When life gives you a cidery, make beer. Such is the case for Twisted Ales Craft Brewing, Richmond’s newest brewery, which recently signed a lease for Blue Bee Cider’s old space in Manchester.
Co-owners Jason and Debbi Price project a May opening for the brewery and tasting room at 212 W. Sixth St. Since the property was already developed for Blue Bee’s cider-making, Jason Price anticipates easy permitting and limited remodeling. His initial five-barrel brew house and 10-barrel fermenters will allow for brewing and fermenting double batches. By pushing back walls, the Prices will increase the size of the tasting room. They’re also looking at building a deck outside.
“We’ve been planning on opening a brewery for a couple of years now,” Price says, singing a familiar brewing-entrepreneur refrain. After working a nine-to-five job as a software development manager, “I was looking for something more exciting and rewarding — being able to work for myself and not work for ‘the man,’” he says. “My wife encouraged me to start home brewing because she knew I had a passion for all things craft beer.”
Price brewed at home for three years. His beer did well in competitions, he acknowledges, “but that’s not why I’m brewing beer. I just want to create great-tasting beer.”
The entrepreneurial desire incorporates other family motives besides Debbi Price’s initial encouragement. “A driving force for us is to be able to work together every day,” he says. Price will manage the production side and Debbi, who’s completing her graduate business degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, will tackle the other half of the company.
Twisted Ales will hire an experienced brewer who has worked in a commercial environment — experience that Price acknowledges he lacks. “You get one shot to get out there, right? However many beers we have on tap [on opening] night, they’ve all got to be good.”
Price plans to focus first on hop-forward ales, including both West Coast and New England styles. “My favorite style is IPA,” he explains, “but I know that not everyone is into IPAs, so I will probably do some milder [versions].” He also plans to scale up his homebrew recipe for Blackberry Betty nut brown ale, a crowd-pleaser made with a nut-brown grain bill (the grains used to make the wort), blackberries and vanilla aged with bourbon oak spirals.
The Prices intend to distribute their beers, potentially with Brown Distributing.
“Besides the tasting room and brewery, we’re looking to expand rather quickly,” says Debbi, “to take the beer national and international.”
Rather than counting on tenacity alone, Debbi has been building knowledge and experience toward her goals, focusing her studies on entrepreneurship and international business, including projects with local breweries, such as Center of the Universe Brewing Co., Garden Grove Brewing Co., Ardent Craft Ales and Triple Crossing Brewing.
Although the Twisted Ale founders signed a letter of intent on a spot in Scott’s Addition more than a year ago, the financing fell through. “We decided it wasn’t the right time,” Price says, “By waiting, we were able to negotiate a better rate.”
Though Scott’s Addition is celebrated as the city’s current hot spot, with multiple breweries and cideries, a distillery, a meadery and other popular consumer-focused businesses, Price sees Manchester’s advantages. Debbi, who studied history in college, is enamored with the longevity of the old Aragon Coffee building, and although the couple knows that the building’s view may eventually be blocked by new construction, they’re looking forward to seeing Richmond’s skyline beyond Twisted Ales’s new deck.
And the area’s history connects with the brewery’s industrial revolution steam-punk branding, with cogs and gears dotting the logo, plus a tankard-toting iguana.
Price also sees hope for Manchester as the city’s next hot neighborhood and wants to build on the work that Legend has done and sees potential customers in the lofts that are opening in the area.
“Hopefully we can encourage more growth to help push that Manchester area to the next level,” he says. “We kind of want it to be the Scott’s Addition of the South Side.” twistedales.com. S