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Progress hops forward at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s new location

GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. – Hardywood Park Craft Brewery co-founders Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh may have just found out the planned brewhouse tank installation at their Goochland location will be delayed by a few days until the tanks are cleared from the port of Norfolk, but they still have plenty to talk about.

Over the clash and clatter of construction, they explained why they chose the 24-acre site along the Tuckahoe Creek, just a few miles away from Short Pump, for their new production facility.

Hardywood West Park will open in spring 2018.

First of all, it’s under 20 miles, door to door, from the popular spot on Ownby Lane in Richmond, to the new West Creek location.

“It’s a perfect combination of industrial infrastructure for a brewery, but also this bucolic feeling where we are overlooking Tuckahoe Creek and have an amphitheater on the backside,” McKay said. “We hope it will be a really unique visitor experience."

The 60,000 square-foot production facility will have a four-vessel, 60-barrel system. Initial brewhouse capacity is around 60,000 barrels. Hardywood does not anticipate brewing that much to start.

“The first six years have been a learning experience,” McKay said, “this is our opportunity to achieve some scale.”

Co-founder Eric McKay's favorite Hardywood beer is the Pilsner; Head brewer Brian Nelson chooses the Great Return; and co-founder and brew master Patrick Murtaugh selects VIPA.

Scale is something Hardywood seems to have already accomplished, in many regards. They are one of the biggest influences of the local craft beer boom, which in turn has impacted other markets.

Their commitment to incorporate local grains, hops, fruit and other products has made them the largest purchaser of Virginia agricultural products in the brewing industry.

“It felt like a better way to do things,” Murtaugh said. “It’s extremely hard to maintain family farms.”

For the acclaimed gingerbread stout, Murtaugh said 20 pounds of Casselmonte ginger was used in the first batch. The last batch required  1,000 pounds of the Powhatan-grown rhizome.

A partnership with Agriberry has provided what Murtaugh called second fruit; perfectly delicious berries with cosmetic blemishes that are usually pureed can also be sold to Hardywood. The result has been the Gold Medal Raspberry Stout.

The first Hardywood outside of Richmond opened in February fall, along a stretch of Main Street in Charlottesville that bridges the University of Virginia campus and the downtown pedestrian mall. The 1,100 square foot taproom of the 3,500 square-foot brewery has 18 taps.

A look at where the main bar will be, with at least 20 taps.

“In terms of creating new beers, we are sort of doing that in steps, with Charlottesville being the place that we do research and development and creating new beers, Richmond being the place where we can scale them up and if the sales are promising then they will pitch them to our distributors – and brew them here in West Creek,” McKay said.

And while they continue to expand west of the city, the first container of Hardywood beer is on its way east across the pond, to the United Kingdom.

Hardywood was the first brewery to be accepted into the Virginia Economic Development Partnership's VALET Program, which assists companies throughout Virginia in expanding their international business.

To prepare for increased production, Kate Lee, a 12-year veteran of Anheuser-Busch, was hired to oversee the quality assurance program. Pedigreed brewers from New York, California and Oregon have joined the team of 65 employees.

Co-founder Eric McKay (left) and co-founder and brew master Patrick Murtaugh (right) with the Tuckahoe Creek in the background.

“Five years ago it was hard to imagine, but we had a vision and we’ve done a good job sticking to that vision of trying to become what we hope will be one of the top breweries in the country,” McKay said. “We hope that by scaling up on quality assurance and on the best equipment we can get, and best people we can find, that will enable us to continue being a leader in quality beer on the East Coast.”

The concrete foundation has already been poured and much of the steel frame erected.

Once the tanks are installed, they raise the roof – having already raised the bar, so to speak.

A spring 2018 opening is projected. You can follow the progress, here.

Richmond-area breweries

Did we miss one? Is there one that will open this year? We will update this list throughout the year, so send us an email.