Photo by Jay Paul
Tom Martin arrives hot and out of breath from the brewery downstairs from his restaurant and orders a beer. Or should the restaurant be considered upstairs from Martin's brewery? When Legend Brewing Co. opened 20 years ago in Manchester, Martin had to sell food in order to sell beer on site. A lot has changed since the '90s, but the brewery that taught Richmonders the difference between a lager and a brown ale is still going strong.
Where did you get the idea to start a microbrewery?
I grew up around breweries; my dad worked for Anheuser-Busch, and I was always around them. There were a few small breweries starting up in California. There was a very small one called New Albion, and that was the original mini microbrewery. It didn't last very long, but it gave people lots of ideas that it might be possible to make small breweries work.
Local Beer Package
Where did the name come from? It took a while to get to that name — I just didn't think "Tom's Beer" had quite the right ring to it. [Smiles.] I was at the old Main Street Grill and was toying with the idea of using Celtic myths and legends for the concept for the pub, but the name just wasn't coming together. One of the waiters there, a guy named Raphael, said, "Why not just call it ‘Legend'?" And that's when we all said, "Well! That's a good idea." Simple, straightforward: Legend Brewing. What was it like starting out? It was tough at first — and it was tough in the middle, and it's still tough. The very first keg we sold was some brown ale that went to Commercial Taphouse. We started out with lager, pilsner, brown ale and porter. We've added more to our year-round lineup, and seasonal specials and Urban Legend specials. We stay away from the heavier styles — I like beers you can drink that don't make you thirsty. What would your advice be to small breweries gearing up now? I recommend that you go out and get rich first and then start a microbrewery, because it would be a lot less stressful. For the rest of us, I would say persevere and keep brewing good beer.