With Legend Brewing Co.’s recent announcement of a satellite location in Portsmouth, that makes six breweries with Richmond connections that are opening other places. Three are expanding outside of the city while three are making a second home here.
Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association trade group, says she’s seeing the trend across the nation.
“You can reproduce greatness from the original location to a satellite location as long as the authenticity of the original location is carried over,” Herz says. “When doubling down, these breweries are making a conscious effort to have the [same] vibe and feel.”
That’s the model that Legend is adopting. Rather than merely building a tasting room, says Dave Gott, Legend’s vice president of operations, the new space will host a full restaurant like it does at the Richmond location.
And like its parent, the new site will boast a patio with a view of the water and nearby city skyline on the first floor of the distinctive Seaboard Coastline Building, a historic train station built in 1894.
“The area has a lot of history, and history is important to us,” Gott says. “When we saw the building, we felt like it was us — a strip mall or warehouse just wouldn’t be us.”
The plan is for the new brewery’s three-barrel system to produce varieties with local flavor — Legend’s oyster stout is meant to embrace Portsmouth’s maritime connection.
Brewing companies typically grow by increasing customers traffic to the brewery or by expanding distribution. Satellite locations provide a third way to expand.
“We found it harder and harder to sell draft beer on a regular basis,” Gott says. “Customers [in Hampton Roads] want to try our beer, but we have a hard time getting it to them.”
“Expansion breweries still have the same challenges,” says Brett Vassey of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, “but they have the benefits of experience and brand recognition that can give them an advantage in new markets.”
In some states, Herz notes, a brewery can operate a separate taproom without brewing on the premises. Not so in Virginia.
“A brewery cannot serve its own products in a second location unless it also brews in that location,” says Kathleen Shaw, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. If you’ve ever wondered why Extra Billy’s on Broad Street can’t sell the beer brewed at the Extra Billy’s spot in Midlothian, now you know.
Besides Legend, three other Richmond breweries are launching new locations.
Besides its large Goochland expansion, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery is putting the finishing touches on a tasting room at 10th and West Main streets in Charlottesville, with a three-and-a-half-barrel brewery and a 1,100-square-foot taproom and outdoor beer garden.
“As we’ve learned in Richmond,” Hardywood co-founder Eric McKay says, “our taproom is the most impactful vehicle for sharing our story.”
In September, Strangeways Brewing announced a second spot in a large building that once housed founder Neil Burton’s family business in his hometown of Fredericksburg. Using a 10-barrel system, the brewery plans to produce a variety of small-batch beers, bringing the total on draft there to 50, reflecting Stangeways’ large Richmond taproom.
“It’s our way of expanding into the Northern Virginia market,” Burton says.
Center of the Universe Brewing Co. is adding a new tasting room a mere 5miles from the mother station. Dubbed Origin Beer Lab, the three-barrel brewing system in dowtown Ashland will allow COTU brewers to experiment with specialty beers, including sours.
Two established Virginia breweries — Three Notch’d Brewing Co. and Champion Brewing Co. — are setting up secondary shops here.
The Charlottesville-based Three Notch’d opened its first satellite site in Harrisonburg. The homebrew-sized system at the new location ruffled some feathers. Area bars and other breweries saw the tiny system as a ruse to meet legal requirements, while still allowing Three Notch’d to bring in its own beer. The now-open Scott’s Addition location has a larger system.
To Three Notch’d co-founder Scott Roth, collaboration houses help promote local distribution. “They provide us the opportunity to bring people into our space, to understand our culture,” he says, “[and] give us an opportunity to showcase what we can do.”
Champion is expanding its concept from a tasting room in Charlottesville to a pub in Richmond. The new location on East Grace Street also will serve as host to Richmond restaurateurs Jason Alley and Michele Jones, co-owners of Comfort and Pasture, who will operate Sur Taco and Sandwich there.
Opening other sites is no guarantee of a smooth launch to continued success, as demonstrated by Stone Brewing’s Oct. 13 company-wide layoff of 5 percent of its work force. But a satellite location does offer a wider beer selection for locals.
And that’s worth a few celebratory trips around the sun. S