By Jeff Maisey
Virginia craft breweries are launching “mini-me,” satellite locations left-and-right these days as the trend to extend their brand visibility and reach appears to be catching on.
Where Richmond’s Hardywood Park opened a Charlottesville location and Legend announced plans for a Hampton Roads brewpub on Olde Towne Portsmouth waterfront, Three Notch’d unveiled a collaboration-themed site in RVA. But not all breweries have sought expansion beyond their home region within the Commonwealth.
Norfolk-based Smartmouth Brewing Company will operate what it calls Smartmouth Pilot House this fall in neighboring Virginia Beach. On a light traffic day, the new site is a 20-minute drive from its main production facility – opened in 2012 in the semi-industrial neighborhood of Chelsea – to the satellite spot located two blocks from the sandy Oceanfront beach at 32nd Street in a former US Post Office building.
“I consider Virginia Beach our experimental and outreach facility,” explained Smartmouth president Porter Hardy.
The Pilot House will have its own identity as a place patrons can taste the latest recipes and test batches created by its brewers. Hardywood Park, as an example, employs the same concept for its C-Ville outlet.
Smartmouth will use a 10-barrel system in Virginia Beach while continuing to invest in its Norfolk production brewery where its flagship brands such as Rule G IPA and Alter Ego Saison can experience increased volume to better service demand from retailers and restaurants.
“By putting a 10-barrel in Virginia Beach we’ll be able to make beer for both tasting rooms, which will allow Norfolk to make more beer for distribution,” said Hardy. “Norfolk won’t have to worry about making as many one-off, limited beers and beers for the tasting room.”
Smartmouth’s official announcement included the following: “While many regional breweries are expanding into remote new cities, our desire was simply to expand within the community where we live, work and play. Our company and customers include residents from all over the 757 and this new location is intended to solidify that bond. We also hope this expansion allows us the opportunity to further collaborate with local breweries, restaurants, artists and non-profit organizations.
“With a second location in the region, we also plan to further our connection with charitable efforts in the restoration, education and recreation of local waterways. We feel fortunate to live in a region surrounded by water, and believe that by protecting it and encouraging the enjoyment of it, we help make our community healthier, more beautiful and more fun.”
According to Porter Hardy, Smartmouth’s overall sales in 2016 were up over the previous year. This is due, in part, to expanding distribution of its draft products into Northern Virginia. And success came not from its usual suspects.
“This was the year of the seasonal for Smartmouth,” said Hardy.
Smartmouth’s Pilot House will serve both the seasonal tourist customers vacationing at the resort city as well as local residents in the upscale North End. It’s also a neighborly coming home for Hardy.
“I grew up on 45th Street,” he said. “This was my post office as a kid. My mom and my sister still live within bike riding distance.”