Photo courtesy of Matt Tarpey
Owner Matt Tarpey outside of The Veil Brewing Co.'s warehouse on Dabney Road: the space that will host barrel aging and blending for many beers, including a spontaneous fermentation (sour beer) project.
[3/28 Update: The Veil Brewing Co. opens on Saturday, April 16, with a party that begins at 11 a.m.]
It's a little early for Matt Tarpey. In a faded grey Willett Distillery shirt, he's focused on his coffee as he walks me through his new project, The Veil Brewing Co., and how he got to Richmond through beer. Five minutes in, it’s more than evident that he’s impassioned about his next adventure.
Tarpey, a musician turned brewer, expects to have the fully functional Veil Brewing up and running by November — a laudable task if there ever was one for a brewery in two parts: the first, an 11,000-square-foot production facility and tasting room in Scott's Addition. The second, a 4,600-square-foot warehouse for barrel aging and blending, sits on Dabney Road not far from another Richmond beermaker, Strangeways Brewing. Tarpey's brewery is named after the pellicle, a thin layer that forms on top of a sour beer, and will boast a 15-barrel, three-vessel Premier Stainless Systems model, hopefully allowing for Tarpey and his two partners, Dustin Durrance — who will act as tasting room manager — and Dave Michelow — owner of Barrel Thief and the “finance guy” — to produce between 2,800 and 3,400 barrels of beer in their first year.
The first beers will be hoppy, using hops from Willamette and Haas. As the trio eases itself into the new setup, there will be kettle sours (made by souring beer in the boil kettle, preventing further infections in the fermenting vessel); stouts; and high-gravity beers (oft referred to as “big beers” due to the high original gravity, or measures of fermentable or un-fermentable substance in wort, and not to be confused with final gravity, which determines alcohol percentage).
Tarpey’s resume reads like a who’s who in beer. Growing up in the Hampton/Norfolk area, it's fitting that he began his career at O'Connor Brewing Co. From there, he moved to Portsmouth Brewery, where by his count, under the tutelage of Tod Mott, he brewed around 45 different beer styles. He counts Mott as one of his biggest mentors and is quick to say that he shaped him as a young brewer with little experience. While in Mott’s employ, Portsmouth Brewery collaborated with The Alchemist brewery for Tarnation, a hoppy stout, allowing Tarpey to meet Alchemist owner John Kimmich. When a job became available, Tarpey took the opportunity. Tarpey maintains that during the year he was there, he brewed over one-third of the brewery's award-winning beers. While at the Alchemist, Tarpey was able to meet Jean van Roy, a fourth-generation brewer at Cantillon, a brewery in Belgium whose spontaneously fermented lambics are considered some of the best in the world. Befriending van Roy, Tarpey spent two weeks in Belgium learning how the small family-owned brewery became world-renowned.
As quickly as the Alchemist job presented itself, so did a new brewery position and within a year, he found himself in the role of assistant brewer under head brewer, Shaun Hill. Hill's quick rise to celebrity via his work at Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, Vermont, is nothing short of amazing, with his brewery receiving multiple accolades including best brewery in the world in 2013.
"Tarpey brought levity to an often chaotic and strenuous work environment; his sense of humor and karaoke skills are dearly missed by all of us here," says Hill. "He possesses a critical and discriminating palate that should serve him well in the future. His ability to delegate suggests his capacity as a leader."
Now in Richmond to be closer to his family and help grow the beer scene, Tarpey hopes to mirror his career's previous success, in the River City. He's complimentary of the emerging beer community and the camaraderie he's witnessed at The Answer Brewpub and Triple Crossing Brewing Co., and he's thankful for help he's received from Ardent Craft Ales. But opening The Veil by November is a daunting task, regardless of how supportive the community is. When asked which beer he's drinking while getting his brewery off the ground, he laughs and acknowledges he's been needing something a little stronger: bourbon.
The Veil Brewing Co.'s taproom is expected to open by November at 1301 Roseneath Road in Scott's Addition.