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Virginia is for (Beer) Lovers

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In a vacant warehouse forgotten in a dried-up Virginia neighborhood that over a century earlier had been Richmond’s German Brewing District, two childhood friends teamed up to make some of the United State’s best beer. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery sprang out of Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh’s desire to brew with a purpose. When it began operation in 2011, Hardywood was one of only two breweries in Richmond. At the time, Virginia laws prohibited them from selling their own beer in their taproom, but soon they were able to open the taps and pour cold ones for their fellow Virginians. 

Hardywood has helped make a name for Richmond as a pilgrimage site for craft-beer enthusiasts from all over the world. The brewery also brings tourism and attention back to the underserved neighborhood of their first brewhouse. Now the once-empty warehouse serves as a taproom and 20-barrel brewhouse, and they invested in a $28 million  60-barrel brewhouse in the West Creek area of Richmond. Even as they continue to grow, McKay and Murtaugh are committed to brewing with a purpose. That means a dedication to quality, brewing with local ingredients, respecting the environment, engaging with their community, and giving back to the people of Virginia.

With accolades from The Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup, and Australian International Beer Awards, Hardywood’s quality speaks for itself, but don’t think their just in it for the trophies, Kate Lee, Vice President of Operations and Quality, shared, “It isn’t just about making great beer, it’s about making great beer consistently. It’s the perfect mix of art and science.” When you taste the distinct local flavor they instill in every pint, you’ll understand why Brewmaster Patrick Murtaugh was so inspired by the diverse landscape and culture of Virginia. Hardywood proudly brews with more ingredients from Virginian farmers than any other craft brewery, and they’ve been able to do this by constantly building new relationships with the farmers around Virginia. They’re so close with farmers that they even host farmer’s markets.

One of the first beers they ever brewed, the Award-winning Gingerbread Stout (GBS), all started when farmer, Bill Cox, of Cassellmonte Farms knocked on their door. They didn’t know who Cox was or what the green stalks were in his hands, but they let him in and tasted what turned out to be fresh Hawaiian baby ginger. Using wildflower honey from Bearer Farms, they brewed up a few test batches of GBS and, since they couldn’t legally sell beer yet, handed out samples to a few people at the brewery. The beer would go on to receive high scores from Beer Advocate, and helped foster relationships with local farmers. Hardywood’s Root Series and small-batch beers include locally sourced ingredients ranging from Virginian pumpkins to local spices. Tapping into local ingredients not only ensures there’s a little bit of Virginia in every cup, but by supporting local farmers, Hardywood cuts down on their environmental impact by cutting the energy consumed in shipping and transportation.

Through a partnership with Dominion Virginia Green Power Program, Hardywood Park became the first brewery in Virginia to get its power from 100% renewable sources. All the energy used to power their brewhouses, taprooms, and wall outlets come entirely from a combination of solar, biomass, and wind. Spent grain from the brewing process goes back to some of the farmers Hardywood works with, and they use the grains as compost or feed to help ensure that nothing goes to waste. The combination of these sustainability efforts led to their recognition as Virginia Green Brewery of the Year in 2015.

McKay and Murtaugh’s commitment to a positive impact on their environment extends to the way they treat their neighbors and the communities around them. Hardywood supports several local and national nonprofit organizations with annual donations to The James River Association, The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation, Ales for ALS, and many more. Plus they host local events and festivals in their taprooms to bring people together, while giving a space for musicians, artists, and crafters to unite with their community. With both taprooms reopened in time for the Gingerbread Stout season and the release of their Farmhouse Pumpkin Ale, you can watch the leaves change with a beer in each hand.

Writer Clayton Crawford conducting thorough research on location.


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