Only nine months after Isley Brewing Company tapped its first kegs on Summit Avenue, Scott’s Addition has another brewery.
Ardent Craft Ales will open its 9,000-square-foot brewery and 2,000-square-foot patio at 3200 W. Leigh St. today, becoming the second brewery to open up shop in the North Boulevard neighborhood in the last nine months.
For the first few weeks, Ardent will sell almost exclusively in-house with three staple offerings: an IPA, a saison and a honey ginger beer. Kevin O’Leary, Ardent’s head brewer, said while he would like to eventually work on some more experimental beers, Ardent will establish its flagship, more approachable blends from the start.
“I don’t want to do anything boring. We want to be exciting, but we want a balance,” he said. “My IPA isn’t going to be overly bitter, my sour isn’t going to be too sour.”
Ardent Craft Ales is about four years in the making. O’Leary and co-founders Paul Karns and Tom Sullivan began brewing together in a Church Hill garage about four years ago. O’Leary had recently moved to Richmond from Boston, where he worked for Cambridge Brewing Company.
The trio’s brewing hobby began slowly morphing into a business model in 2011. By that time, O’Leary said their home brew batches were beginning to catch on with friends and family, who began encouraging the Ardent team to start brewing on a larger scale.
They’ve since taken on a group of investors and leased their space in September of last year. O’Leary did not share how much Ardent raised or what the company had invested in building the brewery, but did say costs were shared between the brewery and its landlord Crossroads Development.
Richmond-based Brown Distributing will take Ardent’s beers to market, and with a 15-barrel brewing system, Ardent has the capacity to distribute almost immediately. O’Leary said the company hopes to be in about 15 or 20 bars and restaurants by the end of this month – a number he said is a conservative roll-out until Ardent can get a grasp on how much it will need at its own tasting room.
“We can’t completely flood the market,” he said. “We can’t start putting it all out there and then run out of beer here.”
Ardent’s launch adds to a Central Virginia brewery boom that has taken root in the past couple of years. There are now five breweries within Richmond’s city limits and at least another five within about a half hour drive. At least two more are in the works.
O’Leary, in the familiar collegial chorus of the microbrewing industry, said a growing Richmond beer market makes for “healthy competition” between brewers. He hopes adding more breweries will help draw more consumers into the microbrew movement, adding business for all of Richmond’s brewers.
He noted Ardent’s proximity to Isley Brewing Company and the forthcoming Black Heath Meadery, hoping the growing Scott’s Addition watering holes would become a draw to thirsty visitors and new residents alike.
“The neighborhood itself, it’s changing on a day to day basis,” said O’Leary. “When we started initial buildout, you didn’t see many people. Now on a daily basis you see someone going on a jog, and they’ll tell you ‘I just moved here yesterday.’”