Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh can keep a secret. When news of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery's $28 million expansion in Goochland County's West Creek hit last week, a collective gasp went up from the beer community.
Expansion someday, sometime seemed inevitable for the company, but the invitation to the news conference was cryptic: "Goochland County cordially invites you to join the Honorable Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia, and the Honorable Todd P. Haymore, secretary of agriculture and forestry, for an important economic development announcement." What was coming?
It turns out that the 24-acre parcel soon will be home to Hardywood's second site, a large brewery complex to be built in two phases. In contrast, the Stone Brewing Co. plant and restaurant to be built in Fulton will occupy 14 acres at cost of $74 million, with the city contributing more than $23 million.
The first phase, which will break ground this fall and open in the spring of 2017, will include a large production and packaging plant, a tasting room and lots of parking. An amphitheater, beer garden, food truck court and a wild fermentation room are planned for phase two. A restaurant — far in the future — is under consideration, but there are no plans yet.
The space on Ownby Lane in the city will become a lab of sorts, a place to try out different things and work on limited-run varieties. The food truck courts will remain and there are no plans to slow down the events so popular with Richmonders.
Style sat down with McKay and Murtaugh to learn more:
Style: When did you reach the point where you knew you had to expand?
Murtaugh: We knew from the beginning we'd have to expand someday. Our plans were always to be regional.
McKay: If you produce more than 15,000 barrels, you're considered a regional brewery [as opposed to a microbrewery]. That's according to the Brewers Association.
Murtaugh: We kept brewing more and more.
McKay: It took us a while to realize we'd reached capacity. Lagers ferment a lot longer and so do some others. It took us a couple of years for our projections to become reality.
Murtaugh: About a year ago we started looking for space — we'd let it sit on the back burner for a long time. There was less storage here than we expected — bottles and boxes were everywhere.
How has opening Hardywood affected your lives?
Murtaugh: Oh, in every way possible. I moved here from New York and Eric came down here in 2009. It was a big lifestyle change.
McKay: In the simplest sense, it's enabled us to fulfill a dream that we worked 10 years toward. It almost feels like it's coming together in a greater way than we ever hoped. It's also, of course, forced us to take on more responsibility — taking on lots of debt and all the liabilities that come with it. It can be a little daunting. It's helped us grow up quickly.
It's been said that you were also looking in North Carolina — were you serious about that? Where were you looking?
McKay: Three of our investors live there, plus my parents are moving there.
Murtaugh: And then there's some very favorable distribution laws in North Carolina. … We were looking primarily in the Raleigh-Durham area.
McKay: Our original business plan had us building in the Charlotte area. One reason we liked Charlotte was that it was similar to Richmond. At the time we wrote it, there were zero breweries in Charlotte.
How did Richmond win out?
McKay: We started some casual conversations with the folks at the Department of Agriculture and they led to more serious discussions and eventually to the economic development deal. [Hardywood is receiving $2 million from the state and county toward the project.] That deal was the differentiator for us. It made staying in Virginia a no-brainer.
Murtaugh: We felt like there was a strong commitment from the state and from Goochland County after our discussions with them to keep us here in Virginia. But other than the economic incentives offered, we have strong ties to Richmond and Virginia.