I was contacted to talk a little bit about the local beer scene on the area's public radio station WHRO. HearSay with Cathy Lewis does a weekly segment called the "Delicious Dish" where Patrick Evans-Hylton, a well-known regional chef and author, talks with Cathy about food happenings in the area. Next month is Virginia Craft Beer month so today's topic was craft beer (of course.)
The new O'Connor Brewing Company facility is huge, especially compared to the old building the next street over. Standing on top of the roof you can see for miles over the low rooftops of the industrial area, past the neighborhoods and beyond. Taking in everything around the building, getting a bead on the location. What caught my interest was the old coffee roasting plant a couple blocks away. It used to house First Colony Coffee & Tea, the 109-year-old business closed it's doors in 2011. I asked brewer Skylar Sickles what he thought about the new place.
“I love it.” he said.
I stopped by O'Connor Brewing Co. to check out the new spot before the huge grand opening dubbed “O'Connoroo.” I was greeted by their marketing director, Hannah Serrano, who gave me a quick tour around the warehouse. She then handed me off to the brewers, James Moriarty, Brian Mandeville, and Skylar Sickles who were there getting the new tanks hooked-up. The 211 W. 24th Street location started out as a food processing plant, then furniture warehouse before being converted into a brewery. The wide, open space allowed O'Connor to triple the annual output to 15,000 barrels. The building houses a cooler and docking area too; this will allow them to produce and hold more beer in addition to convenient shipping. This all equals higher product output.
The extra space will allow the brewers to experiment with small batches. They've done this in the past, but they'll have more to share and they can test out barrel aging. Barrels are going to be brought in from distilleries in the surrounding area. The brewers said they're going to love the extra space and the large windows that line the brewery's walls can be opened to let air in. I remember spending a couple hours with the brewers in the old location a few years ago. It was summer and it was hot, damp—the new space will be a lot more comfortable. The old spot on 25th Street has been shuttered up and the tanks there will be going to Midnight Brewery outside of Richmond, another craft brewery that started in 2011.
Kevin O'Connor, said, “I just love the way the place looked, architecturally, and how the place felt.” I can understand the feeling. The space allows the brewery to add a lot more the O'Connor experience. There is a mezzanine “VIP” area above the taproom bar. The bar is housed in what was formerly a refrigeration area—you can still see the large doors that was used to access the units. Twenty-one taps will be behind the warmly lit, wood-worked and corked lined walls. For the curious, the cork walls are original to the building, insulation for refrigeration units. As I was leaving I couldn't wait see how this place would be put together in a week for O'Connoroo!
The weather was perfect. We showed up to O'Connoroo around 3:30 PM, this was the official grand opening of the new location. We missed the 2:00 PM kick-off—pipers, ribbon cutting and the small crowds. The place was packed already with lines for beer tickets winding out of the gate! The docking courtyard was lined with food trucks and pop-up restaurants. The trucks included Karnage Asada, CXB BBQ and Eats, Granby Street Hot Dogs; the pop-ups were from Waffletina, Belmont House of Smoke (the brisket was very good!), Cogan's Pizza, 80/20 Burger Bar and Colley Cantina. In the center were spots to hang out and play cornhole. Speaking of games, if you go inside, there is a gameroom. They still have their oversized Jenga from the old joint and there is a shuffleboard court to boot. More games will be added in the future.
A proper stage has been built in the brewery to host their weekly performers. The O'Connoroo had four bands to check-out: The Framers, DJP and MrT, The Dahus, Big Virginia Sky. Between the stage and taproom are long tables and a bar with stools that runs the length of the lined-up tanks. The seating allows patrons to check out the brewing area and equipment in addition to anyone on stage. We moved around the facility a bit and made our way up to the mezzanine. A smaller bar was up stairs to cater the VIP area. A good number of people from the area's craft beer scene were there to help celebrate O'Connor's big day.
Approximately there were 5,000-6,000 people who walked through the gates to attend O'Connoroo. This made for long lines for beer and the brewery posted an apology and promised to make good in futures events. They will definitely honor any beer tickets people held onto. So if you have some, don't throw them away! All the tickets O'Connor had available were sold by 8:15 PM that night. 42.5 barrels of beer was consumed, which roughly translates to over 10,500 pints poured! So much beer was pulled that the tasting room will only be open Friday and Saturday the week after O'Connoroo to allow them to refill the kegs.
Even though there were lines for drinks, everyone took it in stride. It was great seeing the community come out and support the area's spearhead unit into the craft beer scene. They've come a long way since opening in March 2010. Here's a little traditional Irish toast to close:
May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, beer beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.
I changed that a little bit, hope you don't mind. See all the photos from the event here.
(Special thanks to Michael Palfrey Jr., OBC Tasting Room Mgr., who let me ping him for information.)
This past Friday was set to be an busy, but exciting day. A couple of big events were happening: Back Bay Brewing's soft opening in Virginia Beach and Chayce's band, Long Division, playing their CD release show in Norfolk.
First, Back Bay Brewing had a soft opening over the weekend. Friday and Saturday they were going to have the taps pouring for anyone who might stop by. Friday night Nick Vitale from Zeke's Beans & Bowls next door invited some of the area's food trucks to hang out and serve food. There was no shortage of food options.
From what I hear, about 1,000 people came through the tasting room. I was impressed with the staff, they kept the drinks coming and didn't skip a beat (with the lights flickering here and there.) We met our friends John and Connie and shared a couple of flights while catching up with a few familiar faces. Afterwards, we decided on dinner at Field Guide; and made our way to Norfolk.
Field Guide was packed, it's not uncommon for there to be a little wait if you go in for dinner or lunch. The line was moving fast though and the wait gave us a moment to check out the menu. Shelby grabbed a specialty cocktail made with the house soda and gin. I had a sip, it was refreshing. After a bit we were seated and we ordered our meals. I got the Lou-Wow and Shelby ordered the Boaring Meatloaf. The Lou-Wow was a delicious pork BBQ with a little Hawaiian flair and the Boaring Meatloaf was a pork meatloaf served with mac and cheese and kale. Both dishes were beautiful and delicious--I have to say it was tragic later that evening when we got home and I forgot the leftovers in the car overnight! I almost curled up into a ball on the couch the next day after I realized what I did. Oh! I need to mention that I had a Smartmouth Safety Dance Pilsner. This is served exclusively at Field Guide at the moment - loved it.
After finishing up at Field Guide we had about an hour so we decided to head over to The Birch and say "Hi". We met our friend Matt, who was at the bar with Malia - owner of The Birch; and the other Matt serving behind and bar. I ordered an Italiano TipoPils, it’s my go-to when I’m there--it's good!
We had just enough time to chat a little bit, take a few goofy photos before we were off to Belmont House of Smoke on 21st St. That's were Long Division was playing.
Super Bonus: Marleigh was meeting us at Belmont. She drove down from Richmond to see her brother play what might be his last show with the band before he leaves for the Navy.
It was about 10:30 when we arrived at Belmont. There was a good crowd upstairs where the band was playing. They were still setting up for their set we walked in. We said our hellos to the those we knew in the room and I ordered a Smartmouth Rule G.
Long Division played to a packed out and the set was great. I really am going to miss not seeing Chayce on stage playing with the band. Knowing this was going to be one of his last shows with the band made it special.
After the show we chatted with Chayce and several others, then we hit the merch table for some Cds and a t-shirt. We bought a copyof their new album for John and Connie and one for our friend Cappy who was there too. We made the rounds and headed out.
John drove us home. Sadly, our leftovers never made it out of the car. I hope it didn't smell too much like BBQ pork in the morning.
Listen to Long Division at their Bandcamp page. Here is one of my favorites off their new album called Skipping Rocks.
Norfolk's O'Connor Brewing Company turned 4 years old today -- St. Patrick's Day! I remember hearing about the brewery first coming around through rumor and then opening. It's come a long way since then and it's only getting better: it'll be moving to a new location soon, they've been putting out great seasonals, and the crew is getting bigger.
Shelby and I didn't go out tonight but I did get a early St. Patrick's Day pull this past Saturday when the brewery celebrated its anniversary and three wins from the Dublin Craft Beer Cup. Turn-out was great and delicious food was being served by one of the newer food trucks in the area -- Karnage Asada. I'll write a little more about them in a separate post but I will say they're worth stopping for if you see them parked somewhere. I had a "full rack" of tacos and Kapow Kimchos, kimchi nachos. Seriously, it was good!
The weather was perfect. They had a couple of pouring station working on the inside and did a good job at keeping the glasses filled, growlers topped-off, and flights flying. Live music was being played by a three piece outfit and there was even some dancing going on. People were playing cornhole outside next to picnic tables occupied by merry-makers.
Happy Birthday O'Connor Brewing Co. and congratulations on the awards.
P.S. - You probably know this already, but in case you don't...the oak tree you see on the sign is part of the ancient, Irish crest of the O'Connor clan.
The holiday weekend was punctuated by O’Connor Brewing Company’s Black Saturday Block Party inspired by last year’s Black Friday Hurricane Sandy benefit. A perfect chaser for the Thanksgiving and Black Friday craziness, I planned on stopping by O’Connor’s after a day of shopping small in Norfolk, VA.
I drove Shelby and Marleigh downtown to visit a few friends and support Shop Small. We stopped by With Lavender & Lace, Studio Posy, Nest Home, and Lorak Jewelry. The two of them wanted to walk around and hit a few more stores around Granby St. so I headed down to the brewery on W. 25th St. Pulling up I and hopping out of the car into the cold, the first thing I noticed was someone was grilling. Whatever it was, it smelled great. The brewery’s block was barricaded, restricted to foot traffic; a stage was setup with a band running through its set. I headed in.
As soon as I walked to the check-in table I bumped into AltDaily.com’s Hannah Serrano, who is also Marketing and Events Director at O’Connor Brewing Co. She walked me in and we chatted a little bit about how things were going. We passed by Bobby-Qs and CXB BBQ and Eats, this was what smelled so good when I got out of the car. I was definitely not going to miss out on that food. Porter Hardy of Smartmouth was near the street food so I snapped a photo of him and Hannah.
Checking out the food, I saw one of the Hoffmann Beverage trucks being manned by the local chapter of Barley’s Angels, a local group of female beer enthusiasts. The truck was pretty high-speed, LCD panels displayed what beer was coming out of the tap below it. All the O’Connor flagship brews were being poured: Green Can, Great Dismal, Norfolk Canyon, and more. I grabbed a Black IPA and walked around some more.
Several bands were slated to play that night: Nate Sacks, The Janks, BANTUSTANS, and The Wet Boys. Radiant patio heaters kept everyone warm outside in the docking area and street, though the amount of people in close proximity of each other and beer helped out a lot too. Approximately 500 attended the block party but it would be easy to think there were a lot more. Inside the brewery I bumped into Kevin O'Connor, brewer/owner of the brewery. He was all over the place, chatting and checking up on the event.
There were also small batch beers for the occasion and people could buy flights of these to get a taste of each. Traditionally, craft brewers will let the shop come up with their own recipes and formulas. Here’s what was offered:
Chincoteague Oyster Stout – Oyster Stout
Schwarzwald – Black Lager
Winter Pecan – Pecan Porter
Bockenspiel – Bavarian Weizenbock
The Dark Monk – Abbey Ale
Maes Howe – Wee Heavy
Session Quad #2: Insomnia – West Coast Style IPA
By the end of the night O’Connor Brewing Co. poured approximately 4.5 barrels of beer! That’s about 1,500 standard, 12-oz cans of beer! If you stacked those they’d be as tall as—I have no idea, but I bet it’s pretty high. Everyone was having a good time and the food was great. I walked away with some lumpia in my coat pocket, saving it for Shelby and Marleigh.
All-in-all a great night. If they do it again next year, and you’re in the area, you better go.