Richmond has become a boomtown for craft beer.
Now, a historical marker is coming to Route 5 near Rocketts Landing to mark the site of the 19th-century James River Steam Brewery and the remains of its beer caves.
Richmond Beeristoric, a nonprofit group that hosts beer tours in the area, has been working on getting the historical marker for years.
“It’s easy to miss if you’re not aware this was the site of a major brewery in Richmond,” said Lee Graves, president of the nonprofit. Graves is the author of “Richmond Beer: A History of Brewing in the River City,” as well as two other books on beer in Virginia.
The James River Steam Brewery was built in 1866 during a national boom in beer production. The brewery was founded by the son of D.G. Yuengling, who started the legendary Pennsylvania brewery .
“David G. Yuengling Jr. wanted to stretch his wings. He came to Richmond after the Civil War, when the city was ripe for economic development. Breweries were a great way to make money at the time,” Graves said.
The brewery was run on steam, hence its name. At its height, the building towered over the James River at five stories and 80 feet. The caves built beneath it could store and ferment up to 6,000 barrels of beer. The business closed in 1879, and the building was destroyed by a fire in 1891.
But the beer caves remain and can still be seen from the Capital Trail near Rocketts Landing. The caves are covered with a chain-link fence to keep people from going inside, but viewers can look through the arched entryway to see the depth of the cellars.
There are no plans at this time for a marker at the entrance to the beer caves, but Graves said he hopes to have something in the future.
Richmond Beeristoric received approval from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for the James River Steam Brewery marker on Route 5.
The nonprofit will host an event called James River Beer Currents on Sept. 18 at the Virginia House in Windsor Farms to help raise money to cover costs for the sign.
For $35, guests will be able to sample beer from 30 of Richmond’s craft breweries. There will be a “beer blind challenge” where guests will try to identify beer stylistically. The event will also honor the history of beer in Richmond.
“We’re in the golden age of craft breweries in Richmond,” Graves said. He hopes the James River Steam Brewery marker will “raise awareness of beer in Richmond, as well as connect the past, present and future of beer in Richmond.”
The James River Steam Brewery marker will be placed on Route 5 by Rocketts Landing later this year, probably in late November or early December, Graves said.