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Happy Trails: Exploring the Richmond West Craft Beverage Trail

Article by Mary Ellin Arch

Photography by Hunter Henkel, M. Katherine Fisher, & Provided

Originally published in Midlothian Lifestyle

Courthouse Creek Cidery
Goochland County

Incorporated in 2014, Courthouse Creek began selling cider at a farmer's market in 2016. From pressing, to barrel, to bottle, it’s all handcrafted at Courthouse Creek. The production site and tasting room are in Maidens, about a half-hour west of Richmond.

Courthouse Creek Cidery also maintains a farm operation, with a 4.5-acre orchard, produce farm, and egg production. Everything is grown using holistic methods – minimal intervention and an organic approach. A sister venture, Culterra Farmhouse Kitchen, offers visitors a seasonal menu prepared by Chef Rob Almodovar. The Kitchen adheres to a farm-to-fork approach, when possible.

Courthouse Creek says it is the only cidery in Virginia that adheres to the natural production method, and one of a handful that do so nationally. This means no sulfites, no filtering, no fining, and no chemical additions or alterations of any kind. Ciders are aged in used, neutral barrels for a minimum of six months; occasionally, cidermakers Eric and Liza Cioffi “break bad” and age in “fresh-dump” wine and spirit barrels. All cider is bottle-conditioned but not disgorged.

The Cioffis see themselves as more than growers – they consider themselves stewards of the land and valuable members of the community. “We aim to build meaningful connections — not only between what goes in the ground here and, ultimately, into the glass — but community connections as well,” the couple says on their website.

courthousecreek.com

Crazy Rooster Brewing Company
Powhatan County

Owned and operated by Jason Miller and Tim Torrez, who met 20 years ago working at a Richmond-area environmental engineering consulting company, this brewery opened in April 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. At first, the pair sold their new beer via curbside service in 16-ounce cans. The tasting room and patio opened for service in June 2020, and it’s a great place to relax and enjoy a beer! 

The brewery boasts a 3,000-square-foot production area with a 10-barrel brewhouse. As there is no natural gas supply in Powhatan, the brewers power the system with propane. Grains are milled on site prior to each brew. The facility also includes a Pro Refrigeration glycol chiller unit, and kegs are stored in a walk-in cooler. The brewing area has been developed to allow for future growth.

The focus of this brewery is on making a variety of approachable beer styles so any customer can find something to enjoy. The brewery hosts live music and food trucks on weekends, with trivia, bingo and a runner's club during the week. Crazy Rooster Brewing is committed to making the brewery a place for all to enjoy with a focus on community and good vibes. 

crazyroosterbrewing.com

Elk Island Winery
Goochland County

Elk Island Winery is named for the 1,300-acre island in the James River, originally part of Thomas Jefferson’s Elk Hill farm. Owners Paul and Sue Anne Klinefelter cite their passion for rural life, agriculture and wine as the driving forces that resulted in the planting of the 5-acre vineyard and construction of Elk Island Winery, which opened in 2012.

Their farm, Lower Byrd Farm, is situated at the confluence of Byrd Creek and the James River and grows row crop grains. The vineyard is planted in Norton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and small plantings of other varietals.

Visitors to Elk Island winery will sense that agriculture is a way of life for the Klinefelters, and that wine is about capturing the emotions and sense of time that accompany each growing season, inside the bottle. The Klinefelters, along with son Daniel and wife Crista, are committed to making great wine at affordable prices, and proudly use only Virginia-grown grapes, with 90 percent of them grown in Goochland County.

The winery offers a “case buyer club” featuring discounts for bulk purchases, and waives tasting fees with the purchase of a bottle of wine.

elkislandwinery.com

Fine Creek Brewing
Powhatan County

Fine Creek Brewing is a destination farmhouse brewery with a quickly rotating, eclectic tap list, a full food menu that changes weekly, and Virginia wines served by the glass and bottle. 

The brewery focuses on a sense of place by collaborating with local businesses and using many local ingredients, growing many items on site in raised beds for use in the kitchen and the brewery. A wide range of styles from fresh IPAs and Thai Tea Milk Stout to dry hopped or fruited saisons and barrel-aged sours are offered.

“We’ve created an atmosphere that allows patrons to relax for hours, acknowledging that setting contributes to the experience of enjoying a delicious, cold beer,” the brewery says on its web page. “Beers are available by taster or pint on site as well as by the growler and crowler to go.”

The brewing company is adjacent to The Mill at Fine Creek, a wedding venue that includes a collection of guest cottages. The brewing company, located across the street and up the hill from the cottages, takes “every step possible” to create separation between the brewing and tasting operations and the nearby events, “ensuring the privacy and exclusivity The Mill’s guests have always enjoyed,” according to the brewing company’s web page.

themillatfinecreek.com/fine-creek-brewing

Hilltop Distillery
Goochland County

Hilltop, located in Goochland County, is a craft distillery and a grain-to-glass producer of some of the finest spirits made in Virginia. The operation is a family affair headed by native Richmonders Sherry and John Brockenbrough, along with son John; the Brockenbroughs say theirs is the only mother-son distillery in the country. 

Newly opened in March 2020 just as the pandemic hit, the distillery has gained strong support from customers, friends and the community. The Brochenbroughs, inspired by the renowned spirits of Ireland and Scotland, which they encountered on several extended holiday trips, performed much of the manual labor required to build the business. That manual labor included moving more than 100,000 pounds of rock by hand and wheelbarrow, and doing much of the plumbing, electrical work and interior finishing themselves.

Hilltop spirits include wheat vodka, bourbon, whiskey, single malt, moonshine, and flavored moonshine. Spirits are stored in #3 charred barrels on site, with bourbon, whiskey and single malt barreled and aged just a few feet away from where it is distilled. 

Visitors to the tasting room enjoy handcrafted spirits against a scenic rural backdrop. 

thehilltopdistillery.com

Hardywood West Creek
Goochland County

Hardywood West Creek, nestled on 24 acres overlooking Tuckahoe Creek, is a destination brewery including a taproom, stage, private event space, patio and beer garden with tent and gazebo rentals, arcade and game area, and food truck plaza. The West Creek taproom offers views of the 60-barrel brewhouse, where the majority of Hardywood’s brewing is done for the two Richmond-area locations.

Co-founders Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh began in late 2011 with a mission to brew with purpose, launching Hardywood’s first brewery in the city of Richmond. Now ranked as Virginia’s Top Brewery in 2014, 2015, and 2016 by RateBeer.com users, Hardywood brews both innovative and traditional ales and lagers that have earned international acclaim.

Hardywood beer is inspired by Virginia's diverse climate, agriculture, and community, with many ingredients, including hops, malted barley, fruits, honey, herbs, and spices, grown here for use in Hardywood’s Virginia Roots Series and other small-batch beers. It works with local farms to reuse spent grain as compost and animal feed.

Hardywood says it was the first brewery in Virginia powered entirely by renewable energy through the Dominion Virginia Green Power Program, and was named Virginia Green Brewery of the Year in 2015. It also supports local charities including The James River Association, The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation, and Ales for ALS.

hardywood.com/location/west-creek/

Three Crosses Distilling Co.
Powhatan County

Opened in 2018, Three Crosses is the first legal distillery in Powhatan County. It was a “hobby that got out of hand,” according to owners John and Michelle Davenport.

Hand-built 150- and 250-gallon stills are used to create handcrafted spirits, many developed with local ingredients. The corn and rye in the Route 13 Moonshine and Three Crosses American Whiskey is grown at nearby Engle Family Farms. Sugar and molasses aren’t grown commercially in Virginia, the Davenports say, so those ingredients are sourced from a seventh-generation sugar consortium in Louisiana that dates to the late 1800s.

In addition to supporting Powhatan and local growers, the distillery donates time and portions of bottle sales to local causes. “For each review period, we will pick a charity related to one the causes that are important to us: supporting our military, police, firefighters, and other first responders; wildlife preservation and no-kill animal shelters; community outreach; and women’s causes,” the couple notes on their website.

The distillery’s name and logo symbolism derive from the shield from the Davenport family crest and the “fiched” crosses that were warrior symbols carried into battle during the Crusades (representing John's service in the U.S. Army, as well as a symbol of the Davenports’ faith).

threecrossesdistilling.com

Kindred Spirit Brewing
Goochland County

The “Spirit” moves in all things, and Kindred Spirit Brewing is moved to make a diverse selection of consistently great beer, served by smiling faces in warm and relaxing spaces. 

Founded on the enjoyment of kinships, beer lovers can gather to create lasting memories. Tucked into the West Creek business park, visitors can savor a Headspace IPA or other core brands and seasonal releases from 17 taps. Although the menu focuses on IPAs, patrons will always find a lager, brown, stout, blonde, and sour on tap. Have a spouse that doesn’t drink beer? A seltzer is on tap for them. 

All beers are served in a spacious taproom/production area as well as outdoors in one of three spaces: a large deck, a lawn, and “The Grotto” (a shaded picnic area). Live music is featured every weekend on either the outdoor stage (weather permitting) or the indoor stage with professional sound.  

Food options include salsa, pimento cheese, and pickles from local vendors; food trucks are offered on weekends. Special events – dinners, comedy, ping pong, cornhole – are scheduled regularly.

Member benefits come through the Hopheadz program that gets members access to early releases, “members only” events, merchandise discounts, and larger draft pours. Delivery is available within a 15-mile radius through an online store, and delivery fees are waived for purchases greater than $50.   

kindredspiritbrewing.com

Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
Goochland County

Lickinghole Creek is an award-winning, majority woman-owned and operated, biologically friendly farm brewery and agritourism event venue. It carefully crafts innovative, premium beers in small batches using homegrown hops and barley, and supports musicians and other artists to provide a total beer and entertainment experience.

Co-founders Lisa Pumphrey and Farris Loutfi call Lickinghole Creek a water-conscious brewery and aim to be global stewards of clean water. Unlike most breweries in the world, they sustainably source their own water from deep water wells, purify wastewater on site, and return remaining water to the Lickinghole Creek watershed.

Many of the ingredients are grown on site, including wheat, barley, hops, berries, and pumpkin. What's not grown on site is sourced from local farmers, and from global farming communities. Many signature beers are aged in ultra-rare Kentucky Bourbon barrels for up to 12 months.

The name pays homage to Little Lickinghole Creek, which runs through the farm's rolling hills. Since pre-Colonial times, the creek has been known as the Lickinghole, where wildlife stops to drink from the nourishing waters.

Note that Knolls Point Drive, where the 305-acre venue sits, is a private shared gravel road. When visiting the brewery, please drive slowly and responsibly with respect to neighbors and the rural area.

lickingholecreek.com

Grayhaven Winery
Goochland County

Founded in 1978, Grayhaven is one of the oldest commercial vineyards in Virginia. It holds the 22nd Farm Winery License issued in a state that now boasts more than 400 wineries. The Gum Spring winery is known for its innovative estate wines, imported South African wines, acclaimed artisan cheese boards, and unique cultural events.

Currently, the winery is run by three generations of vintners whose experience spans the entire length of the Virginia wine industry, beginning with the Virginia Farm Wineries Act of 1976.

Charles (Chuck) and Evelyn (Lyn) Peple, with daughters Mallory and Max, moved to the old Isbell Estate in Gum Spring in 1978 with the intention of establishing a vineyard and eventually launching a winery.

Today, the winery remains family owned and operated.  While founder Lyn Peple passed away in 2019, 86-year-old Chuck is still involved in the winery and vineyards, dispensing his immense wisdom, forever poking holes in the Kawasaki upholstery with his vine pruners, and pitching up every day for his afternoon glass of wine with visitors.

Since 2001, Max Peple-Abrams and her South African husband, Deon Abrams, have run the day-to-day at the winery. Grayhaven is dedicated to providing a relaxed and welcoming experience for all of its visitors. 

grayhavenwinery.com

Midnight Brewery
Goochland County

Midnight Brewery is a family-owned and operated microbrewery focusing on providing local beer enthusiasts with a variety of high-quality beers. Flagship brews are representative of Midnight’s brewing philosophy: approachable enough for the novice craft beer drinker, complex enough to satisfy more advanced palates. 

Owner Trae Cairns, a former IT professional, honed his brewing skills in the wee hours after working his full-time job. Those late-night date nights with barley, hops, and water instilled in him a brewing passion that eventually led to the establishment of Midnight Brewery in 2011. The high demand for Midnight Brewery’s beers quickly led Trae out of IT and into the brewing industry full-time, where he continues to entice the locals with his malty offerings.

From the crisp and clean Kolsch to the hearty stout, visitors are sure to find a beer to enjoy.  Year-round brews are supplemented by numerous seasonals and specialty brews, with 64-ounce growlers, 32-ounce crowlers and pints offered regularly. Food trucks and live music round out the taproom scene here.

midnightbrewery.com

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