New Hardywood facility leads western Richmond booze trail

trail map

Map of the Richmond West Craft Beverage Trail. (To the Fourth)

Last weekend’s grand opening of Hardywood’s new production facility in Goochland coincided with an effort by the brewery and other local booze-making peers to flow more tourists through that western part of the region.

The group, represented by a number of breweries, cideries and wineries in Goochland, Powhatan and western Henrico, earlier this year launched the Richmond West Craft Beverage Trail.

The aim of the trail is to drive beer and booze tourism outside Richmond city limits, where a concentration of the region’s alcohol makers reside.

One of the founding members is Powhatan brewery Fine Creek Brewing Co., which opened last year.

Fine Creek co-owner Mark Benusa began organizing the trail in late 2017. He said the group also wants more visibility on the map between Richmond and Nelson County, which also has a depth of breweries, cideries and wineries.

“People that come to our taproom often say, ‘we want wine or cider,’” Benusa said. “It’s just to bring attention to what’s out in this direction. The idea is that you don’t need to go all the way to Nelson County to get wine or cider.”

Other founding members of the trail include Courthouse Creek Cider, Elk Island Winery, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, Grayhaven Winery, Midnight Brewery and Hardywood.

Maps of the Richmond West Craft Beverage Trail have been printed, and participants can take them to each location to be stamped, similar to Richmond Region Tourism’s Richmond Beer Trail.

“The idea is to get a stamp when you go to each location,” Benusa said. “We’re coordinating glassware giveaways for those who get all the stamps.”

hardywood west creek

Hardywood held a grand opening for its West Creek location. (Mike Platania)

A formal launch party for the Richmond West Craft Beverage Trail is being planned for May.

Last weekend, Hardywood hosted a grand opening for its $28 million production facility in West Creek. Having it come on board for the trail was a big boost for the group, Benusa said.

“For them to say it’s worth it for them to come that far out of the city is huge,” he said. “They’re going to be a driver (of tourism) and we’re only 10 minutes down the road.”

Hardywood’s new 60,000-square-foot facility at 820 Sanctuary Trail Drive is one of the largest in the region, with a capacity to brew more than 1 million gallons of beer annually. Its original Richmond taproom at 2408 Ownby Lane remains open.

The new West Creek location has three bars and more than 20 beers on tap, including its Gingerbread Stout and Sticky Pints, a lager for which it collaborated with Fan sushi joint Sticky Rice.

Hardywood also completed a $1.3 million equity capital raise in late March, which will be used to put the finishing touches on the West Creek facility and support distribution deals in new markets, the details of which have not been finalized.

There’s more work yet to come at Hardywood Goochland. The company has submitted plans to the county for an outdoor amphitheater at the West Creek location. Co-founder and president Eric McKay said it hopes to begin work on that phase soon.

Hardywood West Creek is the second brewery to open in the Richmond region this year. Last month, Canon & Draw Brewing Co., an offshoot of Steam Bell Beer Works, opened in the Fan.

Meanwhile, Benusa and his crew at Fine Creek have stayed busy in their Powhatan taproom. The brewery recently began limited bottle releases of barrel-aged beers including its saison and imperial milk stout, with more planned for coming months.

The roughly 300-bottle runs have been sold in the Fine Creek taproom at 2425 Robert E. Lee Road.

Benusa also said it’s exploring a distribution deal.

“We’re kind of taking our time with it,” he said. “Signing would be to get some kegs in restaurants. We’re speaking to three or four different distributors right now.”

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