternoon unless it’s a special day, but I’m really excited that we have been experimenting and it’s been going alright with introducing that. In order to do something like  that, it does require trust with the bands because we are an atypical venue and there’s stuff around that’s critical, like the barrels, which you don’t usually find in a metal venue. There’s so much that you have to be cautious about, so I depend on my relationship with the bands to maintain a certain level of respect from their audience in that situation.

For more updates on Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, subscribe to their YouTube.