Former UVA prof pours his heart into craft spirits and more local restaurant news

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Ian Glomski hopes to “gin” up business with his planned craft distillery on Henry Avenue. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto Ian Glomski hopes to “gin” up business with his planned craft distillery on Henry Avenue. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Spiritual encounter

Hold onto your drinking hats. Liquor made right here within Charlottesville city limits might be available by late summer.

Vitae Spirits, the brainchild of big-brained former UVA microbiology professor Ian Glomski, is going into the former Henry Avenue Learning Center space next door to Ace Biscuit & Barbecue. If the stars align, Glomski will get approval to sell his wares from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control at the commission’s June board meeting. If he’s not ready to present to the board by mid-summer, Vitae’s spirits won’t hit shelves until after ABC’s October meeting.

Glomski, who officially gave up his gig at the University at the end of 2013, said his distillery initially will focus on rum. With only one other company in the state making the cane liquor, it’s a market niche he’s identified as underserved, and his ABC advisors have encouraged him to pursue it. Glomski expects to launch Vitae with a dark rum, a light rum and a gin that he’ll distill from the same base cane spirit.

“Our gin is going to be a little different,” Glomski said. “Most producers use the cheapest grain available.”

Indeed, Glomski said his business will use a good amount of organic ingredients and serve a higher end spirit drinker. He thinks that’s the primary reason Vitae Spirits has been met with relatively little push-back from the community. He had originally thought to open his distillery in his native Boston, he said, but when the state revamped its laws last summer, he decided to change course. He’s since found Virginia to be far more welcoming than Massachusetts, where he was struggling to start things moving.

“Everybody in the Rose Hill Neighborhood Association has been very welcoming,” Glomski said. “This is not going to be a bar per se. Honestly, our products are not going to be cheap. They’re not going to appeal to kids or people looking for a quick drunk. And the truth is, this is an area that needs economic development.”

Construction is currently underway at Vitae Spirits, and Glomski expects to be the proud owner of a fully functioning distillery as soon as May. After that, it’s just a question of getting his affairs in order with ABC before he can open the doors to his tasting room and ship product to stores.

Devils due

Beer collaborations are popping up everywhere these days, and Devils Backbone recently got in on ’em in a big way, simultaneously releasing collaborations with three well-regarded breweries that don’t currently distribute to Virginia.

The Devil Went Down to Oregon, a dark rye India pale ale made in collaboration with Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewing Co., The Devils Tale, a black IPA brewed with Coronado Brewing Co. out of San Diego, and Double Gooch, an imperial IPA brewed with Fat Head’s Brewery of Ohio, are all on shelves now in mix-packs along with Devils Backbone’s Eight Point IPA.

According to brewmaster Jason Oliver, the three partnerships coming together at the same time was more or less a coincidence. “We said, ‘let’s do a mix collab pack,’ and then we said, ‘let’s do them all the same week so they can overlap and everyone can hang out,’” Oliver said. “So it wasn’t just like they were coming to brew with me, but they get to know each other as well. It was a really fun week.”

The mix-twelver is the latest in the Devils Backbone Adventure Pack releases and is the only format in which the beers will be sold. No kegs will be available, according to distributors, and the 12 packs are in limited supply.

Checking inn

It’s been a couple months since Tucker Yoder left his post as executive chef of the kitchen at Clifton Inn. We circled back with Yoder to see what he’s up to now that he’s struck out on his own, and unsurprisingly, he’s still cooking. He said he’s been doing “a few private dinners here and there,” along with partnering with Kitchen Catering to put on pop-up dinners at the Wine Guild. 

Yoder said what he’s doing now isn’t all that different from being an executive chef, it’s just on a smaller scale.

“It gives me a lot more freedom,” he said. “People usually hire me to cook what I want for them, and if I have a 10-person dinner, that’s all I have to do that day so I can focus much more on the quality of the dishes.”

Meanwhile, back at Clifton, Jarad Adam, who worked under Yoder for nearly three years, stepped up and took over as executive chef, and recently welcomed a new sous chef to the kitchen. Outside the kitchen, a familiar face has returned to the inn as general manager.

“I was here in 2005 and helped with the reopening,” said Francois Bladt, who’s also a partner at Glass Haus Kitchen. “I’ve always kept a good relationship with Mitch and Emily Willey, the owners, and I came back about two weeks ago.”