Barrel Fermentation

Within a few months of opening our doors in March 2016 we started putting beer in oak barrels at The Virginia Beer Company.  There's nothing particularly ground-breaking about barrel-aging high gravity beers. Pretty much every brewery is doing it, and for good reason - the results can be delicious. 

In July 2016 we started our Barrel Fermentation Program.  While most barrel-aged beers are fermented in stainless steel tanks, and then fully fermented beer is racked into oak to age, this project is a little different.  Taking inspiration from old world brewing techniques, our Barrel Fermentation Program fills used wine barrels with freshly cooled wort direct from the brewhouse, completely bypassing the stainless cellar tanks. Once in the barrels the wort for Batch I was inoculated with a variety of yeasts including multiple strains of Brettanomyces, a "wild" Saccharomyces strain, and Saison yeast. 

Spontaneous fermentation, this is not, and does not pretend to be. Known cultures were pitched with intention and flavor profiles in mind. That said, there is a definite lack of control involved in this project and that makes it that much more exciting. So much of my day as a brewer is about controlling fermentation - yeast cell counts, fermentation temperature profiles, sanitation, gravity readings, QA/QC lab sampling/incubation, etc. Our Barrel Fermentation Program gets rid of most of that regimentation, instead leaving the blend of yeasts to do their own individual thing as they will over time. 

On the day we pulled Barrel Fermentation I from the Hungarian Oak red wine barrels for packaging, we were simultaneously brewing another batch, Barrel Fermentation II. As soon as the barrels were empty they were refilled with fresh wort for Barrel Fermentation III. Refilling the same barrels allows the now resident yeast culture in the barrels to take over with no additional yeast being added.  We'll see what happens with this one and let the beer and the barrels tell us when it is ready!

This first release is one of my favorite beers that I've ever had a hand in producing, and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I do. I think it had just the right amount of Brettanomyces fruity funk to complement (but not overpower) the Nelson Sauvin hops and oak character. 

Barrel Fermentation II (also brewed in July 2016) has been tasting quite nice out of the barrels. It has since been kegged and bottled, with an infusion of Brett Brux directly into the bottles to add a component of bottle-conditioning to this project. The bottle-conditioning will produce even more of the trademark esters and phenols that often mark a "Brett beer" as funky with hints of tartness.

Entirely approriate to enjoy now or to cellar for a future occasion, look for the bottle release of Barrel Fermentation II - this one a blend of Williamsburg Winery French & American oak red wine barrels - starting on July 1st, 2017. No promises on when Batch III will be ready - time and wild yeast will tell.

Cheers to lack of control and more barrel fermentations!

Learn more about...

Saison Tournante - Barrel Fermentation I

Saison Tournante - Barrel Fermentation II

Careers & Beers

UPDATE: As of 7/1/2017, all positions have been filled. Keep an eye out for future part-time and full-time roles coming soon!

The Virginia Beer Company is excited to announce that we are seeking another full time (40+ hours/week) staff member to join our taproom team in a long-term capacity! This role includes the following responsibilities:  

  • learn about and share a passion for all things beer
  • pour/serve beers
  • fill to-go vessels (growlers, grunts, Crowlers, etc.)
  • clean/organize taproom & beer garden facilities (inc. restrooms)
  • maintain bar area before, during, and after taproom hours
  • restock kegs, cans, and bottles in the taproom coolers
  • organize, take inventory, and sell merchandise
  • answer questions about beer styles, VBC products, and area events
  • assist with live events and special releases
  • act as a brand ambassador for VBC

Candidates should be committed to seeking a full time, long-term position; we are a close-knit group working together in a collaborative environment, so we take great pride in our team dynamic! Candidates must have flexibility in availability. Willingness to work both individually and in a team setting, and in a fast paced environment. Interest in learning about the brewing process and facets of operating a brewery + taproom + beer garden. A desire to be outgoing, conversational, and social (beer is fun!) but the ability to stay professional (brewing is work and ABC laws are no joke). Interest in being the face of a company; our taproom staff are the public facing persona of the brewery! A thirst for adventure...we are still a new startup, so there are still many adventures yet to come! 

Please Note: Availability to start ASAP is a plus, and candidates MUST be able to work during Memorial Day Weekend (May 26-29, 2017).

Backgrounds in the brewing industry and/or within the bar and restaurant worlds are helpful but not required. More important:  passion for the community. We are dedicated to engaging the community around us and giving back to it. Whether it be the beers we brew, the events we host, or the interactions we have with each patron, our staff must be excited about the opportunity to build up and give back to the community that supports us. 

Taproom hours:  

  • Monday:  4 pm - 9 pm
  • Tuesday:  Closed (open for private events)
  • Wednesday:  4 pm - 9 pm
  • Thursday:  4 pm - 9 pm
  • Friday:  12 pm - 9:30 pm
  • Saturday:  12 pm - 9:30 pm
  • Sunday:  12 pm - 7 pm

To apply:  Please send an updated resume along with a cover letter that includes your five favorite beers (and why) to - Taproom@virginiabeerco.com

We look forward to working with you and working together to serve the Williamsburg area and beyond! 

Waypost Weekend - 3/25 Music Fest

Thank you for joining The Virginia Beer Co. for our 1-year anniversary celebration! We can't wait to host you for beers & cheers during Waypost Weekend, and we hope that it will be the first of many annual celebrations of local flavors + local sounds. Gates open at 12 pm and Music begins at 2 pm. Below you will find all of the information regarding entry to 3/25's Music Festival

Entry - Pre-Purchased: 
  • If you've purchased your tickets online, you have purchased entry to Saturday's festival! In an effort to save our trees, there is no need to print anything out. 
  • We have a live record of everyone who has pre-paid for tickets. All you need for entry on Saturday is an ID matching the name of the purchaser for each set of tickets. 
  • We will have a Will Call check-in at the gate when you arrive and we will be handing out wrist bands, glassware, maps, and beer tickets upon arrival. 
Entry - At The Door:  
  • We will be selling additional entry tickets at the door! If you have friends/family who do not have tickets, they may purchase entry upon arrival. 
    • $12: Standard (21+) ticket for entry, wristband, glass, and beer ticket.
    • $5: DD / Under 21 ticket for entry.
  • Please Note:  For everyone who is receiving a Standard (21+) ticket that includes glassware and a beer ticket, we will need to see an ID for each ticket to verify everyone receiving a glass is at least 21 years of age. 
  • Please make sure everyone who plans to retrieve tickets purchased under their name brings a valid photo ID with the same name, and that everyone in your group who will be receiving a 21+ ticket brings their own valid photo ID to verify an age of 21+. 
Parking:  
  • On 3/25 the entire brewery property (parking lot included) will be roped off for maximum beers & cheers! We have a number of nearby spillover parking options arranged for convenient access to the property. 
  • Road signs will direct you from the brewery to our parking areas and vice versa. 
  • All Day:  Satellite parking is available at the Ramada Williamsburg East Busch Gardens Area (500 Merrimac Trail). 
    • This is a short 3-block walk on the same side of the street as the brewery (walking directions here)! Please plan to park along both sides and the rear of the Ramada, as we need to leave the front spaces open for Ramada staff. 
  • Starting at 2 pm:  When Shorty's Diner (627 Merrimac Trail) closes for the day, they have agreed to let us use their lot and surrounding spaces for additional parking. 
    • This is a short 4-block walk to the brewery (walking directions here)! 
    • Because this parking option requires patrons to cross the street, we have set up a shuttle service to pick up those parking at Shorty's and will happily drive you to the brewery. 
    • Only cross the street if you feel comfortable doing so! Otherwise the shuttle will run every 10-15 minutes between Shorty's and the brewery from 2-9 pm
  • Please Note:  Our neighbors are aware of our festivities but if you park in the lot of a neighboring business that is open for business or you block an entry at a business lot (such as the wooden gate next door at Ebby's) you may be towed! 
Public Transportation:  
  • We have alerted Cardinal Cabs of Williamsburg to our festivities and they will have taxis at the ready! Phone: 757.345.5557 
  • Uber is now an option in Williamsburg! If you are a first time rider, use the promo code at this link to schedule a free ride. 
  • It will be a beautiful day on Saturday and we are an easy walk from Colonial Williamsburg (directions here)! 
Glassware & Beer Tickets:  
  • Every Standard (21+) ticket comes with a commemorative glass and one beer ticket. Beer tickets may be exchanged for one pour (8 oz. for high alcohol beers or 13 oz. for low alcohol beers). 
  • Additional beer tickets ($5/ticket) may be purchased after entry at stations located throughout the brewery property (see attached map, which will also be provided upon entry). 
  • We will have rinse stations around the property so please hold on to your glass! In order to make sure that only those who are 21+ are able to purchase beers, we can only provide one glass per 21+ ticket. 
  • If a glass is broken, we can provide a replacement glass for $5. Please note that 21+ ticket holders will have wristbands designating their age. If anyone who is not wearing a 21+ wristband is found with a beer we will have to ask them to leave, per VA ABC law. 
Re-Entry:  
  • Once you have checked in at the gate, you will be given a wristband designating your ticket purchase (ie, Standard, Under 21, Designated Driver). 
  • Please do not remove your wristband! 
  • Staff will be monitoring the crowd to ensure that only those who with 21+ wristbands are sampling beers. 
    • Again, 21+ ticket holders will be given wristbands designating their age. If anyone who is not wearing a 21+ wristband is found with a beer we will have to ask them to leave, per VA ABC law. 
  • Equally important:  wristbands guarantee re-entry! 
    • If you need to leave for any reason (such as taking to-go beer to your car), showing your wristband at the gate will permit re-entry from open until close. 
Chairs:  
  • We will be placing tables and chairs throughout the property! If you would like to bring folding chairs, please feel free to do so. 
  • We ask that you limit these items just to chairs - no tables or umbrellas will be permitted that may obstruct the view of other guests or access the various stations set up around the property. 
Outside Food/Drink:  
  • We kindly ask that you do not bring any outside food or drink with you on Saturday. 
  • We will have three food trucks serving from open to close (12 pm - 9:30 pm) and we'll have a bevy of beer and non-alcoholic beverage options available for purchase! 
  • No coolers will be permitted into the festival. 
    • Per VA ABC law we are not permitted to allow additional alcoholic beverages on the property, so with the large crowd expected we are not able to permit coolers as a precautionary measure. 
Pets:  
  • While we here at VBC are avid pet lovers, and our beer garden is typically pet friendly, we kindly ask that you leave your pups and other furry & feathered friends at home on 3/25. 
  • Due to the increased crowd capacity we cannot permit the the entry of animals, but they will be more than welcome to join us on the beer garden again on Sunday! 
Smoking:  
  • We have a designated smoking area set up at the rear of the property (see attached map) and kindly ask that any smoking/vaping of any kind take place only in that area. 
To-Go Beer:  
  • No container (eg, Growler, Crowler) fills will be offered on Saturday due to the high volume of people expected. Please plan your fills for Friday & Sunday!
  • We will have a station set up in the brewery for to-go purchases of packaged beer & merch. 
  • Unfortunately we can't store purchases throughout the day, so please plan to purchase your beer as you plan your departure, or feel free to leave with your to-go purchases and re-enter with your wristband. 
  • We are not able to allow access to the property with to-go beers as any beer purchased to-go must be consumed off-site, per VA ABC law. 

We look forward to a fun and safe celebration of all the things we love here at 401 Second Street with all the people who've supported us through this milestone. Thank you again for your support and we look forward to raising a glass with you on Saturday, 3/25! 

For information about beer tappings + musical lineups, please reference the below Lineup card and check the live event on our Facebook page

Questions? Don't hesitate to email us at taproom@virginiabeerco.com or call us at 757.378.2903. 

BeerAdvocate’s Class of 2016: 34 of the Best New Breweries in the US

BeerAdvocate’s Class of 2016: 34 of the Best New Breweries in the US

WILLIAMSBURG, Virginia – On the cusp of its first anniversary, The Virginia Beer Company was recently recognized as one of the top new breweries in the country by BeerAdvocate magazine. As part of BeerAdvocate’s annual “Class Of” honors, 34 breweries out of the 861 new breweries that opened across the country in 2016 were selected as the best in their class. Virginia Beer Co. was one of two Virginia breweries selected for last year’s honors.

Cans + QC

Bad news, my friends. We're out of Free Verse India Pale Ale cans.

"But you guys canned a fresh batch on Wednesday, right?"

Yes. Yes, we did. But we can't sell it to you yet.

We take quality control very seriously here at VBC. From our raw ingredients and water, to our cleaning regimen and packaging, quality control is our number one concern, especially with our growing Brettanomyces barrel-fermentation program (more on that later).

Every batch of beer we produce goes through rigorous, in-house microbiological lab testing to ensure that the beer is as intended and infection free. Unfortunately part of this process involves time.

After we move a batch of beer to the brite tank we take aseptic samples of the beer. To ensure sterility of the sample, we flush the sample valve with 70% isopropyl alcohol and flame the port with a propane torch. After cooling the sample valve by running beer through it, we collect an aseptic sample for testing in the lab. This sample is then added to two different selective media - one of which tests for lactic acid bacteria (lactobacillus and pediococcus) and another that tests for wild yeast (Brettanomyces).

Here's where the time part comes in... It takes a minimum of 4 days of anaerobic incubation at 20°-25° C to determine if there are beer spoilers in the beer, so we hold beer in the brite tanks for that long before we will ever package it. Once it clears this test (which thankfully has always been the case - knock on stainless AND wood), we are ready to package into kegs and cans.

After canning we take more aseptic samples from multiple cans and repeat these microbiological tests and incubation time. This of course brings us back to the beginning of this post... We're sorry, but even though Free Verse cans are full and cold in our cooler, we cannot, in good conscience, release this beer until we know it is exactly what we intend it to be (down to a microbiological level) even if it means being out of cans for a few days.

We may bend these rules for some very limited runs of brewery-only release cans in the future, but for our flagship Free Verse India Pale Ale that sees growing distribution, there's simply no risking the beer or our reputation simply to get the beer out a few days early.

All that said, assuming the lab work comes back clean...we'll have Free Verse India Pale Ale cases in the taproom ready to go on Sunday at Noon for all your Super Bowl shenanigans!

I'm an Atlanta guy, so:  cheers to high standards for beer quality and the Falcons!

Batch 100!

Yet another new beer! On Wednesday we'll be tapping Batch 100 Imperial Oatmeal Porter with Vanilla Beans (9.8% ABV). This was one of our easier naming sessions, as you can imagine. The beer was brewed on our 5 barrel pilot system with a helping hand from our 30 barrel big boy brewing system. Earlier in the year, Jonathan quickly figured out that brewing high-ABV beers on the 5 barrel system was tough due to the size of the mash/lauter tun. The amount of grain needed to produce enough sugar for the yeast (in the case of Batch 100, 950+ pounds) required at least two separate mashes, which was adding an additional 3-4 hours to the overall brew day.

The solution has turned out to be using the 30 barrel mash/lauter tun for the first step of the brewing process. The grain is milled as normal and then transferred to the 30 barrel mash/lauter tun through an auger pipe. Once the mashing and lautering process is complete, the wort is then transferred to the 5 barrel kettle for boiling. The Batch 100 recipe calls for 4 specialty malts and flaked oats in addition to the base malt that we use in the majority of our beers. Chocolate malt is one of the speciality malts - it provides most of the color and a lot of the classic Porter flavor you will taste in the beer.

When fermentation was almost complete, Jonathan prepared 41 Madagascar Vanilla Beans and dropped them into the fermentation vessel. Why 41 beans? Because we can only purchase them in quantities of 16 or 25! After 3 days of conditioning, the rich vanilla flavors we were hoping for were evident and the beans were removed. From there, the beer was cold conditioned, carbonated, and packaged into kegs. Now it's ready for the taproom! 

The first mash in at The Virginia Beer Company (which was Single Hop Sessions - Mosaic) took place on January 24, 2016. Those of you who have been with us since the beginning will probably remember that opening day beer! Batch 100 was brewed on December 21, 2016. One hundred batches in 333 days - not too shabby for our first calendar year. All told, we brewed 57 unique beers in 2016. Five of those beers are still biding their time in various barrels, waiting for a 2017 release. That is a new beer for the taproom about every seven days or so following the opening day lineup we had available on March 26, 2016! Besides our four year-round beers, there were only five beers that were brewed twice (Citra Pale Ale, Deadbolt Double IPA, Saison Tournante - Rye & Amarillo, Green's View IPA, and Rob Your Head Imperial Red). Others may return in the future...we're excited to share those old friends as well as many, many new beers in 2017!

The Brew Enthusiast

We started 2017 off by catching up with our friends at The Brew Enthusiast, and spent some time discussing/enjoying 'Burg beer and looking ahead to what's brewing in the new year. Cliffs Notes: seasonal cans, bottle releases, more barrel-aging/fermenting, new small batch beers, and all the cheers you can handle! 

I think VBC is going to do well, both because the founding team is awesome, and because they’ve already set a solid foundation on their business. Their brewhouse, already stocked with a 5-barrel pilot system, is built for long term growth, and they made it abundantly clear that that they’ve got s%#t to do and they’re going to get it done.
— Chris McClellan, The Brew Enthusiast

Full article available at The Brew Enthusiast

Robby Willey (co-founder), Chris Smith (co-founder), and Jonathan Newman (brewmaster)

Ho-Ho Holidays Come to 401

 The holidays are upon us and we are giddy with glee for the fun that's leading us into 2017! We hope you'll join us throughout November + December for festive beers & cheers as we wrap our first year in business with cavalcade of beer releases, discounts, food trucks, and events! 

Regular business hours unless otherwise noted, AND there is always a food truck on premise every day we're open

Wednesday, 11/23:  Awkward Wednesday! Trying to hide from your high school prom date while you head out for a pre-Thanksgiving pint? Well 401 wasn't open last year so hide out with us + Creekside Catering Co.! Then take us home for Thanksgiving dinner (we won't argue politics with your aunt): discounts + free koozies for case purchases; steal the vessel when buying/filling new glass growlers & grunts & Crowlers; discounts on fills of new Hydro Flask growlers! 

Thursday, 11/24:  Thanksgiving! We're closed for the day and wish you, your friends, and family the very best. See you on Friday! 

Friday, 11/25:  Black Friday! Open 12-9:30 pm and joined by The Grilled Cheese Academy. Offering STEEP discounts on all VBC merchandise, apparel, and vessels. Plus we're teaming with The Wine Seller and Copper Fox Distillery on a food drive for Feed Our Future in honor of Sparkle Friday! Pat yourself on the back with a fresh Brewmaster's Pin, tapped around 3:30ish. 

Saturday, 12/3:  Food Truck Frenzy! Four brewery tours - three food trucks - two live bands - one brand new holiday beer release! 

Tuesday, 12/6:  History On Tap! We team with Colonial Williamsburg, the Virginia Beer Museum, and the Virginia Historical Society to bring you an evening of tasting, learning, and touring. Tickets required to sample our historic beer collaboration and learn about beer through the ages:  bit.ly/historyontapvbc

Wednesday, 12/7:  New beer release! 

Friday, 12/9:  Food truck + new Brewmaster's Pin tapped around 3:30ish! 

Sunday, 12/11: The long-awaited debut of Elbow Patches Oatmeal Stout in cans! Plus specials on cases of 12 oz. cans and a food truck too! 

Monday, 12/12:  Holiday Beer Dinner at the brewery with Creekside Catering Co.! Tickets required: bit.ly/vbccateredaffair

Friday, 12/16:  Food truck + new Brewmaster's Pin tapped around 3:30ish! 

Saturday, 12/17:  A Holiday Homecoming concert with Big Mama Shakes! 5 BANDS (plus TWO food trucks!) bring down the brewery as we welcome friends & family back to Williamsburg for the ho-ho holidays! And a new beer release featuring an IPA collaboration with Aslin Beer Co.

Thursday, 12/22:  The Virginia Theatre Machine haunts the beer garden from 7-8 pm for their own unique version of A Christmas Carol! Free, family friendly show! 

Friday, 12/23:  Food truck + new Brewmaster's Pin tapped around 3:30ish! 

Sunday, 12/25:  Christmas Day! We're closed for the day and wish you, your friends, and family the very best. See you on Monday! 

Monday, 12/26:  HOLIDAY BONUS HOURS (Monday from 12-9 pm) to celebrate the week between Christmas and New Year's ahead of normal hours starting again on Wednesday, 12/28! 

Tuesday, 12/27:  Open two extra days (Tuesday from 1-9 pm) to celebrate the week between Christmas and New Year's ahead of normal hours starting again on Wednesday, 12/28! 

Friday, 12/30:  Food truck + new Brewmaster's Pin tapped around 3:30ish! 

Sunday, 1/1/17:  Closed for New Year's Day. Thanks for an amazing 2016 and well wishes to you all for an amazing 2017! 

Monday, 1/2/17:  Starting 2017 off with INDUSTRY DAY + NIGHT! Open from 12-9 pm and offering 50% off all liquid when you show a current pay stub from a restaurant, food industry, or beverage industry job. 

Welcome the Harvest

Fall is here and we are celebrating the harvest season with a bounty of bodacious beer events! More information to come, but please see below for our plans for the first half of the wonderful month of November. And don't forget, we have a food truck on site EVERY day that we're open! 

Visit our family friendly taproom & pet friendly beer garden every Wednesday through Sunday for beers & cheers! 

Careers & Beers

Note: As of 9/6/16, all positions have been filled! Thank you to all who have applied and we will be sure to post an update when more positions open up in the future.

The Virginia Beer Company is pleased to announce that it is seeking another full time (40+ hours/week) staff member to join our taproom team! This role includes the following responsibilities:  

  • pour beers
  • fill growlers
  • clean/organize taproom and taproom amenities
  • maintain bar area before, during, and after taproom hours
  • restock kegs in the taproom cooler
  • organize, inventory, and sell merchandise
  • clean/organize taproom & beer garden facilities (inc. restrooms)
  • answer questions about beer styles, VBC products, and area events
  • assist with live events and special releases
  • act as a brand ambassador for VBC

Candidates should have flexibility in availability. Willingness to work both individually and in a team setting and in a fast paced environment. Interest in learning about the brewing process and facets of operating a brewery + taproom + beer garden. A desire to be social (beer is fun!) but professional (brewing is work). Willingness to be the face of the company; our taproom staff are the public facing persona of the brewery! A thirst for adventure...we are a startup, so it will be an adventure! 

Backgrounds in the brewing industry and/or within the bar and restaurant world are helpful but not required. More important:  passion for the community. We are dedicated to engaging the community around us and giving back to it. Whether it be the beers we brew, the events we host, or the interactions we have with each patron, our staff must be excited about the opportunity to build up and give back to the community that supports us. 

Taproom hours:  

  • Monday - Closed (open for private events)
  • Tuesday - Closed (open for private events)
  • Wednesday - 4 pm - 9 pm
  • Thursday - 3 pm - 9 pm
  • Friday - 12 pm - 9:30 pm
  • Saturday - 11 am - 9:30 pm
  • Sunday - 12 pm - 7 pm

To apply:  Please send an updated resume along with a cover letter that includes your five favorite beers (and why) to - taproom@virginiabeerco.com

We look forward to working with you and working together to serve the Williamsburg area and beyond!