Richmond Beeristoric Tour 2014

Richmond Beeristoric Tour 2014 - Ardent Craft Ales

Two busloads of craft beer aficionados spent eight hours tasting beer and culinary treats from local breweries and eateries to gain a better appreciation for the history of beer during the 5th annual Richmond Beeristoric Tour, Sunday, Nov. 9.

The tour of about 50 people took two buses and included many of the Richmond beer mafia, local brewers and out-of-towners who all wanted to taste Richmond's finest beers. We all rubbed elbows and raised many glasses together. The tour was organized by RVABeer.com and Richmond Breweries United. Participating stops in the packed itinerary were Mekong Restaurant, Capital Ale House Downtown, James River Beer Caves at Rocketts Landing, Legend Brewing Company, Triple Crossing Brewing Company, Graze on Grace, Gallery 5, Todd Lofts, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Ardent Craft Ales.

If you want to know more about the history of beer, buy Richmond Beers by Danny Morris and Jeff Johnson (credited as the inspiration for the Beeristoric tour) and the recently published "Richmond Beer: A History of Brewing in the River City" by Lee Graves. Many of both books were purchased on the tour -- who knew beer drinkers could read?

Please enjoy this brief, scattered chronicle of the afternoon's events. Most of the history was doled out by tour guides Mike Gorman and Eric Mink. If you want to take this tour for yourself next year, follow the Richmond Beeristoric page on Facebook and be prepared to purchase the tickets immediately. Seriously, this year's tour sold out in the time it would take to complete a session.

1st course: Gentleman Farmer Fresh Hop beer from Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery at Capital Ale House Downtown

12:02 p.m. We were told the tour will take eight hours so we should pace ourselves. Richmond's beer history from the 1800s to now is a story of booms and busts. Richmond's large and influential German population was behind the tremendous growth in the beer industry. The Civil War stalled the beer industry, creating a period of prohibition. "Beer was seen as medicinal -- important with all the hospitals around," Gorman said. 

12:55 p.m. Bus departs for next stop, we sample an offering from Ardent Craft Ales. We learn that in late 1800s, most taverns and saloons were located in Shockoe Slip, near the docks and warehouses. Also, while Richmond burned as the Confederates retreated, the Union spilled all of Richmond's spirits. Party foul.

2nd course: Beer from Virginia Beer Company in Williamsburg and eats from Extra Billy's Brewery and BBQ at James River Beer Caves at Rocketts Landing

1:09 p.m. We peaked inside the remnants of the James River Beer Caves. (Check this Flickr account for great photos from the inside by Chris Johnson). Storage for brewery, beer kept cold in caves loaded with ice. Constructed in 1866, in operation by 1867, shut down in 1879 and the wooden upper floors lost in a fire 1891. The site is on the National Historic Register. Note: I met David Hunter, who keeps tabs on local beer with Fans of Virginia Craft Breweries and Kory Mohr of VABeerTrail.com. Great guys, follow their work.

1:53 p.m. As we depart Rocketts Landing, we sampled the Center of the Universe Brewing Company's "Shut Up" and learn a little about Stone Brewing Company coming to the riverfront and Richmond's transition away from beer and into tobacco in the decades following the Civil War.

3rd course: HooVale and Winter White Ale at Legend Brewing Company

2:09 p.m. Bus arrives at Legend Brewing Company, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014. Lee Graves has an instant line 20 people deep for his new book. We learn about Richmond becoming a town with many "come here's," breweries with ownership located in other cities. Legend was credited with helping restart Richmond's craft beer obsession in the 1990s.

4th course: Masque of The Red Death Double Red Ale and Early Bird Biscuit Company at Triple Crossing Brewing Co.

2:54 p.m. Fifty people join in on the fun in the tasting room at Triple Crossing Brewing Company. Learned that many warehouses around the neighborhood in Monroe Ward were depots for storing beer as Richmond was a hub for shipping beer brewed outside of Richmond in late 1800s, early 1900s. The city had many distributors, not many breweries.

5th course: Stop at Graze on Grace. Surprise stop!

3:27 p.m. Graze on Grace food festival was happening between 4th and 7th streets, so we crashed it (see more photos of the event). We learned of the medicinal properties of beer, with doctors writing prescriptions for beer to improve people's health. Krueger's Cream Ale (New Jersey) was the first brewing company to can beer and Richmond was the first test market in 1935. The cans had to come with instructions to open because no one had ever opened a can of beer. Within a year, 36 breweries around the country produced beer in cans. Richmond's Home Brewing Company would not can Richbrau until 1950.