Photo courtesy of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Hardywood West, the brewery's new $28 million facility, is expected to open in Goochland in phases over the next five years
It’s 8:21 p.m. and Patrick Murtaugh is having a margarita. This half of the braintrust behind Hardywood Park Craft Brewery has had a long day. At 2 p.m. yesterday, with little fanfare, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Murtaugh, and Murtaugh's childhood friend and Hardywood business partner, Eric McKay, announced their plans for Hardywood West, a $28 million brewery development that will open its first phase in 2017 and add 56 new jobs in Goochland.
The project will live behind the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation headquarters, on a 24-acre plot of land in the office subdivision known as West Creek Business Park. Murtaugh and McKay haven’t kept the fact that they needed to expand a secret. This year, the Ownby Lane location is expected to produce 15,000 barrels via its 20-barrel system; the new facility's 60-barrel system and fermentation tanks will initially allow for a capacity between 40,000 and 50,000 barrels. For comparison, Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co., the largest brewery in Virginia, is projecting 120,000 barrels for the upcoming year. Eventually, Murtaugh says, he hopes Hardywood West will reach a capacity of more than 100,000 barrels annually. For those keeping score at home, capacity is the total amount of beer barrels that can be produced, should everything go exactly right; production is what what is actually made, based on demand.
The new Goochland facility will include "brewing and packaging facilities, a taproom and beer garden, agricultural fields, a food truck plaza, bocce courts, a natural amphitheater for live performances and walking paths connecting to a planned creekside trail system," according to a press release, more than tripling the brewery's current capabilities from the start.
Where will all this beer go? Murtaugh isn't worried about growing Hardywood's reach, and says that, still, there is so much beer to be had in Virginia. “We haven’t decided exactly which markets to enter with our expanded capacity, but North Carolina will most likely be one of them. There is still a lot of potential for growth within the state of Virginia." Devil’s Backbone recently expanded its distribution to North Carolina, as well.
Photo by Shaun Johnson
Members of the Hardywood team pose near the future site of the new brewery
The new 60,000-square-foot facility will be funded in phases over the next five years, primarily through private investment but with some aid from various state grants approved by Gov. McAuliffe. Initially, there will be a $12-to-$13-million investment in land, equipment, a brewing facility and landscaping. These initial funds are a combination of reinvested profits from Hardywood Park and bank financing.
The new brewery will boast aspects that the original space does not have, including a sour facility with a coolship in the project’s second phase. Essentially a shallow trough or pan (think large kiddie pool), a coolship allows for the expedition of open-air fermentation. Fermentation only occurs when the boiled liquid (after the spices or hops, etc. have been added) becomes cooled. Well-known Belgian breweries such as Cantillon and Lindemans have used coolships, or "koelschip," to attract wild yeast and spontaneously ferment beer. Coolships in the United States are relatively rare; Allagash Brewing Co. was one of the first in the country to use a traditional coolship system, according to the Maine brewery, employing the practice in 2008. The nearest to Richmond, and just recently beginning the process, is Bluejacket Brewery in Washington, D.C.
And what's to become of Hardywood's original Ownby Lane location? According to Murtaugh, it will become a space dedicated to smaller, experimental beer production, with an enhanced visitor experience.
“We are going to continue to invest in our Richmond location as a creative incubator for new beers and collaborations," says Murtaugh. "Very little will change there."
For now, on Monday night, it is tacos, nachos and burritos, and maybe one more margarita. He's earned it.