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A guy once told me he saw the phrase “There are no windmills in Fort Collins” on a bumper sticker.

I wasn’t sure if he was full of shit, so I Googled it. No results. Now, I still can’t accurately determine whether this individual is indeed full of said shit, but I can take the gist of what he was saying about Colorado’s own New Belgium Brewing and run with it.

He’s from North Carolina, a state in which New Belgium has been distributed for quite some time, so what does that tell you? But the fact that the brewery has expanded into Virginia should also tell you something. It should tell you that as craft beer’s slice of the overall beer market’s pie grows, there will be some big winners.

Set aside your opinions of an environmentally-friendly organization shipping its product from the Rockies to the Appalachians. There’s another reason New Belgium’s entry into the Virginia beer market should be astonishing: their method of expansion.

When New Belgium decided they wanted their product on the shelves of beer stores in Virginia, they didn’t write pleading letters, make a slew of persistent phone calls, or draft emails at two-thirty in the morning begging distributors in the commonwealth to carry their product. No, they walked into this state with a team of experts, asking those distributors one question, “what can you do for us?”

One has to realize that the game has changed since the days of yore. A “craft” brewery such as New Belgium can indeed have the upper hand in negotiations for getting their beer to market. They scout their prospective targets, research the hell out of it, listen to distributor after distributor pitch a gimmick as to why they would be the best suited to carry such a mighty brand, and then deliver. These guys do their homework. Brands can have cachet. And as long as people keep buying, they’ll keep brewing.

No longer is it just the guy down the street with a mash paddle and a dream. It’s serious business, and the craft breweries that are thriving on a larger scale have figured that out. Trust me, before this thing went down, people were rolling out the red carpet for these guys. There were meetings all over town here in Richmond, and among the people who are legally entitled to be the middleman, the anticipation was high. Everyone knew it would be a cash cow, but the problem with that is the heifer needs a lot of attention because it wants to keep growing.

Fact of the matter is, customers had a relative target date as to when they’d be on the shelves in Virginia. Demand was there. It was just a matter of time before the brewery dictated the terms of the arrangement.

Maybe there are no windmills in Fort Collins because they’ve got no need to tilt at them. In a quixotic twist of fate, they’re now calling the shots.

Information has come down that Floyd County’s very own Shooting Creek Brewery will be shutting its doors for good. (The link to their website was not working at the time of this post.) Apparently assistant brewer Jason Anderson left the ranks back in the fall, which meant that brewmaster Brett Nichols has been going it alone since that time. It appears that personal matters have caused the farm to be sold and the brewery to be closed.

It’s a shame that this upstart brewery from Southwest Virginia that was beginning to gain steam, even making headway here in Richmond, has to call it quits. In a time of growth and expansion, the closing of Shooting Creek is certainly a setback for Virginia beer.

However, you can still request to get some of the last drops the brewery has to offer around town. Be sure to ask for it by name, before it’s all gone.

This is the time I’d normally take to provide a brief rundown of Legend Brewing Company turning 17 and remind you of their annual bash this afternoon at 3pm. But Tom over at Yours For Good Fermentables offers up an excellent read on the status of the brewery and gives us some breaking news as well, so head on over to YFGF and check it out.

I’ve reminded you readers of this important event, so my job is done. Your job is to make sure you head over to the brewery, get your tickets, and celebrate the success of our very own Richmond brewery!

Well, with the news of Haxall Brewing Company eventually bringing the brewpub back to downtown this summer, let it be noted that Hardywood Park Craft Brewery plans to hit Richmond mid-June. That’s right, more craft beer for the River City!

Hardywood Park is the brainchild of Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh. McKay, director of marketing for L. Knife & Son, has been behind successful beer-related items such as the BeerCloud mobile application and You can read more in their official press release.

This brings a new official brewery into the Richmond fold, something that has been long awaited by craft beer fans in the area.

I’m a busy guy, and it gets rather difficult to stay on top of everything that’s happening in the beer world, even when it comes to current events in the Commonwealth’s craft beer scene.

Nevertheless, big tip o’ the hat to Tom and Jim, two loyal readers of this blog that emailed me to let me know that I’ve been asleep at the wheel a little bit. While I was aware that folks like O’Connor Brewing have been making some waves in Norfolk, or that Blue Lab Brewing has started up in Lexington, I didn’t bother to update the Beer in Virginia page.

But thanks to these fine gents, I have done just that. By my count, we’ve got 34 active craft breweries and brewpubs in the state of Virginia. Not bad at all. One more once Haxall Brewing gets up and running. And it’s a couple more if you want to throw in the facilities of Anheuser-BuschInBev and MillerCoors.

If that count happens to be wrong, shoot me an email and tell me why. Or if you have a compelling reason or logical argument as to why the industrial brewers should be added to the list, I’m all ears via email or in the comments. I ask, should I include them?

I’m always up for getting feedback and keeping the Beer in Virginia list up to date. Thanks for your support!

Get your livers ready. Apparently, there’s a new brewpub coming to town, and it’s called Haxall Brewing Company.

By summer 2011, we should see Haxall pumping out beers for the thirsty masses here in the River City. Their main website doesn’t appear to be up and running yet, so check the Facebook link above for more details.

Located at 11 South 21st Street, this may be downtown’s answer to the gaping hole left by Richbrau. Only time will tell.

Not much else is known about this place, other than it’s brought to you by the owners of Fish Bowl Bistro & Bar. I’ll keep you posted as more information rolls in. Until then, keep an eye out for this potential new craft beer hot spot.

It takes a lot to impress me these days. I’m not sure what it is, really. It could be a by-product of getting older, or I may have always been a jaded curmudgeon at heart. Whatever the reason, my faith in craft beer has been lifted to new heights thanks to the results coming out of Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church, Virginia.

The thing about Mad Fox that makes it so great, aside from the beer, is that it nails the intangibles. What do I mean? I’m talking about the elements that make up the soul of an establishment. After all, it’s just brick and mortar. So what makes it a place worth visiting?

Start with the attentive but not intrusive service on a crowded Friday night (and the place is no tiny hole in the wall, mind you). Then notice the way the televisions are set high and recessed so as not to detract from the beauty of the wooden bar. Observe the draft taps, hidden from plain sight, yet the casks are there for all to see.

Oh, and sip the beer. Sample it, savor it, really take it all in. What they’ve got going on at Mad Fox is not to be overlooked. The Orange Whip IPA was a fantastically hopped beer that nearly hit the threshold of obscene bitterness and backed away, still delivering the promised citrus character. The Wee Heavy was a well-rounded affair featuring notes of toffee and dark fruit. And lest we forget the Fennec Ale (a Bitter, I believe), which was a straight-up session beer if I’ve ever seen one.

Perusing the beer menu, most of the offerings hover around five percent alcohol by volume, give or take a couple points. It appeared that only the Orange Whip and Wee Heavy cracked the seven percent mark. The focus was beer. Not extreme. Not high-alcohol. Just well-made beer.

Add to that mix a couple of good friends and great conversation. You’ve got a recipe for success. No wonder it was so crowded.

Nestled in the River Arts District, there is a brewery known as Wedge. Although you might not ever know it if, like me, you passed by the facility a few times before finally finding out that you have to go around back to park and enter. Then you notice the Saved By The Bell themed logo. The Wedge building is shaped exactly how it sounds, and it houses a number of art studios. The brewery is at the smaller end.

Locating a brewery in such a setup doesn’t seem to make much sense, but when you peer behind the plexiglass and see the tanks stacked as closely as possible along two sides of either wall, it sort of comes together. At a capacity of only 1,300 barrels, Wedge has difficulty keeping up with consumer demand. But when it’s on at the pub, at least you know it’s fresh. Despite all the love they’ve gotten from the local community and outside beer geeks alike, they have no plans to expand. And frankly, they couldn’t in their current arrangement.

Carl Melissas, the head brewer, was kind enough to take some time out of his hectic brewing schedule to chat me up about their beers. As I sampled a flight of what they had on tap, I was pleased with the way their approach to classic styles. Their Julian Price Pilsner was crisp and refreshing, same with the Belgian Witbier. Payne’s Pale Ale and Iron Rail IPA were hoppy yet carried enough malt balance to be enjoyable.

But my favorite of them all, at least of what I was able to sample, was their Community Porter. Even in the stagnant, heavy heat of summer, this porter was incredible. Carl told me it’s an organic beer, and that they use carob and maple syrup to add complexity. It certainly shines. Full bodied but imminently drinkable, this is one I wouldn’t sleep on. I don’t care if you’re in Death Valley at the apex of summer – ask for a pint of it!

Although I missed out on some of the other beers that help make the Wedge an excellent brewery to those in the know, I still had a full palate experience and enjoyed every minute of it. I can’t say, in one of those unequivocal tones, one of those “if you only hit one spot in Asheville…” sort of things. I will say though, that if you skip it, you’ll be kicking yourself all the way back to wherever you came from.

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