Rise of the Richmond Gastropub

It is no secret that I love trying new things whether that be food or beer.  I was ecstatic when I discovered I could have everything my foodie heart desired in one sitting.  And to think, I almost went with sushi the night I tried my first gastropub,

I know what you are asking. What is a gastropub? Wikipedia defines a gastropub as “a bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer and food.” I know that is a very simplistic definition that is open to interpretation.  So far I have had the opportunity to eat at three gastropubs, The Oxford in Raleigh, NC, Victoria Gastropub in Columbia, MD, and Mad Fox Brewing in Falls Church, VA.  Of course, they all had craft beer and great food but there was something unique about each one that stuck in my memory.  The thing I remember most about The Oxford, other than it being my first gastropub, was the British themed decor. That and the braised lamb shank I had was just amazing.  I will always remember Victoria’s for their duck fat fries; once you have had them you will never want to go back to regular fries.  So far, Mad Fox has been the best I have ever had.  Not only do they brew outstanding beer but all of their food is made from scratch or locally sourced.  On a trip up to DC earlier this month, Mad Fox was my first stop; I was so impressed with the beer and the food I had to make it the final stop on our way home as well.  Imagine a place that makes their own banana bread just to make french toast.

So, what does this have to do with Richmond?  Two new restaurants,The Roosevelt and The Blue Goat, in town may just be ready to take up the mantle of gastropub.

The Blue Goat has dubbed itself as an urban gastropub.  I have not had the chance to check it out myself but their drink list has some familiar craft brews listed though some styles may be under represented.  While their bottle selection lists names that would be new to me and would be intrigued to try, I would rather these be on tap so that I can have a sample before committing to a pint.  As far as their menu, appetizers that list pig ears and pork dust as their components have me intrigued.

The Roosevelt just opened it’s doors this past weekend to a flurry positive reviews. All this without them having secured their ABC license.  I am hearing that they will be a haven to craft beer lovers.  I am not sure I will be able to wait until they are able to serve beer. Why? Two words – bacon jam! It’s funny that I just recently heard the term on an episode of Eat Street on the Cooking Channel.  Skillet Street Food, out of Seattle, was featured as putting bacon jam on burgers. Needless to say, I could not just hop on a plane to Seattle just for street food though the thought was tempting.  Luckily, The Roosevelt decided to save me the airfare and put some bacon jam on their double cheeseburger.

So what say you RVA? Do you think these two deserve to be considered Richmond’s first gastropubs?  Are there other places in town that you think fit the bill?

RVA Misses Out on Very Yummy Beer Tasting

Maybe it was the heat, but the turnout for the beer tasting at The Empress this past Tuesday was less than desired.  Though the Facebook event had a good number of people listed as attending, the turnout was not there.  That was fine with me as the lack of turn out resulted in us having Taylor Chenery of Specialty Beverage all to ourselves as we tasted our way through the beers with the different pairings.  It is not often that I get a chance to sit down one-on-one with a distributor to see what they are jazzed about.  I will say right off that my favorite dishes of the night were the bison burger and the duck cracklins; so much so that I think they should be added to the menu as one dish.  It was amazing how Melissa and Carly pulled this off on the same day they reopened after a two week vacation. Chef Carly put her stamp on snack food with the combination of art and taste that The Empress has become known for. For your drooling pleasure, Richmond here are drool worthy pictures of the food and beer that you missed.

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The Empress Throws Yummy Beer Tasting

Fresh from their vacation in Spain and Italy, The Empress reopens today after two weeks and is having a beer tasting starting at 7pm.

Here are the 5 beers that they will be featuring:

Schneider Aventinus Wheat Dopplebock
Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison
Nectar India Pale Ale
Breckenridge Avalanche Amber Ale
Crispin’ Velvet with Crispin’ Cider and O’Haras Irish Stout

Each beer will be paired with most inventive snack foods Chef Carly can envision and let’s face it she can invent some crazy good stuff.  The last drink selection has me intrigued.  At first, I thought it was a mistake, but this is a drink called a Snakebite. At least that’s what I was told it was called a few months ago; it was explained as a Black & Tan made with cider instead of a pale ale.  The Wikipedia entry for Black & Tan gave me the correct name of the drink as a Black Velvet.  While I thought the drink was good, I was not sure I wanted to try it again. Though if Chef Carly is cooking something to go with it, count me in as a willing guinea pig.

Head over to the event page and get yourself on the list here. Cost for the tasting is $20.

Remember 7pm at The Empress. If you’re lucky, Chef Carly will pull inspiration from her time in Barcelona and Italy.

The Empress
2043 W Broad St
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 592-4000

New Belgium Rolling into RVA this Fall

With the news that New Belgium Brewing would start distributing their beers in Richmond this fall, craft beer lovers are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Colorado giant.  With no frame of reference, I decided to take a look at New Belgium’s beer list. To say the list is big would be an understatement. New Belgium boasts twenty year round beers which does not include their 4 seasonals and 5 collaboration beers.  From where I am sitting, 29 beers is a very impressive numbers.  It would be easy to say I’d like to try all of them, but I’ll try and narrow it down to just a few.

Abbey Grand Cru

As a homebrewer, I have to respect co-founder Jeff Lebesch for bringing his first homebrew to market.

2° Below

It uses Sterling hops so as far as I’m concerned that makes it awesome.

Super Cru

I love saisons. I love the taste of asian pears.  Putting them together sounds like a winning combination. some may even say “SUPER!”

Fat Tire

It is probably New Belgium’s most well known beer.  Of course, it makes the list.

1554

They call it an Enlightened Black Ale.  With all the studying of centuries-old Belgian texts, I expect it to take me back in time.

That is just a little of what could be in store for Richmond craft beer lovers.  Like the coasters in the picture, check them out over at Copper Blog to scoop them up.

Experiencing the Beer and Food of SAVOR!

Photo © Eddie Arrossi

Richmond’s World Beer Festival may have been canceled but that will not stop me exploring the ever expanding world of craft beer.  Saturday June 4th marked the second day of SAVOR, Washington, D.C.’s premier craft beer and food event. Tickets for this event sold out in a matter of minutes after going on sale.

Now in it’s fourth year, Brewers Association has expanded SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience to two nights inside the beautiful National Building Museum.   The effect of SAVOR on DC’s craft beer scene has been even more outstanding.  The number of restaurants and bars championing craft beer has almost tripled since Savor’s inception.

But why should SAVOR be important to craft beer lovers in Richmond?  Simply put, it is the possibility of new beers in the market that were previously unavailable locally.  Before I go on, let me explain a little about how breweries are selected to attend Savor.  In total, there were 72 breweries in attendance, 12 of which are supporting breweries who  attend every year.  The other 60 breweries are selected by a lottery system. Even though it is the luck of the draw, the breweries selected deserve the honor they have just received. Nothing proves this more to me than the fact two of my favorite North Carolina breweries, Big Boss Brewing and LoneRider Brewing, were in attendance for the first time.

The Wednesday prior to Savor, Big Boss took over the taps of Birch & Barley, serving their entire beer line-up.  At SAVOR, Big Boss was serving their two heavy hitters Monkey Bizzness and High Roller. With High Roller, Big Boss has managed to create an India Pale Ale that has the required bitterness and hoppy aroma but not overpowering at the same time.

Meanwhile, LoneRider brought in my two of my favorites of their beers. Their hefeweizen, Shotgun Betty, was a no brainer to pair with banana bread.  LoneRider had their brown ale, Sweet Josie, on hand. Once again, I was seduced by this beer. I was not too sure on the pairing of this beer with the Shrimp in  a Blanket dish. Personally, I thought it also went well with the banana bread.

Another first timer this year was Mad Fox Brewing out of Falls Church, VA.  Now here is a true cinderella story;  Mad Fox has only been opened for little over a year.  The owner rightful beamed with pride as he poured me some of his Kolsch Ale.  From the aroma to the taste of a two ounce pour, you could tell this was a beer made by a guy who truly loves what he does and is good at it. Expect very big things to come out of Mad Fox.

Here are some other highlights from my night.

Lazy Magnolia Brewing had their Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale rightfully paired with banana bread.  Their Indian Summer was equally as tasty.

Fort George Brewery’s 1811 Lager was very smooth and refreshing.

DOG Brewing had a Pub Dog Wild Cherry Porter has a tartness that will win over sour beer lovers.

Ommegang’s Three Philosophers was excellently paired with a braised lamb shoulder slider.

Bayou Teche Brewing’s La 31 Boucanee had a unique smokiness that is uncommon in wheat beers.  This beer would be perfect a hot summer barbecue.

Of course, I could not end without mentioning SAVOR Flowers.  This collaboration beer brewed by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company was a shoe-in to be the most talked about beer of the night.  It is almost a shame that this beer will not be seen out side of Savor.  When I first heard about the beer and the steps they went to, one of my first thoughts was how many roses do I need to make rose water to brew a batch at home.  Yes, you heard correctly; they created their own rose water just to make a batch of beer.  Add in some experimental hops and age in barrels originally used for Sam Adams Triple Bock in 1993/94, you get an unique beer with the most pleasing floral aromas and a flavors that leave you in a sense of euphoria.  It is collaborations like this that will keep SAVOR going strong for years to come. I will keep a look out for when tickets go on sale for next year so maybe you can be a part of the experience. Cheers!


Photo © Eddie Arrossi

World Beer Festival Richmond CANCELLED

It is with great disappointment that I relay the news that All About Beer Magazine has cancelled the World Beer Festival that was scheduled for June 18th on Brown’s Island.  This is an unexpected blow to the Richmond beer community that will be heartbreaking to many beer lovers such as myself.  Before I drone on, let’s hear from publisher Daniel Bradford on the WHY:

May 20, 2011

Greetings:

It is with deepest regret that we must announce the cancellation of the World Beer Festival – Richmond 2011.

We enjoyed an excellent response from the Richmond beer community to last summer’s inaugural event. As we prepared for this year’s festival, we were excited about the public response, including both ticket pre-sales and volunteer recruitment. However, we have struggled with the regulatory requirements and trade practices in executing our festival model in Richmond.  Furthermore, internal company issues inhibited our ability to get ahead of these challenges and respond in a supportive partner fashion.

We concluded we could not create the type of beer tasting experience that would meet our standards, a reputation for quality beer tasting events that we have nurtured since 1996.  We would not have fulfilled our commitment to our customers or to the industry we have served for three decades.

We remain committed to the Richmond beer market – beer lovers, beer retailers, beer wholesalers and brewers – offering our assistance and support for any and all quality beer events that spread the word about good beer.  Perhaps in the future we will be able to overcome the challenges and the World Beer Festival will return to Richmond.

Again, we are deeply sorry about not being able to execute our event and any unfulfilled expectations that this may cause.  We are contacting all advanced sale ticket holders to offer refunds or exchanges for our World Beer Festival – Durham, World Beer Festival – Raleigh or World Beer Festival–Columbia.

Cheers,

Daniel Bradford

President

Now that you have digested that, a few comments.  I do not know about the “regulatory requirements and trade practices” that made it difficult to execute their festival model but I wonder where our local government was in all of this.  Here was a beer festival that encouraged responsible drinking by limiting sample sizes to 2 oz.  Did our local officials see the one price tag as too different from other beer festivals to find a place in this town?  Think of all the work that has been done to turn Richmond into a travel destination.  Now think of the effect losing this festival will mean for the future. Do not be naive in thinking people to not travel for beer.  People do and they would have come here.

Yes, I know it is not all our governments fault. Part of the blame lies with All About Beer Magazine itself and I know they know that.  I only have a few comments for them. First of all, thank you for bringing what in my humble opinion was the best beer festival Richmond has ever seen last year.  While I am disappointed that there will be no festival this year, I trust you will live up to your promise  to “remain committed” in the hopes that “the World Beer Festival will return to Richmond.”

Richmond beer lovers go to All About Beer Magazine’s website and thank them for last year’s festival and ask them to come back soon.

Add Some Flavor to Your Weekend

Flavor – Beer, Wine, & Food Festival, a new addition in Richmond’s heavy festival season, will be held on Saturday, May 21st and Sunday, May 22nd from 11am to 6pm at the Innsbrook SnagAJob Pavilion. Now, I have not heard of most of the restaurants listed to be a the event but standouts like Halligan’s, Boka, and Ginger Thai Taste are sure to please. The festival promises a variety of wine and beer.  Trying  the beers from Pyramid, Anchor, Epic, Duck Rabbit, Thomas Creek, or Highland Breweries would be a nice way to close out our celebration of American Craft Beer Week.

Restaurants

  • India K’ Raja
  • Finn Mc Cools Irish Pub
  • Gregory’s Grill
  • Daylight Donuts
  • Big Daddy’s Barbecue
  • Slice of Grace Bakery Boutique
  • Roma Ristorante Italiano
  • The Halligan Bar and Grill
  • C’est Le Vin Art & Wine Gallery
  • Boka Truck
  • DeFazio’s Catering
  • Ginger Thai Taste
  • Spice Rack
  • Malabar Indian Cuisine
  • Italian Kitchen West
  • Goatocado
  • Hunan Café
  • Joey’s Hot Dogs
  • Capital Ale House
  • Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant
  • Extreme Pizza

Innsbrook SnagAJob Pavilion

4901 Lakebrook Drive
Glen Allen, Virginia 23060
(Map)