In 2001, Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh dreamed up the idea of starting a craft brewery using local ingredients. A decade later, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery is a reality in Richmond's North Side.
McKay and Murtaugh's adventures in ale began on the other side of the globe, where McKay was studying in Sydney, Australia. When Murtaugh, a friend since childhood, went to visit him Down Under, the two discovered their passion for brewing at a sheep station called Hardywood Park. There, they took part in activities such as herding sheep, feeding a baby kangaroo and, most significantly, home brewing. "It was like having an epiphany," McKay says. "When we realized the different tastes and flavors one can achieve with handcrafted beer, we knew this was something we wanted to get into and introduce to people."
The two friends landed jobs as sales representatives for Union Beer Distributors in New York City, where they learned the retail side of the business along with brewing. McKay received a master's degree in business administration from Fordham University in New York, while Murtaugh became a full-time brewing student at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, then earned his master brewer certification at Germany's renowned Doemens Academy. When the brewery concept was ready to take shape, they decided on Richmond as the best place to set it up, although the founders are from the Northeast. "We wanted to be a more commercial-based brewery rather than a pub, so we needed a lot of space, and the real estate was better in Virginia," McKay says. "Plus, Richmond hosts the ideal demographic for our product with such a friendly community."
The brewers have incorporated regional ingredients into their beer. The Gingerbread Stout, for instance, uses honey from Bearer Farms in Oilville and ginger from Casselmonte Farm in Powhatan. The brewery, which opened Oct. 6 on Ownby Lane, has tasting-room hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Beers such as the Hardywood Singel, a Belgian Abbey-style blonde ale, are also appearing around the region. "We have about 70 bars and restaurants carrying our beers, and about 20 stores," McKay says. In April, the brewery plans to add several fermenting tanks so it can double production