New spirits tasting room headlines swath of beverage shake-ups and more local restaurant news

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Virginia Distillery Company’s President John McCray showed off the distillery in early 2013. Photo: John Robinson Virginia Distillery Company’s President John McCray showed off the distillery in early 2013. Photo: John Robinson

New spirits tasting room headlines swath of beverage shake-ups

Want to drink acclaimed Virginia Distillery Company whisky without dealing with pesky middle men? You’re in luck—the spirits maker is opening a tasting room to the public this fall.

“Guests to the distillery will be able to tour the 15,000 square-foot production facility and barrel warehouse, including a museum and video experience. Tastings will be offered in conjunction with the tour, or guests can stop by at their leisure to a walk-in tasting,” writes the distillery’s Director of Customer Experience Marlene Steiner in an e-mail.

The company already has a good deal of whisky on the market, available in stores and bars throughout New York, Massachusetts, D.C. and of course Virginia. Here in town, most ABC outlets carry its potent potables, and restaurants like C&O, Horse & Hound, Alley Light, Shebeen and Zocalo pour it as well.

In 2013, when Virginia Distillery was first starting up, Director of Operations Dan FitzHenry told C-VILLE the company would produce 100,000 12-bottle cases of Virginia single malt whisky per year, making it one of the largest craft distilleries in the state.

The spirits producer, located just north of Lovingston on Route 29, figures to fit right in with Nelson County’s goal of developing its craft beverage tourism. It’ll join county-mate Silverback Distillery, which opened on the east side of Route 151 last year, as well as C’ville-based booze-making newcomer Vitae Spirits, which plans to open in the coming months next to Ace Biscuit & Barbecue on Henry Avenue.

Devils due

Devils Backbone Brewing Company recently announced it will distribute its beer in North Carolina starting August 10. Maybe the rest of the country will finally get a taste for this Nelson County standout.

Despite being named Brewery of the Year in its size class at the Great American Beer Festival three years running, notoriety beyond the local market has eluded Devils Backbone. The company’s beers are currently available only in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, but six new distributor partnerships will change that. Greensboro will start seeing DB beers on August 10, Raleigh-Durham receives its first wave on August 17, Charlotte and Asheville will get their taste on September 8 and Wilmington starts on October 5.

“North Carolina has played a big part in my family’s lives, and now we have the wonderful privilege of proudly bringing our world class craft beer to the people and places we love in the state,” brewery founder Steve Crandall says.

North Carolina markets will start with a taste of DB’s flagship brews Vienna Lager, Eight Point IPA and Gold Leaf Lager. It’s the brewery’s first market expansion in over two years and comes on the heels of a $7 million expansion that increased annual production capacity from 60,000 to 90,000 barrels. (A barrel makes two kegs.) The brewery is planning to add fermenters in the next 12 months to increase capacity to 150,000 barrels.

Shifting beers

Craft brewery Starr Hill recently rolled out new packaging for its production beers, but it’s what’s inside some of the sixers and twelvers that’ll have suds lovers most excited. According to a company announcement, “enhancements have been made to several existing beers, including Starr Hill’s flagship brand, Northern Lights IPA.”

“Starr Hill debuted Northern Lights, its first take on an American-style India pale ale, in 2007 when craft beer was just starting to take hold in this country,” the company announcement says. “While the soul of the original Northern Lights remains, the new recipe creates a more hop-forward IPA that will be enjoyed by both long-time fans and newcomers.”

The company said the beer will include three new hop varieties, Falconer’s Flight, Simcoe and Centennial, along with the existing bill of Columbus and Cascade, a “greater emphasis…on dry hopping and the process of hop bursting,” a simplified malt bill and coarser filtration.

The recipe change comes shortly after Starr Hill transitioned from its founding head brewer Mark Thompson to newcomer Robbie O’Cain. The brewery has released several successful hop forward beers, such as white IPA Whiter Shade of Pale, red IPA Reviver and double IPA King of Hop, with input from O’Cain.

“All of the enhancements to [Northern Lights] are on top of our improved quality control and raw material sourcing,” O’Cain says. “We’re brewing the best beer we’ve ever made.”

The brewery announced it has also updated its Jomo Vienna-Style Lager, making it more malt forward.

Twelve ounce curls

Most people would agree booze ain’t the thing if you’re looking to trim your waistline. But that’s not stopping ACAC Fitness and Wellness Centers from applying for a liquor license at its Downtown location.

The local gym-pire, with two locations in C’ville, one in Crozet, two outside Richmond and two more in Pennsylvania, has completed construction on a new downtown patio that stands, along with the location’s rooftop pool, to be a fitting place to have a beer or cider when the ABC license comes through. No word yet, unfortunately, on when that will be.

“Our plan is to offer light beverage service on the rooftop and in the new patio space in front of the building,” ACAC VP of marketing Christine Thalwitz says. “It will be similar to the service we offer in our Short Pump club. Our members like to work out with us and also spend leisure time with us, so we are adding spaces in the club where they can relax, unwind and socialize.”

 Correction: Virginia Distillery President John McCray was incorrectly identified in the caption.