Then the beer became a celebration of marriage equality when four years ago, a casual conversation between Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Virginia Pride cannonballed into branding a beer together: Tropic Like It’s Hot.
The sour ale, with a refreshing finish that makers describe as tart and dry, is served in a rainbow-colored tallboy can that’s now distributed across stores and bars in Richmond. It mixes tropical fruits in the name of Pride and Lyft, which provides a discount code for a safe drive home.
This collaboration also resulted in Love on Tap, a free, family-friendly event featuring food, booze and entertainment that commemorates the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision to nationally recognize and guarantee the right to same-sex marriage. But the festivities are about more than just that — its fourth anniversary at Hardywood this Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m., gives Richmond an opportunity to be a part of something that recognizes national LGBT month while waiting for PrideFest in September.
Last year, organizers added LGBT-owned and allied vendors to the event, allowing business owners to market their products completely free of cost — all they have to do is provide their own 10-by-10 tent. Lori News, director at large of Virginia Pride, takes care of the rest.
“We kind of just look for a balance of vendors that offer quality goods or services, are based in RVA or the surrounding communities and just want to give back to the LGBT community,” News says.
Finding these vendors is a combination of word-of-mouth, reaching out to the community and social media groups like RVA Makers, Boss Babes and RVA Queer Exchange. As a self-proclaimed jam fanatic, News looks forward to seeing “Dayum, This Is My Jam,” a local vendor that sells — you guessed it — jars of jam.
For shopping, goers have Jini & Tonic for custom-made pins, Little Nomad for stylish kids’ clothes and treats for the family dog at Cool Canines Pet Care Services, among other vendors. La Bête food truck offers a Carribean-Creole mix while Go Go Vegan Go offers a plant-based take on meaty favorites. And this can all be enjoyed with pop-funk bands or drag performances playing in the background.
While Virginia Pride may be most well known for its Pride Festival in September, News says the organization also gives back to the community with its donations. This includes supporting other groups, establishing outreach programs and building scholarships of up to $10,000. A percentage of Hardywood’s sales on Saturday go toward these initiatives.
“It’s just an energy that really can’t be contained into one performance, one event, one day,” Erin Brunner, event coordinator for Hardywood, says of Love on Tap. “It’s so fun feeling like everyone is bringing that energy from this event out into the rest of the world and into the community.”
While James Millner, president of Virginia Pride, says it’s “a real celebration,” he hopes people come away with this:
There’s still a lot of work to be done.
He references the reality of multiple states and communities in which LGBTQ people continue being physically, socially and legally vulnerable. In Virginia specifically, it’s currently legal to fire — or refuse to hire — someone on the basis of sexual orientation.
“I think it’s important to say ‘OK, we can absolutely take this moment to celebrate and we can absolutely take this moment to recognize those who’ve gotten us to this point,’” Millner says. “But I think we also need to look at ourselves and say ‘I need to pick the baton up from here and move it forward.’”
Millner’s favorite parts of Love on Tap? It’s not just for the LGBTQ community. He’s found it fosters understanding, compassion and awareness.
News echoes this statement, recalling a 10-to-12 year-old boy dancing with his friends at last year’s event.
“It was probably the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” News says. “You could feel that he was comfortable in the community and felt at home. That’s really what makes me want to keep doing this. Just seeing that.”
The collaboration with Hardywood allows Virginia Pride to reach beyond the LGBTQ community, Millner says. With this comes an opportunity to create a conversation about inclusivity and diversity, even if an individual originally came to Hardywood that day just for their favorite IPA.
“When you find common ground … you find yourselves standing next to people who are not like you in some ways,” Millner says. “But you realize you’re there because you came for the same reason, and sometimes, it’s as simple as the fact that you came to get a beer.”
Love on Tap
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
2408 Ownby Lane
Sunday, June 23
1 - 6 p.m.