Craft Beer Culture is Exploding in Hampton Roads!

By Diane Catanzaro and Chris Jones

757 Beach Brewing

Smartmouth Brewing Company and Beach Brewing Company recently became the first breweries in Hampton Roads to package their beers in cans.

Beach Brewing unveiled its Hoptopus Double IPA in May, perfect for beach, pool, boat, or your fridge, the canned beer apocalypse is making big waves in Hampton Roads! We spoke with Beach Brewing owner Justin MacDonald about his plans for cans.

For the time being, Hoptopus is the only beer that Beach will can, as they focus on providing fresh draft beer to tap accounts in the region and do some limited-run bottling (look for the Kracken tripel). Hoptopus is an highly hopped West Coast style double IPA with bodacious bitterness, citrus and pine notes, ample alcohol flavor, and just enough malt to provide balance. This is the first double IPA ever brewed in Hampton Roads, and it introduced many folks to this extremely popular style of beer. Hoptopus has evolved over the years from a limited release to Beach Brewing’s best seller and flagship beer.

As if a regular can wasn’t cool enough, Hoptopus will be in 16-ounce cans, a full pint of hopalicious flavor to savor. Apparently a 12-ounce can isn’t big enough to hold the flavor packed into this double IPA. A full pint brings more bang for your buck and is great for sharing with friends. By now, most beer lovers know that many craft breweries today are choosing cans over bottles because they are more environmentally friendly, lighter weight, protect beer from damaging light, and don’t break like glass does. We love that when we fly to visit friends, we can now pop a couple of cans of local beer in the luggage to bring and share, without messing with bubble wrap or exceeding the airline weight limit. Get your tentacles on Hoptopus in cans at Total Wine, The Grape & Gourmet, on the Navy Base, and at select 7-11s and local restaurants. We’re confident that Hoptopus will soon be your go-to canned cephalopod cerveza.

If you have not visited Beach Brewing recently, we highly recommend doing so. Last winter, Justin and Kristen opened Beach’s brand new brewhouse, a five minute amble from the original location, to meet consumer demand for their beers and to expand the size of the tasting room. The new brewery is easily four times the size of the original, and the new tasting room is much bigger and is just as welcoming as the old one. The tasting room is actually quite beautiful, with a gorgeous bar and awesome mural of Beach’s skull and mash-paddle Jolly Roger logo (the logo looks an awful lot like Justin…he says it’s coincidental and we believe him, as we have no intention of being keelhauled or spending time in a barrel, even a beer barrel). The new location is at 1505 Taylor Farm Road in Virginia Beach (note that Siri and Beer Advocate still list the old address on Horse Pasture Rd, in the same business park). Beach Brewing has events planned for Fourth of July with live music, fun and games, and food trucks, so invite your friends and celebrate with Beach Brewing. You won’t have to worry about not having enough beer and food, and nobody has to mess with lighter fluid.

Over at Smartmouth, in Norfolk, its starting lineup – Alter Ego Saison, Murphy’s Law Amber Ale and Rule G India Pale Ale – has been a hit right out the gate. We spoke to Porter Hardy IV, brewery President, about why he chose cans over bottles for Smartmouth’s beers.

Why did you choose to put Smartmouth beer in cans?

Hardy: We really thought this out. There are technical benefits to canning and it’s an important trend in craft beer. Breweries on the West Coast have been doing this awhile, and more recently the East Coast has been catching up. We try to be forward thinking and this is where the market is going. We’re only the second craft brewery in Virginia to have our own canning line. Several other breweries have their beer canned by a mobile canning line that comes to the brewery. We bought the canning equipment so we have control over the process.

What are some of the benefits of canning compared to bottling beer?

Hardy: There are technical benefits, operational benefits, marketing benefits, and environmental benefits. An important technical benefit is that the can blocks 100% of the light. Light skunks beer, but the can prevents that. Also, we are a beach-and-outdoor kind of town. Hiking, backpacking, boating, and near the water, cans are easier, they weigh less, and they don’t break if you drop them. They are allowed in places bottles can’t go (Writer’s Note: Like the Mallory pool, West Ghenters!). Also, beer gets cold faster in a can compared to a bottle. An operational benefit is that cans don’t have labels. We have one less step and can skip the label machine and glue, we don’t have to worry about the label being crooked, and the canning line can operate with one less person.

What are the marketing and environmental benefits of canning?

Hardy: From a marketing perspective, the can differentiates our product in the market. Cans are environmentally friendly. They take less energy to recycle than glass. They are lighter weight, so getting them to market takes less fossil fuel.

What do you wish more people knew about canned beer?

Hardy: The main negative misperception is that it’s cheap beer. Also, people say they think they taste the metal, I’ll ask them if they’ve ever had beer from a keg – a keg is like a big can. While the keg is stainless steel, the can is aluminum with a plastic liner, so the beer never touches the aluminum.

How did you come up with the art design for the cans?

Hardy: A lot of thought went into the design. We worked with the Meridian Group, a marketing firm in Virginia Beach. We wanted the design to reflect the aesthetic of our tasting room, which features a chalkboard and doodles that relate to the story behind the beer. We also wanted to emphasize the “smart” in Smartmouth. For example, the cans show the formula for calculating IBUs (international bittering units) and ABV (alcohol by volume). Of course you don’t have to the math, you can just look at the math. I remember as a kid eating cereal and reading the cereal box. We wanted to have the cereal box of beer cans!

More 411 on 757

There is other exciting news in the 757 beer scene. Two new breweries and a brewpub are going to open in the coming months!!!!

Home Republic, a brewpub and wine shop, will open at 328 Laskin Rd in Virginia Beach at the Oceanfront. Finally, a second brewpub in Hampton Roads!!! Home Republic will be locally owned and operated by Joe Curtis of Norfolk, a retired Marine who has brewery business experience as a silent partner in a brewery in Melbourne, Florida. The construction is almost completed and they plan to open within a few weeks! They will start out offering guest beers from local and international breweries, and their own brewed-on-the-premises beers will be added to the lineup in late summer. They will feature “upscale American” dining, beer and wine flights, and will be a very welcome addition to the Hampton Roads beer scene. They are currently accepting applications for wait staff and cooks; send your job history or resume to HomeRepublic328@gmail.com. Find them at www.homerepublicvabeach.com.

Big Ugly Brewing will be the first commercial brewery EVER in Chesapeake. Shawn Childers and Jim Lantry are local beer aficionados and homebrewers who are building a 7-barrel brewhouse in Chesapeake. (One barrel = 31 gallons). The city of Chesapeake has been “more than helpful” as these budding entrepreneurs navigate the permit and zoning process to build Chesapeake’s first commercial brewery. They promise a kick-ass Russian imperial stout, one of our very favorite styles. Their philosophy of beer is “beer has been a catalyst in our lives, to meet people, as an icebreaker, and a brewery will help us share it with more people.” They plan a soft opening in July and the tasting room will likely be ready to rock in mid to late summer. Check ’em out on Facebook.

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