Dear Ace: One of my friends just recently went to Staunton to Queen City Brewing, where they let you make your own beer. What would it take to get this in Charlottesville? I’m seriously thinking of a trip to Staunton.—Thurs T. Dood
Thurs: First off, thanks for giving Ace a question he can sink his teeth into. For those following along at home, a lot of Ace’s recent investigations have been geared toward all things garbage. And, while Ace doesn’t mind being a little dirty (heh heh) every now and then, he’d much rather focus (er, slightly focus, depending on where you find him at happy hour) his attention on something in which he has a vested interest.
To that end, Ace called Starr Hill Brewery to pick the brain of Masterbrewer Mark Thompson. Always thirsty for answers, Ace cut right to the chase: Could a brew-on-premise option (like the one at Queen City Brewing) be in the works for Starr Hill? For Charlottesville at large? Mark says no; neither Starr Hill nor South Street Brewery has plans for such a service right now. "Brew-on-premise is a tool for consumers to make their own label," he says, but offering that service would require resources Starr Hill doesn’t have.
Every brew-on-premise facility has not only the equipment needed in the brewery itself, but also extra kettles and storage space for customers’ creations. At a brewery with these capabilities, Mr. Dood, a customer like yourself could come in, pay a flat fee and create a "home" brew using the company’s ingredients and recipe. After the beer ferments (three to 12 weeks depending on the type and amount of beer you make), you come back in to bottle it and take it home. Some breweries, like Shenandoah Brewing Company in Alexandria, even give you the option to keg your beer, leaving you without an excuse to sing "99 bottles of beer on the wall," but with a good way to throw a rockin’ party.
Thompson says brewing your own beer is also a great way for consumers to send congratulations, celebrate a wedding or even say "Happy Birthday." Of course, if you’re Ace, it’s really just another good way to say, "Happy 3pm."
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 18 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.