Virginia Is for Brewers

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As a movement, craft beer brewing is a relatively new one to hit the United States; but like dry kindling that meets a lit match, it’s caught rapid fire, giving the big boys a run for their money as people learn to appreciate the beauty of a handcrafted brew. Naturally, some areas of the country are more attuned to the growing trade; and while it can be an uphill battle, at the end of the day, it’s a worthwhile one. And for those with the passion to chase the dream, it’s something that creates a community and a legacy worth toasting.

licking Hole

Facing their own fair share of challenges when they were first established in 2013, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery was among the pioneers in the craft brewing industry in Virginia—especially when it came to their specific business model. Created as an agricultural farm with a brewery and a taproom, owner Lisa Pumphrey had visions of making the brand a truly “farm to glass” operation, sourcing much of the ingredients from her very own working farm and handling every step of the production process right on site.

“We use our own well water for every single brew and have a few pounds of our own farm-grown barley in each batch—some batches even contain 100 percent of an ingredient we grow on site,” says brand ambassador Chris Kotiza.

The name Lickinghole Creek—drawn directly from that of a small creek that runs nearby—simply can’t be uttered with a straight face. It’s not possible. And that, in a nutshell, could easily summarize the way that the company approaches the beer that they produce. For Lisa, a former wildlife conservationist, and her team, it’s a way to be creative and have fun; and as they experiment to craft the brews that hit production runs, they’re not afraid to present something wildly unexpected.

Among their best-selling core beers are, by Kotiza’s estimation, the Nuclear Nugget and Heir Apparent, respectively a West Coast IPA laced generously with locally sourced honey and a light-colored stout with chili peppers, cinnamon, and vanilla. Interesting infusions of flavor, to be sure; but with others whose names contain words like “Pie,” “Carrot Cake,” “Chocolate Obsession,” “German Chocolate Cake,” and even “French Toast,” it’s clear that Lickinghole Creek isn’t afraid to bring it. Throughout the year, Lickinghole offers between 35 to 40 brews or more that they send to distribution and serve in the taproom at the farm in Goochland, where guests can come to slake their thirst and indulge in some of their small plates while they take in the scenery and breathe in all that good, clean, country air.

Notch'd Brewery
Three Notch’d Brewery in Richmond, Virginia.

Operating with their own mad creativity on show is Three Notch’d Brewing Company, named in honor of a legendary colonial-era thoroughfare running east and west through central Virginia called Three Notch’d Road because it was given a distinctive marking of three notches burned or axed into trees to blaze the trail. And while Three Notch’d Brewing’s namesake might have been made famous by Jack Jouett’s midnight ride to Charlottesville in June of 1781, the craft brewery is famous for something else: blazing the beer scene.

Since opening their home base in Charlottesville in 2013, they now operate three additional locations in Richmond, Harrisonburg, and Roanoke, boasting two kitchens and brewery spaces and two “collab houses,” where they conceptualize, create, and test out the many beers they produce every year. In their past six years of operation, the label has produced in excess of 600 different beers, a feat made accomplishable by the fact that each of their four locations releases a different beer each week. Largely the brainchild of head brewmaster Dave Warwick, the beers are original, unique, flavorful, and sometimes downright wacky.

“He’s one of the best in the business, and he innovates constantly and brings an ever-evolving lineup of beers to our customers,” says President and Founder Scott Roth, who, in a former life was a restaurateur whose love of craft beer started in the late 90’s while he was bartending and managing an Irish pub with 46 draft lines. “That was a pretty rare thing at the time, and the exposure that I received to craft brewing there carried over,” he recalls.

His partners, George Kastendike and Derek Naughton, while having none of the same background as Roth, being—respectively—a consultant and entrepreneur in the energy industry and an IT professional, nonetheless both shared the same level of passion for craft beers, making the venture a dream come true for all of them. And while they certainly faced their fair share of trials, the trio (who also now share ownership with a large pool of investors) is happily raising a glass to their success thus far.

Capturing notice with core beers like their Minute Man IPA and 40 Mile IPA, they’ve also created a great following with rotating year-round series like their Gose Series and special releases like the Hazy IPA Nephrology Series as well as seasonal one offs. “My favorite beers to date are Jazzfest, a New Orleans-inspired pecan and sugarcane ale; Firefly Nights, a summer-inspired honeysuckle ale; and Michelle’s White Wedding, which is a white ale brewed with Chamomile tea,” says Roth.

oozlefinch-Brewer

Dedication to crafting quality brews is clearly becoming widespread throughout Virginia, and while Oozlefinch Craft Brewery may be serious about their work, seriousness flies out the window when it comes to exploring the limitless possibilities of beer. Named for a strange, large-eyed bird supposedly spotted outside the Fort Monroe Officers’ Club in 1905 by Captain H.M. Merriam, Oozlefinch aims to capture the same legendary status as that legendary bird; and while the brewery might have only been in official operation for a few years, it’s been a dream of founder Russell Tinsley’s for more than a decade.

Like many, Tinsley’s journey starts with home brewing; and after life threw him a curve in 2012, he left his job as a Newport News Police Department narcotics officer to put plans into motion to take his hobby and make it a reality. Officially founded in 2016, Oozlefinch has since become a popular brand for presenting what Tinsley refers to as “thought-provoking beers that challenge your palate.”

“It’s an art for us. My brewers don’t just toss ingredients together and hope for the best. Everything is carefully calculated and planned with a specific purpose…nothing is accidental, and they truly have it down to a science. We want to make the absolute best beer that we can,” Tinsley says of the Ft. Monroe-based brewery.

Among their best sellers, Tinsley lists their live sour goses, Berliners, barrel-aged beers, and hazy IPAs. And much like the quirkiness of their name would imply, they’ve got a few quirky brews in the mix. “You name it, we’ve probably attempted it, from a Banana Pancake Stout and a Raspberry Pie Berliner to a Blueberry Rye whiskey barrel-aged sour and a martini-style gose that has olive juice for salinity. They’re pretty much a party in your mouth!”

Boasting production of around 150 different beers in their past few years, Oozlefinch has plans of braching out even further to reach a wider wingspan with their distribution and make everyone believe the legend of their name.