(Get some to-go for your next bottle/can share event with friends. Photo courtesy of the brewery.)
By Jeff Maisey
On Saturday, May 13, Hawksbill Brewing Company will celebrate its 6th anniversary since opening in Luray.
The town of Luray, as most know, is located just off of Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and is famous for its namesake Caverns, an underground network of caves with stalactites and stalagmites.
For those venturing around the Commonwealth this spring and summer, Luray makes for an ideal overnight with accommodations like Mayneview B&B, Hotel Lawrence, The Inn of the Shenandoah, and Mimslynn Inn, as well as dining options Main Street Bakery, West Main Market Beer & Wine Garden, and The Valley Cork.
The key reason to stay for the night though is Hawksbill Brewing Company. Since Day One, Hawksbill has been devoted to working with local farmers and beekeepers to showcase the freshest ingredients and to support their community’s small agricultural businesses. Their motto: “Grown Here, Brewed Here.”
“Sometimes after a great weekend – one where we have lots of guests and great weather – we take a minute to realize how lucky we are to be doing this,” shared Jim Turner, who along with brewer David Sours co-owns and operates the brewery. “Like everyone else in the brewing industry and hospitality as a whole, there have been some real challenges over the last couple of years. We’ve made it through and now we’re looking forward to strengthening our commitment to the Luray community and continued growth.”
I recently caught up with Jim and David to learn more about Hawksbill’s success.
VCB: How has Hawksbill Brewing Co evolved since opening in 2017?
Jim Turner: Our early days were focused on surviving as a start-up brewery – we managed to survive all of that and Covid-19, too. Our focus has evolved. Now part of what we concentrate on is adding to the downtown experience of Luray. We’ve evolved to be one of the hospitality anchor points in town and now our branding reflects a local feel and builds off of our firm roots in the community. We strive to be the brewery where anyone local or visitor can pull up a chair and enjoy a quality drinkable pint of beer. Along with that we’ve grown more comfortable with taking risks and releasing new recipes. Gone are the days when our brewer experimented with the pilot system, now we just roll out new beers straight from the main brew kitchen.
VCB: How does your business relationship with local farmers and beekeepers work regarding your sourcing of local ingredients? Do you request certain hop varieties, herbs, fruit etc and in specific quantities?
David Sours: Since Covid-19, we haven’t been able to maintain the local sourcing strategy as well as we had hoped. Before Covid-19, we brewed using local berries, honey, pumpkin, jalapeños, and even some foraged persimmon. Locally grown hops simply aren’t available in the quantities we need – we’d love to support that industry if we could, since our interest started with a hopyard, too. It’s something we’ll revisit as we all get past the lingering Covid-19 impacts.
VCB: What are your three most popular beers in regular rotation currently?
Jim Turner: Our three most popular beers are: Haymaker Cream Ale, Hooray for Luray IPA, and Runnin’ Red Lights. We try to keep them on tap year-round, along with our Brown Cow Stout.
VCB: Can you share some of the seasonal beers you have on tap that visitors will be able to enjoy exclusively at the brewery this spring and early summer?
David Sours: As we transition to the warmer weather, we’ll bring on some refreshing ales – these will be full-size, 5-barrel batches: Mile Marker 8 (a Belgian White), 7 Days a Wheat (watermelon wheat), and a farmhouse ale that we are still developing. We’re going to bring back a Mexican Lager around Memorial Day, and speaking of lagers, we currently have a Schwarzbier on called Bearfence Black Lager.
VCB: What percentage of customers would you estimate are locals compared to visitors either seeking out Luray Caverns/Skyline Drive or exploring breweries across the Commonwealth?
Jim Turner: It’s no mystery that we benefit from our proximity to Luray Caverns and Shenandoah National Park, and we get a lot of traffic from those visitors. Besides those destinations, the Luray and Page County area offers opportunities to enjoy the scenery and outdoor recreation. There is a strong destination wedding industry here, and we have several events related to the Luray Triathlon – so tourism is a foundation of the business. We have a strong connection to the community, too, and that keeps us going during the winter.
VCB: What is your busiest season of the year?
Jim Turner: When we first started out, we figured that the summer would be our busiest time. That’s definitely when we’re making hay at Hawksbill Brewing. But surprisingly, fall foliage season, October and November, have emerged over the last couple of years as our strongest months. We usually have beautiful weather then and there isn’t an open seat available outside in the beer garden!