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Interview: Gov. McAuliffe Sees No End in Sight for Virginia Beer

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You could credit Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Irish heritage for his support of the Virginia beer industry. His administration helped woo three large West Coast breweries to the commonwealth — Stone Brewing Co., Ballast Point and Deschutes Brewery. The number of Virginia breweries now exceeds 150 and last year’s production rose to 274,000 barrels.

McAuliffe also has vowed to become the first governor to visit all of the state’s breweries. Perhaps most apropos, he installed a Kegerator in the Executive Mansion, which he regularly uses to entertain guests, including representatives from those West Coast breweries, as well as Tom Hanks, Bill Clinton, Meg Ryan, Bo Derrick, the Washington Redskins and about 100 ambassadors from around the globe.

Style recently sat down for an interview with the governor, along with Todd Haymore and Cassidy Rasnick, the secretary and assistant secretary of agriculture and forestry, at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.

Style: Why such an emphasis on supporting breweries?

McAuliffe: In Virginia now, we have 155 craft breweries. The reason I love it is they buy local agriculture products, which helps all of our farmers. In addition to that, our tourism business last year — 40 million individuals visited Virginia, $26 billion of revenue. Craft business is a huge part of it.

I was out on Sunday, we went by Stone. It was jammed. We went over to the Veil. It was jammed. We go to Legend a lot. We were at Isley the other day. [Mike Isley] had never been in the beer business before, and he’s doubled his projections. They’re all packed — it’s great for Virginia, it’s great for tourism, it’s great for our local farmers.

And look at Scott’s Addition — it’s really transformed that area.

It makes Richmond a hot city. With two big companies I’m trying to bring into Virginia, I talk about the craft breweries, our wineries. It adds to the whole picture of why we’re a great place to bring a business.

This is how you grow the economy.

How has your administration been able to encourage this?

McAuliffe: We’ve really recruited some of the big stars, and every time you get one of those, there’s a lot of press generated. We market it very heavily, as we do all of our Virginia assets.

Haymore: We’ve partnered with Hardywood, Blue Bee, Stone, Deschutes, Ballast Point, Black Hops Farm, Pilot Malt House, Copper Fox and Big Trouble Malting and Spirits [through agriculture and forestry industries development grants].

Did you get any traction for Virginia beer exports during your recent trade mission?

Haymore: [American-beer importers] have got Hardywood and a few others targeted. With the new [Southeast Asian] trade representative, the governor got us in the budget.

McAuliffe: And we’ve got our deep port, which helps Richmond because we have the inland port. We’ve got all the pieces.

What’s been your proudest moment in supporting Virginia beer?

McAuliffe: I think landing Stone. It was very, very competitive. We really worked that one hard.

Has your personal appreciation for beer changed?

McAuliffe: I’m now a huge craft beer advocate. What I love is that they’re all very unique tastes, so every time you go it’s a little bit of a different experience. I love the whole ambiance, the whole experience, having fun.

How’s your goal of visiting all of Virginia’s breweries coming?

McAuliffe: They’re opening so fast, it’s making it hard even for an Irishman like me to get it done!

Any legislative changes in the works?

Haymore: We’re looking at few things, maybe self-distribution.

Is the industry becoming saturated?

McAuliffe: Craft beer is such a small part of the market, there’s a lot of room for growth. Unlike just going into a store and buying a six-pack of beer, this is an experience for folks. And it’s not going away.

Any news on the horizon?

McAuliffe: There are 30 more breweries in the works.

Haymore: [By the end of the governor’s term], I think you will hear something about an out-of-state brewery or two investing here. Will they be on the magnitude of what he’s helped secure? Probably not. The April trade mission involved [talking with an overseas brewery], so there’s a chance you might see a foreign investment.

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