by Paul Spencer
Aloha, craft beer enthusiasts. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery is here to help you say goodbye to summer, with a Belgian-style tripel with hibiscus. Here’s the catch: Richmonders will have take a trip to Short Pump to find it. It’s an exclusive brew for Trader Joe’s, a Monrovia, California grocery chain.
There’s one way for city-dwellers to avoid hitting the highway. The beer is also on tap at Hardywood’s location on Ownby Lane.
Still, beer aficionados might wonder why collaborate with a national chain at all? Sure, Hardywood has collaborated with larger institutions before — Forbidden Beer with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, for example. But that was local. This is new territory. Head brewer Brian Nelson says Hardywood had a lot of freedom in the process.
“We had some Trader Joe’s reps stop by for a tasting, and they raised the idea of a branded collaboration,” Nelson says. “They left the labeling and style up to us. I felt pretty comfortable with other craft collaborations they’d done, and they carry our flagship beers already.”
Nelson says capturing the flavor of hibiscus flowers was a bit of a challenge. Hibiscus is a tart and sour ingredient, so brewers decided to make an herbal tea, which was then added to a Belgian brew.
The distribution range is more extensive than usual. Expect to see Hibiscus Tripel popping up at select Trader Joe’s locations along the East Coast. Nelson says this is part of the expansion plan for Hardywood, which surprised fans in late July with an announcement for a $28 million facility in Goochland County.
“Looking for new markets is huge for us, because we don’t have distribution in many of these states,” says Nelson. That made the collaboration worth it, he says.
The brew will be sold in 750 milliliter bottles, and it has 8.2% alcohol content. That’s tart enough to make even a purist smile.