Nestled in the heart of the capital of Virginia resides Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, which is authentically Richmond to its core while upholding Virginia brewing heritage, the integrity of their products, and the inspired creation of their innovative products, which are uniquely Virginian from the ingredients they use to the barrels they are aged in. In addition to their extensive beer portfolio, which includes the infamous Hardywood Gingerbread Stout, as well as the Hardywood Singel, they are one of the best venues for local music in the state, hosting shows in their tasting room during regular business hours, as well as during ticketed after-hour events. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kerry Anderson, Hardywood’s hospitality manager, to discuss the ethics of the brewery and their commitment to providing a family-friendly community, the uniquely Richmond brewing elements they utilize, and the selection process for choosing potential music brand ambassadors to play each show.

When I first came to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in December 2014, one of the things that stuck with me the most was the presence of family, which you don’t see too often in other drinking establishments, and I read on your website that the name Hardywood Park comes from a sheep station outside of Bathurst, New South Wales where co-founders Eric McKay and Patrick Murlaugh first discovered hand crafted beer in fall 2001 with David Crawford’s family. How important is maintaining a positive, family atmosphere to the brewery?

I think it’s extremely important to Eric and Pat. A good deal of the people that work here do have young kids, and I think it’s important to the craft beer industry for there to be a healthy, positive image around drinking and more about beer appreciation to portray that in a positive light in front of youths, as opposed to the sometimes negative connotation that drinking or overindulgence gets. It’s awesome to have the families here and create that positive impression of what this culture should be about.

And since we’re not open very late, [except] for very unique events, like a ticketed metal show or something like that would we be open ’til midnight or past midnight. But because we close at 9 [p.m.], I think it makes it a lot easier for people with young families who maybe don’t go out to shows anymore to be able to come participate because it’s early. … I love when the youth are exposed to really great music. A lot of the bands that play here would normally be playing in venues late at night when it’s 18 or 21+ shows.

Can you please explain how “integrity,” “heritage,” and “inspired creation” are fundamental to the mission of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery?

We have a good number of beers that are outside of the traditional beer styles, whether that’s because of adding a unique ingredient, like in our Reserve Series beers. They all feature a local ingredient. So that means that we add locally grown blackberries to witbier. Definitely upholding the craft and the quality level is of utmost importance. So we will never grow to a scale where that is going to be compromised, while we continue to grow.

We actually have represented through a number of different beers since focusing on heritage in Virginia. The first canned beer was produced in Richmond, Va., and it was Krueger Cream Ale. So for our first canned beer, we did a cream ale in honor of that, and there is a long brewing tradition in Richmond. It’s definitely in it’s revival now. It was kind of at a very quiet point for a few decades.

We are [also] very involved in philanthropy, and a number of the beers we produce on a regular basis, some portion of the proceeds go to different organizations. One that I think is outstanding is the James River Association, and we do the Great Return West Coast IPA in honor of their mission to bring up the sturgeon population again. So I think that having that connection with the community on a rich level where some of the proceeds go back into the community, I think that is represented in the mission statement.

According to your website, McKay is credited with the creation of GreatBrewers.com and the BeerCloud mobile app. What are some ways that the Hardywood staff are continuing that spirit of innovation?

I think our beer portfolio is innovative, and it’s great that our brewers have pockets of room to experiment on their own projects instead of always just having the same cycle of seasonal beers that come out every year. We have so many experimental batches that come out throughout the year that maybe don’t see past brewery by a few counts in town. The brewer is currently doing an experiment collaboration with Blue Bee Cider, where he got fresh pressed apple juice and combined it with wort, and it’s barrel aging right now. So that’s kind of an experimental thing. It’s ready when it’s ready. I think that there is some great example where there is some risk involved. We haven’t tried it before. Also, it is in chardonnay barrels, which is another level, and the chardonnay barrels are from Virginia, which is sort of, in a way, bringing in another company.

I think that spirit of collaboration is very important across the board in every department. What I seek to do with the opportunities to have in the tasting room to create it as a community center is to integrate as many organizations and types of music, [as well as] a variety of events that are very specific to Richmond to make Hardywood a place that, at some day of the year, is a place for everyone. It might not be for everyone on the same day, but everyone has a point of entry that they can relate to. That I hope also introduces them to craft beer when maybe they thought it wasn’t for them.



What are some of the Virginian, and specifically Richmond, influences that go into the creation of your products?

I think that the most glaring one in the integration of those local ingredients. In our Reserve Series, we use locally grown pumpkins in our Farmhouse Pumpkin Ale. In the Gingerbread Stout, which you probably heard of more recently, the ginger is locally grown. The honey is sourced locally, all essentially within the Richmond region too, not just specific to Virginia. The people that produce this stuff we see on a regular basis, which is great that we have had this ongoing relationship face-to-face. It feels like family really with some of these small businesses that help provide the foundation for the immensely popular beer. … It feels like a microcosm of the strongest and most creative points here in Richmond.

Another element that I love about your brewery is the commitment to supporting local musicians with several shows of all genres, from folk and indie to metal and punk, at the brewery itself. How important is supporting the local arts and music community to your brewery?

It’s crucial to making things successful and involving as many people, like I touched on. I feel like we have a wonderful relationship with all these musicians that have been here, and they love playing here for some of the reasons that we talked about earlier. Their folks can come, and families and children, and their friends with families and children who wouldn’t go to their shows, and I think because of the variety of music. When we started doing some hip hop crossover shows, that [brought] a totally different crowd out, and people who I don’t see here any other day. So maybe it is their first time having experience with these beers. I hope we are supporting further networking by using music as the primary vehicle to get people in here, although there’s lots of other ways we do it.

How do you select the bands or artists to perform at each show?

I’ve lived in Richmond for 10 years so I have been witness to a wonderful creative community in that time, and it has been exciting to be able to showcase these people who have been working so hard to promote themselves all this time. I think we are at a “golden era” in Richmond where there’s so much music, as well as other art culture that has been organically growing, and it’s ready now for attention on a much bigger level.

As far as my goal for the company and the bands that play for our public events, I have to think about selecting somebody that can handle playing for a room full of people where only half of them are paying attention. There’s a lot of people in the room that didn’t come for the band and didn’t know to expect it, but I think the bands love that because they get exposure. … So in order to withstand that conflict of not having full attention, you have to be engaging and be lighthearted. … It does have to feel like a party. That being said, there are so many great musicians who don’t necessarily fit that mold, and so I’m excited now that with the addition of this building and starting to do some more ticketed shows outside of our normal public hours there are becoming opportunities to represent those other genres and types of musicians.



How does the selection process for bands work?

I go out and see a lot of music, so I know that when I see someone perform if it will be an awesome fit. Unfortunately, I don’t take risks very often with people who contact me out of the blue because it is so much about representing our brand. In a way , I like tried and true, and I like to continue to work with the performers I know to be very reliable and be able to provide that positive light for our guests. They are still playing on a level of brand ambassador role. I have a pretty developed professional relationship with a lot of musicians here in order to have that trust for them to represent us. It’s very much a curated situation looking into the Richmond community to see what’s going to work really well here.

What is the next event your brewery is holding that you are most looking forward to?

hardywood_iron reaganWe’re hosting PIG DESTROYER and IRON REAGEN on April 17, and that’s pretty exciting for a lot of people, myself included. That’s gonna be a ticketed show, and the tickets are on sale now.

Are you a big metal fan?

I like a lot of music. I like loud music for sure. When I go out to see shows, I want to be overtaken by it. So I like really forward, rapturous live music when I go out to see shows. Obviously, metal is not going to work for a public tasting room event at 5 o’clock in the afternoon unless it’s a special day, but I’m really excited that we have been experimenting and it’s been going alright with introducing that. In order to do something like that, it does require trust with the bands because we are an atypical venue and there’s stuff around that’s critical, like the barrels, which you don’t usually find in a metal venue. There’s so much that you have to be cautious about, so I depend on my relationship with the bands to maintain a certain level of respect from their audience in that situation.

For more updates on Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, subscribe to their YouTube.

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