We're starting a new series featuring the good people of one of our favorite cities - Richmond, Virginia. In this series, we'll be highlighting the stories of some of Richmond's movers and shakers and their trades.
The first interview is with our good friends at the internationally renowned Hardywood Brewery. The hospitality, drive, care for community, and commitment to quality of these gentlemen is unrivaled and is completely transparent in their business and product.
Meet Patrick and Eric - the masterminds behind the brew!
Tell us how you came up with the name Hardywood, and explain the story behind it.
Patrick: The name Hardywood Park Craft Brewery comes from a sheep station in Australia called Hardywood Park, owned by the Crawford family, where Eric and I were first introduced to hand-crafted beer. We had an opportunity to spend some time there back in 2001 and were inspired to start home brewing after tasting some of David Crawford's beer.
Brewing is a science. There’s a method to creating a recipe. Walk me through how you create a special recipe from START to FINISH. How do you decide on an idea, to the different tastes you want in it, and so on?
Patrick: In creating a recipe, we first decide on the base style of beer we want to brew and exactly how, or if, we would like to deviate from this style. This decision depends on many things, ranging from what we feel would compliment our existing portfolio, to trying out a flavor profile that has never been brewed before. Sometimes inspiration for a new beer comes from outside sources, like the time a local farmer walked into our front doors with several stalks of his baby white ginger and subsequently meeting a bee keeper who introduced us to his wildflower honey. This interaction birthed the world’s first commercially brewed Gingerbread Stout.
Once you have a concept down, you consider what you want the beer to look, smell and taste like, while taking style parameters such as strength (ABV) and bitterness (IBUs) into consideration. From there, you choose your ingredients, your mash temperatures, mash consistency, wort boil time, hop boiling time, fermentation temperatures, whether or not to filter the beer, carbonation levels and many other small factors that come into play in the final outcome of the beer. If you choose to add non-traditional ingredients such as fruit or spice, you need to decide at what point in the process to add those. Just like cooking a new recipe, you don't always know if the concept in your head will translate to a good beer, and so for that reason we usually brew new recipes on our 20 gallon pilot system first before scaling them up to our 20 barrel (620 gallon) brewhouse. This January, we're opening an R&D facility in Charlottesville dedicated largely to the purpose of new beer development.
The brewing world has blown up over the last 10 years. You both are sort of OGs. You used to beg nice restaurants to serve Sierra Nevada, back when owners scoffed at you for introducing this idea of “craft” to the market. How did you both know that doing your own thing, making craft beer, was actually something that would take off? Or did you?
Eric: After attending college in the southeast—which was largely a craft beer desert due to relatively restrictive laws—I took a job in NYC selling craft beer for several years, and I eventually earned a position as a marketing director for the Sheehan Family Companies. This enabled me to learn the "lay of the land" for craft beer across the country. We believed the southeast had the most potential, and selected Richmond, Virginia, which only had one other operating brewery when we opened in 2011. In 2012, we successfully lobbied for SB 604 with Starr Hill and Devils Backbone, making it legal to sell beer at taprooms in Virginia. This bill has been a game changer for Virginia beer, leveling the playing field with most other states, lowering the barrier to entry and providing the perfect venue for showcasing a brewer's offerings, the brewery itself. While this has also opened the floodgates to competition (there are now over 20 breweries in Richmond), market share for Virginia owned breweries within the state (about 3%) is still tiny by comparison to beer friendly states like Oregon (over 50%). We were under the impression Oregon was saturated at 20% market share, so it's very exciting considering the potential that still exists.
Patrick, what was it like studying at brewing school in Europe, AND THEN finding out that your great grandfather (i think?) went to the school, decades before you were even born? Coincidence?
Patrick: My family history of brewing was not the reason I got into brewing but it certainly spurred my interest. Shortly after brewing my first batch of home-brew in 2003, I found my Great-Great-Grandfather's obituary in my parent's attic. It included a lot of information about his career in the brewing industry starting from how he came to this country from Germany in 1890 and became Brewmaster of Springfield Breweries in Massachusetts, growing production from 12,000 barrels to around 130,000 barrels per year to how he brought his beer to a competition in Baden-Baden Germany and won a gold medal. While I vaguely knew there were some other brewers in my family tree, It wasn't until 7 years later when I was attending The World Brewing Academy's Master Brewer Program that I found out my Great-Grandfather and Great-Uncle were both brewers and attended the Siebel Brewing Academy (now the Siebel Institute of Technology) where the program's curriculum begins. Finding that out and sitting next to their pictures (pictures dating from 1900 hang on the classroom walls at Siebel) for several weeks while learning the science of brewing was inspirational and motivating to say the least. Heading to Germany for the remainder of the program made me feel even closer to the german roots of my newly discovered brewing heritage.
You guys are big on teaming up with non profits and organizations of all shapes and sizes in your brewing process. Tell us all about these community collaborations. Why do you do them? You could certainly just sell beer…why the need to be involved in the community?
Eric: Growing up, Patrick and I got to know each other playing on the same sports teams and attending community events with our families. Today, Hardywood has grown into this big family, and community engagement and non-profit partnerships have become central to our motto, "Brew with Purpose." Hardywood Great Return celebrates the return of Atlantic sturgeon to the James River, symbolizing the improving health of the watershed, which supplies the majority of Virginia's drinking and brewing water. We donate $5 per barrel of Great Return to the James River Association, which only affects the cost of each can or pint by a few pennies, but adds up to more than $10,000 per year. We enjoy our partnerships with other organizations like FeedMore, Ales for ALS and Pints for Prostates as well because we believe our customers appreciate that their choice of beer can have a positive impact on their community. Our team members are certainly proud of the ways we contribute to the greater good, and we hope to inspire other breweries to do the same.
There's no way to tell the complete story through a simple interview, but we hope you enjoy this snippet of the Hardywood journey and are encouraged to swing by next time you're in Richmond!
Stay tuned for more on the People Of Richmond!