A new Carytown brewery helped Virginia’s beer industry hit a milestone last month and has struck a deal with an expanding distributor.
Garden Grove Brewery became the 100th actively licensed brewery in Virginia, after getting its license from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in December.
Owners Ryan Mitchell and Michael Brandt have since begun brewing at their 3,800-square-foot space at 3445 W. Cary St. and they plan to open to the brewery and tasting room in February.
“Our business model is a taproom model,” Mitchell said. “We want to be able to sell as much as we can from our tap room.”
To get their brews on store shelves and in bar taps, Garden Grove has struck a deal with Richmond-based Free Run Wine Merchants. Garden Grove hopes to start off selling about four kegs a month to local restaurants.
“They have promised us that they will focus on us, and we’ll be key to them,” Brandt said of Free Run. “They plan to grow with us.”
John Paul Cheski launched Free Run in 2008, and today the distributor represents about 120 beverage makers and does business in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland.
Cheski said he has enjoyed Brandt’s home-brewed concoctions for years and that Free Run sees a lot of potential in getting into the beer scene.
“We’re a wine company, but as we’re growing as a company, we love beer and this is a national growth for us,” Cheski said. “There’s certainty no reason we wouldn’t want to be in that industry.”
Mitchell said a stout, India pale ale, saison, brown ale and a Belgian dubbel are in the works for Garden Grove’s opening day offerings. And Mitchell and Brandt also plan to unveil what they are calling “the sparkler.”
“It’s something Mike and I created,” Mitchell said. “The best way to explain it is it’s like a sparkling wine with the profile of a beer.”
Both brewers said they’re excited about the green light from ABC, but they said the road to the opening date hasn’t been without its challenges. Chief among them are some of the hoops of red tape new breweries have to jump through to get government approval to operate.
“We feel like it’s only been one year since they repealed Prohibition,” Brandt said. “You have to have a lot of drive and a lot of passion.”
The 100 active brewery mark was announced Tuesday by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, an affiliate of the Virginia Manufacturers Association. The group made the announcement at its annual Craft Beer Caucus legislative reception.
The group said dozens of new breweries have launched in Virginia in recent years, particularly since 2012, when the General Assembly passed a law allowing breweries to sell beer by the pint for consumption on site.
That opened a new window for the brewery business model and has led to the rise of no less than seven new breweries in the Richmond region with at least three others in the works.