In the midst of its $28 million expansion into Goochland, a local brewery is heading farther west and opening its own Wahoo-country watering hole.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery announced plans Tuesday for a brewery and tap room in Charlottesville, in a move that will take the fast-growing beer making beyond a distribution deal it cut nearly two years ago to get its products on taps and store shelves there.
The company will take 3,500 square feet in the Uncommon building, a new apartment complex that’s under construction at 1000 W. Main St. by developer CA-Ventures from Chicago. Its ground floor space will allow for a 1,100-square-foot taproom and outdoor beer garden.
Hardywood co-founder Eric McKay said the location will put Hardywood between the heart of UVA and Charlottesville’s downtown mall.
While their 2014 distribution deal with Virginia Eagle Distributing took Hardywood into Charlottesville, McKay said he and co-founder Patrick Murtaugh have learned that having customers onsite drinking at their brewery in Richmond is the best way to build a loyal customer base. This expansion will seek to replicate that in Charlottesville.
“We always felt like our taproom has proven to be our most valuable marketing asset,” McKay said. “We see this as being central in building a sense of enthusiasm and awareness.”
The space will have taps for 12 Hardywood beers with an emphasis on experimental batches and beers brewed in collaboration with other breweries. McKay said Hardywood’s Richmond brewery and brewing schedule only allow for about 20 gallons of so-called pilot batches. The Charlottesville brewery will allow for about 90-100 gallons of specialty beers per batch.
“We think it will be a great place to pursue collaboration projects that we haven’t been able to fit into our brewing schedules,” he said.
Hardywood will invest $300,000 in the project, and will create four full-time jobs and 12 part-time jobs. It has hired Loughridge Construction and Price Studios as architect, the same crew behind its Goochland facility.
The Charlottesville deal came about after they were approached by a real estate agent with the idea of moving into the new development. John Pritzlaff, a broker out of Thalhimer’s Charlottesville office, represented the landlord.
McKay said the brewery often gets calls and letters from real estate and economic development types about expanding into new markets.
“But this is one we just thought stood out as unique,” he said.
It plans to open the Charlottesville location by September. Construction on its Goochland facility will begin next month, McKay said, with the goal of completing it in 18 months.
That location, which will occupy 24 acres in West Creek, will be 60,000 square feet and include a packaging and distribution facility, a taproom, walking paths and gardens, additional equipment, and an amphitheater with views of the adjacent Tuckahoe Creek. The company held a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site in November.
The company said it has 100,000 people visit its current brewery on Ownby Lane in the city each year. It produced 13,000 barrels of beer from that facility last year, McKay said.
In addition to Charlottesville, Hardywood’s beers are distributed in Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and in other western parts of the state through various distribution deals inked in the last couple of years.
Looking beyond Virginia, Hardywood also has a plan in place to head east – as in the Far East.
McKay said the brewery recently began exporting small amounts of beer to Singapore to begin testing that far-off market. That deal came about through Richard Miller, a businessman and investor in Hardywood who had built a relationship with a distributor in Singapore, McKay said.
“This will be a true test of how well the beer travels,” he said.